By Jean-François Quénet in Mercogliano
A very humble Danilo Di Luca didn't want to be given too much credit for his win in Montevergine, which was the first uphill finish of the 2007 Giro d'Italia. "I've worked only for 200 meters!" he said.
"Everything else has been done by my team the same way a team works for a sprinter," said Di Luca. "Pellizotti was my last lead-out man. Nibali had done two kilometers before him, taking over from Noè. Mihojlevic, Spezialetti. Wegelius had ridden hard before as well. They deserve the stage win more than me." From Liquigas, only the pink jersey-wearing Enrico Gasparotto was unable to help because he was involved in a crash earlier.
So was Di Luca. "For more than half an hour, I wasn't feeling good after the crash," he commented. "I was suffering really. My arse was sore. I had to get pain killers. I hope I'll be all right after the massage. It happened when the rain started, the road was just like soap and there were cobblestones as well. I saw myself crashing. I was saying to myself 'it's useless to crash.' I didn't even use my brakes, I just went down."
He wasn't suffering when he climbed the Montevergine, a place where he already won the stage of the Giro in 2001, the second one for his own account after starting his campaign in Peschici in 2000. "From 3km to go, Riccardo Riccò was on my wheel and I understood he was the man to beat. He's definitely going to be the surprise of this Tour of Italy. He's back at the level he had at Tirreno-Adriatico. It's unknown for him as well whether or not he can cope with the third week, although Gilberto Simoni, you guys say he's getting old but I'm sure he'll be up there in the third week. He's always up there in the third week."
Riccò congratulated Di Luca after the line. "We always do that," Di Luca said. "Us, the cyclists, we are very fair play. You can even say that we are kind of friends, all of us. We know what it means to do this job."
It's not exactly a surprise to see the winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège claiming the stage to Montevergine. "After the team time trial, this was our natural second goal," Di Luca continued. "But now, the race will change. The next hilly stage is in eight days. I'm prepared to give the pink jersey away to someone else because I'm not going to defend this stuff for eight days. I need strength for the third week. I wouldn't mind to leave the race, take a rest, and come back in eight days "
"I feel very good, to say the truth. I feel better than ever at the Giro." At age 31, the playboy from Pescara who came fourth overall two years ago is now filling the shoes of a favorite.