By Shane Stokes in Barumini
Danilo Di Luca was a far happier rider at the end of stage two of the Giro d'Italia than he had been 24 hours earlier. The goal on the opening day of the race was for the 31 year-old to lead the team across the finish line, something which would have earned him the Maglia Rosa of race leader as the Liquigas squad were fastest in the team time trial.
However young Liquigas teammate Enrico Gasparotto either got carried away with the emotion of it all or somehow couldn't find his brake levers, crossing the line first instead to earn both the pink jersey plus the angry shouts of the team leader.
Stage two saw the hierarchy restored, with Di Luca finishing 12th on the stage, some 31 places better than Gasparotto who had been caught behind a crash. That saw him take the Maglia Rosa, and so it was a smiling 'Killer' who faced the press in Bosa.
"I am happy to take the jersey," he said. "I was hoping to do so but didn't expect that we would win the team time trial. My aim was to take the jersey a bit later on, perhaps on the Montevergine [stage 4], for example."
"Now we will see how things go. There is a lot of time left in this Giro. It is three weeks long and anything can happen. I am 31 years old and have been a professional for nine years, and so I know you have to gauge your efforts over the 21 stages."
That means playing things conservatively if necessary. "If I lose the jersey in the next few days, it is not a problem," he continued. "I am not going to spend a lot of energy defending it. As I said, the race is three weeks long and I am thinking more about the mountain stages [to come], such as the Tre Cime di Lavaredo... that stage should suit me well."
Di Luca had played down his chances somewhat when coming into the race, saying that riders such as Simoni and Cunego were more likely to fight it out for the final honours. Yet it's not difficult to see that he'd love to win the Giro d'Italia; it's possible, but there is a long way to Milan.
"If I am in the same condition as I am in now, I think that I can do something," he said, without specifying exactly what "something" meant. "You never know what can happen in three weeks but we will see."
The journalists at the press conference tried to get Di Luca to comment on the situation with Gasparotto, saying that what happened on day one was peculiar. Smiling, Di Luca played down the situation despite several attempts to get him to comment on it.
In fact, he seemed to be enjoying the media's attempts to get a juicy quote, fending off the questions good-naturedly. He said that Gasparotto had not been asked to allow Di Luca finish ahead of him on stage two, but that things had just worked out that way because his teammate had been held up behind a crash.
As regards the stage result itself, he said it was too soon to make a judgement on Alessandro Petacchi's form. The Italian sprinter was beaten by Robbie McEwen into Bosa, but Di Luca feels that the parcours made it difficult to assess.
"We can't judge Petacchi on today's stage as there were a lot of climbs and they got rid of many sprinters including Hushovd. Only tomorrow we will see how he really is."
If stage three does end in a bunch gallop, Di Luca should hold onto the Maglia Rosa. He will be well supported by Liquigas today and during the rest of the Giro, and expressed his satisfaction with the squad at his disposal.
"We have some strong climbers on the team and they were with me on the climb today. Pellizotti, Wegelius, Noè, Spezialetti, Miholjevic and Nibali. Pellizotti and Nibali were in crashes today but they just had scrapes, so I think everything is fine. Vanotti and Gasparotto are not climbers, more for the flat, but the rest are very good in the mountains."