Anyone wondering why Danilo Di Luca is referred to as 'The Killer' should only look at the images from Giro d'Italia stage 10. The 31 year-old from Abruzzo stomped on the terra two times and both times he had that killer look in his eyes.
He was the first of the 'bigs' to let loose with an attack at five kilometres out but than he sat up when he thought he had gone at the wrong time.
"I understood that I had made a mistake," said the winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège to La Gazzetta dello Sport at the Santuario Nostra Signora Della Guardia. "I went on the hardest section of the climb, but then the road levelled and the finish was still a long way off. I realized right away and I waited for the best moment to attack [again]."
That moment came around 3500 metres later, 1400 metres from the line. Di Luca followed his Liquigas mates and then the attack by Andy Schleck (Team CSC) and Emanuele Sella (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare).
"Pellizotti pulled and then I attacked again. At that point Piepoli was already too far off. But it was more important to add seconds on my rivals than to win the stage. I showed myself to be the strongest, like at Montevergine."
Di Luca, 2'58" back on GC leader and teammate Noè, is the highest ranking of the Giro's 'bigs.' Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) is at 1'31" back, Paolo Savoldelli (Astana) 1'42", Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir) 2'26", Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) 2'29" and Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) 3'26".
"I am also asking myself... If I continue with this condition and I don't have an incident or bad luck, will I be able to win the Giro," he proposed.
His rivals may doubt his form, saying that his willingness to show his cards so early on in the Giro might mean he believes he does not have the legs to contend for the three-week title. "The first exam of the Giro... I am very happy. After Montevirgine, I think the Giro is going very well. I don't think I won the Giro today but it was an important part of the overall."
Liquigas once again has the leader's jersey, this time on the shoulders of Andrea Noè. "I am happy for him, at 38 years-old he deserves this prize. We will defend it tomorrow along with the sprinters' teams. Then, when we return to the climbs, Noè will pull for me."
Remarking on his team, he added, "The difference is that Saunier was on the wheels all day and, instead, we pulled. On the climb we had Spezialetti and Pellizotti setting the rhythm."
Simoni "is still rising. I don't doubt that. On the other hand, Riccò always just sat on my wheel, and then he pulled for Simoni. Cunego? He will come about in the third week. ... My next objective will be the mountain time trial of Oropa; where I will attack again. From there on I will start to defend my lead."