The picture from the Giro d'Italia over the last week has been the stuff of cycling legend: 'Il Falco', Paolo Savoldelli, battling stronger climbers in the mountains of Northern Italy with no support from a Discovery Channel team composed mostly of flatland specialists after his designated lieutenant Tom Danielson dropped out with a knee problem.
But Savoldelli says it wasn't quite like that.
"I was more alone in other Giros," he told Spain's As. "When I came second in 1999 with Saeco, seven were riding for Cipollini. When I won in 2002, seven waited for Quaranta. This year it felt odd to have team-mates supporting me on the flat stages. Only in the mountains was the support lacking, because Danielson was injured."
Savoldelli seems content to have won the Giro and to take a supporting role for Lance Armstrong as Armstrong attempts to win a seventh Tour de France in July.
"When [Discovery Channel] hired me, Bruyneel said, 'Try to get on the podium at the Giro and don't think about anything after that. Then we will take you to the Tour to help Armstrong.'"
But he doesn't see himself as Discovery Channel's Tour contender after Armstrong retires. "They hired me because they have seen me win a Giro without a team and they needed someone who could give a good showing for Discovery [in Italy]," he said.
"But they have designated Popovych as Armstrong's successor. They see in him the talent to win the Tour. As for me, I like [the Tour] a lot, but I am Italian and love the Giro."