Szmyd finds glory atop Mont Ventoux

Sylvester Szmyd (Liquigas) leads Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) at the front of the race.

Sylvester Szmyd (Liquigas) leads Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) at the front of the race. (Image credit: Sirotti)

It was so new to Sylvester Szmyd to be in a winning position that he lost control of himself before the last hairpin bend of the Mont Ventoux. His circumstantial ally Alejandro Valverde had to wait for him to give him the victory he deserved. "I can't hide that having done all my career as a domestique, I was in trouble when it came time to win, I was stressed out," the Polish rider explained with a large smile.

Winning is something the Pole can learn from his captain Ivan Basso who was his roommate at the Dauphiné Libéré. However, Basso left him alone after the Ventoux stage. The Italian decided to quit the race after coming down with a fever. He had reached the top of the Giant of Provence in 35th position, more than ten minutes down on GC.

"I don't think he's going slow," Szmyd said in defence of his captain. "He did a great Giro d'Italia. Maybe today he didn't go so good, but after three years without racing, the Giro cost him a lot of energy." [Basso was actually out of competition only one and half years, from April 2007 to October 2008 -ed.].

"As a domestique, I don't spend as much energy in a Grand Tour," Szmyd continued. "OK you have seen me a lot at the head of the race and everybody remembers that, but sometimes when I wasn't well, I could allow myself to let them go, like at the Monte Petrano where I finished 35 minutes behind. It's logical that a domestique comes out of a Grand Tour fresher than his captain."

The Giro d'Italia, Dauphiné and Tour de France were on Szmyd's original racing plan when he joined Liquigas from Lampre, but he won't have the opportunity to repeat his success at the Mont Ventoux in July. "Going well at the Giro, I've gained a 'no' for the Tour and a 'yes' for the Vuelta," he explained. "Basso and the team will need more climbers for the Vuelta than the Tour."

After pulling out of the Dauphiné, Basso has put an end to a first cycle of work in his return to cycling after his ban. He'll take a rest before preparing for the Vuelta a España and the world championships that will be held in Mendrisio just a few kilometres away from his house.

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