Giro's winter wonderland

Winter returned to the peloton on Tuesday in the Giro d'Italia , with the temperature hitting the...

Winter returned to the peloton on Tuesday in the Giro d'Italia, with the temperature hitting the freezing point on the peak of the Passo di Campolongo. Once down in the valley again, the frozen riders stopped en masse and turned a tunnel into a dressing room. "We stopped there to warm up and to get warmer clothes from the team cars," said Milram's Christian Knees on

Some riders didn't need the stop because they had planned ahead. "The Rabo ProTeam did not need this period of inactivity because team leader Frans Maassen had already driven ahead and given 'his' boys thermal vests right before they began their descent," the team noted smugly on its website, "The team respected the way things happened, of course."

There had even been discussions before the start of the stage, with World Champion Paolo Bettini leading an effort to change the day's plan because of the weather. Knees said the suggestion was to start the race in the village as planned, but then to let the riders go over the climb in the team bus or team car. "But there are always opponents and proponents and that makes it hard to agree on something," Maassen said on the Rabobank site. "Looking back at it, the organization was right in sticking with the original route. It was terribly cold but there is nothing wrong with a tough course. Besides, it was not dangerous and that is probably the most important criterion."

Both Maassen and Knees had mixed feelings about Wednesday's finish on the Zoncolan. "It will be a very difficult stage," said the Milram rider.

"The average percentage is 12 percent, the maximum is 22 percent. I hear you can't even ride up it if it is wet. We'll see."

Maassen said it would be "a heroic day" and wondered how his climber Michael Rasmussen would do. "Teams are not even allowed to take the car up the Monte Zoncolan. It is a small and steep climb with a lot of spectators who are expecting a fabulous stage. The organization's choices will also depend on the situation in the course. If cars are not allowed to go up, we will send a mechanic on a moped to help if needed. It will be difficult for Rasmussen once again because it is a very important stage for the classification leaders. But you never know," concluded Maassen.

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