Bruyneel on Giro: "We haven't seen anything"
"Until know, we haven't seen anything," said Discovery Channel's team manager Johan Bruyneel in a team statement.
"Yes, it's been a hard race because of the speed and the way the ProTour has changed the Giro. The level is very different, much higher, as you now have the 20 best teams in the world there. That never happened in the past. Now come the really difficult mountain stages with some very, very hard hills. One bad climb and you can lose a lot."
Speaking about their team leader Paolo Savoldelli's chances, Bruyneel said that his fate - good or bad - largely lies with the 32 year-old Italian. "He knew beforehand when we talked about the Giro that he shouldn't expect a Tour de France type team around him," said Bruyneel. "I said what we would do is put the best team around him we could field and our hope was to be with him in the mountains.
"It really now depends on him and how he is. I think our guys really worked hard in being around him and protecting him. That's most important. If he was the race favourite, it would be different. It's clear now Basso is the favourite and from tomorrow on, he will need a team to control the race like he's the favourite. Paolo now needs to stay with the contenders and climb with them. He will need the most protection on the flats where it is windy, and he will get that from the team. He's pretty happy with the way the team has ridden and has protected him up until the mountains."
Added the team's assistant DS Dirk Demol: "If Paolo can survive the mountains, a top five or podium place is there for him."
A slow recovery for Ekimov
Since his accident that occurred while out training with Lance Armstrong in Austin, Texas, three weeks ago, Viatcheslav Ekimov has returned to his native home in St. Petersburg, Russia, in order to make a full recovery from the back injuries sustained from his fall.
"[Yesterday] was the first day I went to a special sports clinic for back injuries," said Ekimov in a statement published by the team. "They told me that it's still too early to exactly say where we are. Only 20 days have passed since the injury and I still cannot have any massage therapy and can't do any big movements. My back is immobilized."
Ekimov said the training ride accident broke his 11th vertebra and compressed his ninth and 10th vertebrae, and that at his age, it will take 40 days for the broken vertebra to heal properly. "So I'm halfway there," he said. "But that's not the only problem.
"The compression of the ninth and 10th - they are inside each other - is another problem. But what we can do now is start acupuncture, to try and relax the muscles around the area. Today was my first day and it was painful, but it helps the muscles relax and increases blood flow. If I can get the muscles to relax, I can heal quicker."
At the end of the month, 'Eki' will have more x-rays to monitor his progress, and will undergo 10 acupuncture sessions twice a week for the month of June, later using massage therapy once the crack is healed. "As soon as the crack is healed, I can start on the turbo trainer, maybe in around 20 days", said Ekimov.
Too much, too soon for Hoste
After dropping out of the opening time trial stage of the Volta a Catalunya with breathing difficulties, Discovery's Belgian rider Leif Hoste returned to Belgium to further assess his condition, which the team has now reported as being fine. For the 27 year-old, it was simply a case of too much, too soon following his crash at Paris-Roubaix in April, where he suffered a fractured sternum.
Team physician Dr. Dag van Elslande, who was with the team at Catalunya, said: "The team time trial on Monday was his first big effort since the accident. And don't forget, he's riding a team time trial with the best team in the world. They went out very, very fast and had the best time at the first checkpoint. If Leif was on any other team, he could have found a wheel and sat back and rested a bit to catch his breath. But with this team, they were flying and the stress caused him to begin hyperventilating. The condition came because of the intense effort."
Hoste received a full cardiovascular examination in Belgium, and can now join the team at the Wachovia Series in the U.S., which begins later this month.