The Giro started as well as I could have hoped, when we did a great team time trial and my HTC-Highroad teammates put me into the pink jersey, just like we had planned. But then Wouter Weylandt’s death on Monday has conditioned everything since. It has changed the state of mind of the race.
It’s a difficult thing to be involved with, and unfortunately I had already experienced a similar incident in 1999, when Manuel Sanroma was killed in the Volta a Catalunya. In a sense, both his accident and Wouter’s were workplace accidents, like those that can happen in any other walk of life, and I suppose we have to find the strength to go ahead. But I don’t feel it’s really my place to speak about something like this in front of a microphone or in public.
The day after was nice, we obviously couldn’t go ahead as normal on a day like that and it was fitting to pay tribute and to reflect. But now the best thing to do is to go ahead with the race, even if it seems hard. We riders are well aware of the difficulties and the dangers we face, and if you’re not able to stay concentrated then it’s probably best to go home. Everybody copes with a situation like this in his own individual way, and it’s certainly not up to me to judge what is the best way to respond.
Getting back to racing
On Wednesday, we returned to racing with a testing stage over the dirt roads to Orvieto. I’d done well last year at Montalcino and I’ve done the Strade Bianche enough times too, so I had an idea of what I was facing.
There were already people in difficulty on the climb, but the descent was probably even harder, as it was very steep, and there were sharp bends. A few times, we really had to take a lot of care. It was a stage that posed a lot of dangers but in the end, I was happy personally as I came through it well.
I felt pretty good, I was always looking to stay in front and find my own line through the corners. Everybody has a different perception of what is safe on a stage like the one to Orvieto. Some riders are more able over that kind of technical terrain but others are far less sure of themselves. So the best thing to do is to get out in front so that you can take on those corners and rough roads by yourself, and see what is ahead.
Missing out on the jersey
At the end, I knew that David Millar was in difficulty, although I didn’t really hold out too much hope of taking the jersey as there were a lot of riders up there capable of taking the time bonuses. Le Mevel, in particular, was a real danger, he’s going well.
As it turned out, Weening took the stage and the jersey, but I had confirmation that my condition is good. From a purely racing point of view, it’s been a good Giro for me so far. The weather has been nice too and hopefully the sun stays out as we move into southern Italy. It doesn’t rain too often down here, but when it does, the combination of rain and dust means that the roads become really treacherous.
Montevergine and Etna
My roommate Kanstantin Sivtsov is up there with me too, so we’ll try and stay at the front. It’s true that we’re both very close to the jersey, but there are so many bonus seconds on offer at the top of the climb to Montevergine that it will be tough for one of us to move into the lead.
Somebody who is sixth or seventh overall could win the stage and move ahead of all of us. I also think that Weening is a solid climber and he won’t be dropped easily. Montevergine isn’t really that kind of stage so I’d expect a decent sized group to finish together up there. If he loses the jersey, it will be because of time bonuses or a small gap opening in the group, but I don’t expect him to be dropped.
In my opinion, Sunday will be the first day that one of the overall contenders will make a statement of intent. The final climb to Etna isn’t the most difficult, but there are a lot of kilometres of climbing on the stage, so we’ll certainly see bigger gaps there.
Of the big guns, Contador and Scarponi have probably impressed me the most so far. I’d also pick out Kreuziger as a guy who is looking very sharp too. But looking at the stage to Orvieto, it was clear that all the favourites are in good shape and ready to race.