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Have the Italians underestimated Spain's Arroyo?

By Jean-François Quénet in Lido di Camaiore

Gilberto Simoni was the most bitter of the favourites after the controversial Stage 8, when teams like Liquigas, Lampre and Astana paid little attention to the quality of the riders in the front group. The incident has thrown the overall win door wide open with a number of riders, including David Arroyo Duran (Caisse d'Epargne), now poised to take victory.

The prementioned teams were represented in the break, although not by their captains, but Saunier Duval was absent after Riccardo Ricco dropped back to the peloton. "Some people have lost maybe a place on the final podium," Simoni said.

Most had mentioned the presence of Lampre's Patxi Vila and Marzio Bruseghin, and Discovery Channel's José Luis Rubiera but strangely not much of George Hincapie, although his climbing abilities are well known since he won the Pyrenean stage of Pla d'Adet in the 2005 Tour de France. Amongst the other threats that went un-noticed in the break were Emmanuele Sella (Panaria), who is a pure climber, Dario Cioni (Predictor-Lotto), a former top five Giro finisher, and Evgeni Petrov whose general skills are well known.

At the start of Reggio Emilia, the name of David Arroyo arose as a contender, as he's the designated leader of the Caisse d'Epargne team. His French teammate Eric Berthou had told Cyclingnews on the start line of Paris-Roubaix this year: "After the classics I'll do my first Grand Tour at the Giro and I'm excited because we'll ride for David Arroyo and we know he's able to do well in a three-weeks stage race."

Berthou was even more enthusiastic in Reggio Emilia, now that Arroyo lays in seventh position on general classification, with a 2.29 minute gap on Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas), who is the highest ranked of the favourites."It'll be difficult for them to get rid of him in the climbs!" said Berthou.

In fact, while Vila and Bruseghin finished 20th and 22nd of last year's Tour de France, in 21st position was Arroyo. The Spanish rider has also performed well in other major races, with an 18th at the Dauphiné and 19th at the Vuelta a Espana.

"He was always riding as a domestique for a leader," Berthou added. "Now we'll see what he can do for himself. We'll be there to help him. We just hope that he doesn't take the pink jersey too early. Even if he doesn't take it, we'd be happy to lead him to a good final result."

The 27 year-old Arroyo turned pro with ONCE in 2001 and went to Portuguese team La Pecol in 2004. After finishing second in the Tour of Portugal with two stage wins - his only personal successes as a professional to date - he returned to Spain under the sponsorship of Iles Balears and now Caisse d'Epargne.