Yates: "It will go down to the line on Saturday"
Speaking about Paolo Savoldelli's chances on winning the Giro d'Italia, Discovery Channel's assistant sports manager Sean Yates said in a team update: "For him, [to win] the Giro would be fantastic, much more than he ever expected. The overall win is there for the taking."
However, the former professional acknowledged those close behind him on the overall classification will be riding on the offensive, in particular Gilberto Simoni (Lampre-Cafitta).
"He has to win the Giro and that's his character and he has gone by it so far. Plus the last time he went he dropped Paolo [Stage 14], so his confidence is up. With the time trial coming up [Stage 18], [Simoni] knows he will lose time [to Savoldelli], so he will have to attack at every opportunity. He's not interested in second or third. And Di Luca has gone with him and is better than him in the time trial, so he needs to drop Paolo and Di Luca."
Yates said Savoldelli isn't worried about Saturday's mountain stage [Stage 19], but is in fact more concerned about today's [Stage 17] mountain-top finish in Limone Piemonte. "One thing's for sure - it will go down to the line on Saturday. It can be won or lost on Saturday," he said.
Danielson back on the bike next week
After a MRI scan revealed Tom Danielson's knee was inflamed, which was pushing his knee-cap up and stretching out the joint, Discovery's young-gun was sent home from the Giro d'Italia after Stage 9. Upon returning to the U.S., he was instructed to take 15 days off the bike and had his knee drained of fluid, but that period is almost over, and the 27 year-old will slowly get back into training next week.
"I'll talk with Johan about it and he will make the decision of how much I can ride. I'll start slowly and try and get back into it. I'm excited to get back," he said in a team statement.
Despite the disappointment of pulling out of his first Grand Tour, Danielson had some positive comments to make about the Giro, and was surprised how low-key the race was. "I was pretty surprised how normal it was; in fact, it was more low key than other races we had done this year," he said.
"It was nice to see it doesn't become a whole other thing. I'm sure the Tour de France is much more stressful as the level is much higher, but in Italy it was a nice surprise."
As a result of this minor setback, Danielson will now make the Vuelta a España an objective. "This can be good for that," he said. "I was forced to rest and recover and can use the knowledge I gained from the first part of the season to the end, and it sounds like a really good race."
Savoldelli to ride Tour de France
"He's one of our strongest riders and already knew from this winter that his personal goal for the season was the Giro, and that I would also count on him in the Tour to ride in support of Lance," said team manager Johan Bruyneel in a team statement, who picked Savoldelli to ride even before the start of the Giro.
"I think it's possible to do both, but on a high level would be difficult. We do expect Paolo to be there in the high mountains of the Tour," added Bruyneel.
Barry: "I think the hardest mountain days are done"
"I think the hardest mountain days are done. We have one more really hard day on Saturday [Stage 19]," said Discovery's Canadian team member Michael Barry in a team statement.
"Maybe these stages coming up will be a bit easier, who knows. For the most part, it should be a little easier to control the race. Paolo really needs to only look at two guys now, Di Luca and Simoni, and he should time trial better than them as well. We just need to protect him and get him in a good position and as fresh as possible to the mountains."
Barry also had some interesting comments to make on differences between the Giro and the Vuelta, the latter which he has raced three times. "There is more history to this race and the fan base is much greater here than in Spain. There are more spectators, media and on TV, it seems like the race is on eight hours a day - morning shows, the race, then post race shows. The towns are covered in pink. It's a really cool atmosphere," he said.
"As far as the racing goes, the stages are a lot longer than in the Vuelta and are raced differently. Here, we start off slower, then the speed picks up as the stage progresses. In the Vuelta, it's attack from the gun. It's a much different style of racing."
It's hard not to notice plenty of confidence with the team, but one thing Discovery has proven themselves to be very good at is protecting their leader, as they have shown in the past six Tours de France, as well as at the Vuelta a España.
"We started the race with Paolo as our leader and I thought he had a pretty good chance of winning," said Barry. "I had a gut feeling he would take the jersey at some point, and now it's our job to get him to the finish each day in a good position. And that's how this team knows to race - protecting its leader, racing as a unit. We've been doing that since the very beginning, so it's not a big surprise.
Following the Giro, Barry will head back to his European base in Girona to recover and prepare for his next event, the Tour of Switzerland, which begins June 11.
Rosters for Wachovia and Dauphiné
From the 10 riders listed below, the Discovery team will choose: eight riders for the Wachovia Invitational in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on May 31 and the Wachovia Classic two days later in Trenton, New Jersey; then nine riders for the USPRO Championship in Philadelphia on June 5:
Jurgen Van den Broeck
Max Van Heeswijk
For the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré from June 5-12, the team's roster is likely to consist of:
Jose Luis Rubiera