The current runner up in the overall classification at the Giro d'Italia, David Arroyo Duran (Caisse d'Epargne), is the highest ranked of the experienced Grand Tour riders at this year's race.
Prior to stage 12, he enjoyed a 5:27 lead over Carlos Sastre, 6:32 over Bradley Wiggins, 8:16 over Alexandre Vinokourov, 9:28 over Cadel Evans, 9:46 over Vincenzo Nibali and 10:07 over Ivan Basso.
Arroyo is no stranger to the overall classification of the Grand Tours. He has made the top 10 of the Giro d'Italia twice (10th in 2007 and 2009) and the top 20 of the Vuelta a España twice (19th in 2006 and 17th in 2008).
"For nine months of the year, he's a domestique, and for one month, he gets a chance to ride for himself at the Giro d'Italia," his directeur sportif Neil Stephens told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 12 in Città Sant'Angelo.
"He's not a great leader, but [he's] a super domestique," said Stephens, an Australian who was himself a super domestique during his racing days. "He has the mentality of a worker. He's the easiest rider to work with. He never complains and never asks for more than he needs."
The long breakaway of stage 11 favoured Arroyo's upgrade within the overall classification. "It was a positive day," Stephens said. "But it's just one stage out of 21, and the objective remains a good position in Verona. You gain time one day, but you might lose another day. There is still a lot of work to go."
"I was pleasantly surprised yesterday," Stephens said about stage 11. "But I was not surprised by the amount of work done by my guys.
Stephens said he had gotten info about the breakaway although other team directors had complained that radio information containing the composition of the front group was not given until the 56 riders had already gotten a six-minute lead.
"I'm not a dictator. I rely on what the riders tell me. I learned from Pablo Lastras just one minute after the break had gone that a big group was off with our riders including Arroyo. Less than 15 minutes later, I learned that the leaders - (Alexandre) Vinokourov, (Cadel) Evans, (Vincenzo) Nibali, etc. - were at the back. I immediately told my guys to ride in the front."
Looking forward, Stephens said, "We don't have the lead. Sastre is the favourite now, not Arroyo. In two or three attacks, he can bring back his deficit."
"Richie Porte surprised everyone in the time trial of the Tour of Romandie and here at the prologue of the Giro. Every time he undergoes a test, he passes it, so who knows where he'll finish? But we're gonna try to do a decent GC. Once the top 10 will looks more true to what it will be at the end, then we'll dream of the top five."
The Caisse d'Epargne team put in a strong ride on Wednesday with young guns like Costa-Rican Andrey Amador and Frenchman Arnold Jeannesson. The team lost its main Giro rider Marzio Bruseghin in a crash in the Netherlands, where Lastras was injured though he continues to soldier on.
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