Halfway, but the battle has just begun
By Jeff Jones
The Giro d'Italia reached its halfway point on Wednesday, the second and final rest day of the three week tour. After yesterday's finish in the south of Italy, the riders transferred north up to Pisa, ready for the final 11 days of racing and the real nitty gritty of this year's corsa rosa. On Thursday, the race will resume with a flat and fast 50 km time trial in Pontedera, the last chance for the power men to gain time on the climbers before the mountains really begin.
At this stage of the race, Ivan Basso (CSC) is in the leader's jersey by 1'34 over José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Phonak) and 1'48 on Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital). Most of the other top favourites are in the top 10, all within three and a half minutes of the leader. The exception is Jose Rujano (Selle Italia-Serramenti Diquigiovanni), who is 5'32 down in 20th place after not enjoying the smoothest of starts to the Giro. His time will come, and he is already showing signs of the climbing form that netted him third overall in last year's Giro.
Stage 5 - Thursday, May 11: Piacenza - Cremona TTT, 35 km
The Giro left Belgian soil with Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) in pink, and kicked off with a medium length team time trial between Piacenza and Cremona, in the north of Italy. It was a very fast day out, and pre-race favourites Team CSC finished the 35 km in a time of 36'56 (56.859 km/h) to win the stage by just one second from T-Mobile. The magenta lads, driven home by Serguei Gonchar, Jan Ullrich, Michael Rogers, Olaf Pollack, and Matthias Kessler. The latter dropped off with 300m to go and that probably cost the German team the win, but they got a very nice consolation prize with Serguei Gonchar taking the pink jersey. And very happy he was too.
A surprise was Discovery Channel, who finished third at 39 seconds behind CSC, costing Paolo Savoldelli all of his advantage over Ivan Basso. Discovery has always been one of the top teams in the team time trial, and has even won them without Lance Armstrong. Lance was in the team car following today, but that wasn't sufficient to propel them to victory. The boys in blue lost a little time in choosing "safety over speed", with only the front three riders in their train using the aerodynamic bars, while the rest sat on the cow horns. By contrast, the CSC and T-Mobile riders were in their bars almost the whole time.
All of the teams finished within two minutes of each other in this race against the clock, proving that it is possible to include a team time trial in a grand tour without disadvantaging the weaker teams too much.
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