By Gregor Brown in Carpi
Defending Giro d'Italia champion Danilo Di Luca is waiting for this weekend's stages where he hopes to put the bad weather behind and blow the doors off his classification rivals. The 32 year-old Italian from Pescara already took a dig in last Friday's stage to Pescocostanzo, where he gained a few seconds, and again on stage 11, where he tried to break things up on the big climb to Monte Csarpegna, but revealed honestly, "the real Giro begins on Saturday."
Many are questioning his LPR Brakes team's tactics; yesterday it sent Gabriele Bosisio up the road while its men also fought to distance Di Luca's key rivals on what are considered 'small' climbs by Giro standards. The reason is likely that it is worried about the presence of three Team Astana riders in the top 15 – Leipheimer, Klöden and Contador – and that it hoped it could crack Visconti and give stage seven winner Bosisio the race leader's maglia rosa.
"Astana is going very well, but yesterday there was not much to do," Di Luca stated at the start of Thursday's stage to Carpi. "It was a useless stage for the classification, one to tire the legs. The real Giro begins on Saturday."
In addition to Astana, many of the overall race favourites are keeping an eye on two-time Giro d'Italia winner Gilberto Simoni. The Diquigiovanni rider had an impressive time trial and looks prepared for the weekend of mountain stages.
Di Luca confirmed, "Simoni is getting better, like I thought he would. The last week he has been there and so he is a man to keep an eye on." He added, "I am going well, I am getting better and better. I have the same condition as last year. From Saturday forward it will start to get serious."
'The Killer' currently is ninth in classification at 1'34" behind the best placed contender for the overall, Alberto Contador. He will use the final sprint stages on Thursday and Friday to relax before the mountain battles begin in the Dolomites.
"Today and tomorrow are relaxed stages; I will look to spend as little energy as possible to be ready for Saturday, Sunday and Monday," he declared.
Like everyone who is racing in the Corsa Rosa, he hopes for better weather. "When there is bad weather it is bad for everyone, so you need to manage the day as best as you can. I hope that the good weather arrives because there have been many days where it was almost there, but then the rain arrives. Let's hope for the good weather."