Liberty Seguros-Würth team manager Manolo Saiz has high hopes for Michele Scarponi in tomorrow's 11th stage between Marostica and Zoldo Alto, the first real mountain stage of this year's Giro. Saiz predicted a tough battle tomorrow: "It will be the first contact, but already they talk of snow on the Stelvio and the probability of dropping that climb. That can impact the race, but tomorrow the first climb before Zoldo Alto is hard enough to start the struggle.
"If Scarponi goes well, as I expect, we will have a lot to say in these stages, because he is our only man for the general. The others are for support, but if we race for Scarponi, we will also look for the breakaways to take the pressure off, and in that way, another stage win might come."
In Saiz's opinion, Simoni and Cunego will be the ones to watch. "They are behind Basso and they will try to attack to recover the time lost in the time trial. This stage will serve as a guide as to what will happen in the next days, because those who are ahead tomorrow will be those who fight for the victory. It is very difficult that anyone who fails tomorrow could do it later."
Saiz believes Gilberto Simoni is the top favourite for the overall Giro win. "If all the stages are done as foreseen, a lot of maturity will be needed to win the race, because there are very long climbs and stages. Age counts a lot and because of it I bet on Simoni, though I cannot forget that Cunego won last year. His youth and his class make him also a favourite, but the two have to ride as a team if they want to win."
Finally, Saiz admitted that it will be difficult to support the green mountains jersey. "Koldo Gil has only 21 points and the jersey will be won with more than 100. All the big climbs are still to come, and if the race goes fast, the logical thing is that it will be won by those who fight for the general classification. His possibilities lie in a breakaway, depending on Scarponi's interests."
Liberty's Joseba Beloki finished in the peloton today, and is steadily building his condition for the Tour de France. "Since we started the race, I have improved enough, I do not know how much, but we are already halfway through the Giro and I believe that I will be in good condition in time for the Tour. Because of that, I am satisfied, because for the present time, the Giro is very positive for me," said Beloki.
Tomorrow, Beloki expects, "...the first differences between the favourites, who are going to show some cards, though Zoldo Alto is going to start it off, because the battle will be done over the weekend. On my part, I will try to be as near to Scarponi as possible. That's my job here."