Danilo Hondo emerged into the spotlight of the Giro d'Italia one day ahead of schedule, coming in second place to Cofidis' Damien Monier in stage 17 at the top of Peio Terme. It wasn't the place one would expect to see a sprinter like Hondo, who was expected to shine tomorrow in Brescia in the only flat stage of the third and last week of the race.
"I had good legs," Hondo told Cyclingnews on the finishing line in Peio Terme. "In the first breakaway today, we had nobody, so we rode to close the gap, and I told my teammates: now we have to be careful."
Hondo and teammate Marco Marzano were part of a 19-man breakaway that went clear 50km into the stage and held nearly 10 minutes on the peloton by the day's end.
Hondo called Monier's victory "a great win". He didn't know either of the two riders who were with him in this final breakaway of three that took shape with 15km to go. Monier had never won a pro race before and Steven Kruiswijk is a 22-year-old neo pro.
"I had a very good feeling that the composition of this group could turn to our advantage. At the end, it was like a poker game. When the Cofidis rider attacked, he was really strong. The Rabobank rider was strong too but he also didn't manage to catch the French guy."
The German veteran returned in the Pro Tour this year with Lampre with the role of lead-out man for Alessandro Petacchi after racing for Lamonta, Tinkoff, Diquigiovanni and PSK Whirlpool once his ban was over. It was a controversial suspension with opposite decisions by different authorities following his positive test for carphedon at 2005 the Tour of Murcia, the same month he finished second in Milan-San Remo. He eventually won an appeal in civil court.
At the age of 36, Hondo's passion for cycling remains high. He finished 9th in the Tour of Flanders this year. On the way to Peio Terme, he took his chance for the stage win despite Marzano being known as a better climber than him. He also didn't keep his strength for the possible sprint finish in Brescia.
"I'm second today but maybe tomorrow I'll be fifth," he said. "I'm no longer a pure sprinter, I'm more of a rouleur now and it wouldn't have been appropriate to speculate on tomorrow's possibilities of winning. There are still [Andre] Greipel, [Greg] Henderson, [Manuel] Belletti, [Fabio] Sabatini among the six, seven or eight sprinters remaining for that last occasion in Brescia."