By Jean-François Quénet in Lienz
Danilo Di Luca had a quieter day than expected on Stage 16, mainly because of the chilly weather conditions which allowed the Giro peloton to ride at 'tourist pace' for much of the stage. When the riders woke up in the Dolomite town of Agordo they were told it was snowing higher in the mountains, but the Passo Campolongo was fine for the race to go through.
"It was four degrees Celcius, not zero as we were told at the start," said Di Luca. "We thought about stopping a few times and we all agreed to do it once. It took us 15 minutes to get changed and we felt much better after that."
The average speed of the stage was 33.940 km/h. In total, it makes an average of 37.075 km/h for the Giro thus far, which is far from the 41 plus of the Tour de France although the terrain is different.
The peloton was also fearing the following stage up to the infamous Monte Zoncolan. This is the most gruelling climb of the Giro, for which Di Luca, who has been to reconnoitre the climb, has chosen to use a 34x29 gear ratio. The maglia rosa reckons this is similar to the notorious Anglirù in Spain where he finished fifth in a stage of the 2002 Vuelta a España. "I was 2'30 down on Roberto Heras," he noted. "The Giro went to the Zoncolan in 2003 but this side to be used for the first time is the steepest."
'The killer', as he is often referred to, will be looking to gain time on Eddy Mazzoleni in light of the 43km final time trial in Verona on Saturday where the Astana rider is likely to be stronger against the clock. "I have to gain time over Mazzoleni but I can stay on the wheel of the others," he said of his strategy on the Zoncolan.
While he likes to play on the nickname given to him by former Italian national team coach Roberto Damiani, who is now Predictor-Lotto's directeur sportif, Di Luca noted it doesn't represent his life outside of cycling. "As a cyclist, I have the style of a killer," he admitted. "But outside cycling, it doesn't suit me at all. I have a gun at home but it's not for use. Hey, we aren't soccer players! People don't get killed in our sport, it's not like what happened in Catania in soccer."