Danilo Di Luca heads into the Giro d'Italia, this Saturday through May 31, with the victims of Italy's recent earthquake in his heart. The 2007 race winner wants to strike on the mythical Blockhaus stage for the survivors of the tragedy that rocked his home region of Abruzzo last month.
"It would be beautiful [to win Blockhaus] as a homage to all the earthquake victims and because it is in my area," Team LPR's Di Luca told Cyclingnews.
Nearly 300 people died in the 6.3-magnitude that struck Abruzzo's L'Aquila April 6. Di Luca lives 100 kilometres away, in Pescara, and is doing what he can to help.
"I created some different fundraisers to help the survivors: I am selling different cycling related items on eBay and I am selling pink bracelets with Abruzziamo written on them, like Armstrong did for LiveStrong. They will be sold at the Giro d'Italia; it would be great to sell a lot and give a hand to the victims."
It will be the Giro d'Italia's fifth visit to Blockhaus and it will be one of the shortest at 83 kilometres. It departs from Chieti and heads west to the base of the 23-kilometre climb. The final six kilometres features gradients mostly above nine percent.
A stage win at Blockhaus, where cycling legend Eddy Merckx scored his first mountaintop victory, and the overall leader's maglia rosa could be possible based on Di Luca's performance in Giro del Trentino last week. Di Luca battled Giro d'Italia rivals Ivan Basso and Stefano Garzelli to win the final stage to Pejo Fonti, April 25.
"I left Trentino on a good note thanks to the win in the final stage. I had in my head that last stage and I won it, so my condition is rising the way it should be.
"There were, above all, Italians at Trentino. Naturally, Basso will be one for the Giro, but I have always said that this year the Giro will be very difficult. He will not be the only rival, there are so many, Italians and foreigners. Levi Leipheimer, Lance Armstrong, who you can never undervalue, Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov, who did well last year – these are the strongest four foreigners."
The Giro d'Italia celebrates 100 years since its first edition in 1909, when Luigi Ganna won. It starts in Venice on May 9 with a team time trial.