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91st Giro d'Italia - Final Team Comments & Photos
 
By Staff
Date: 6/9/2008
91st Giro d'Italia - Final Team Comments & Photos
 

91st Giro d'Italia - Final Team Comments & Photos
Wrapping up the Giro - team comments and photos after the final stage in Milan.


2008 Giro d'Italia Podium: Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre), Alberto Contador (Astana) and Riccardo Ricco' (Saunier Duval/Scott) Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

Astana
Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador lived up to expectations by winning the 91st Giro d’Italia. The 25-year-old Astana Cycling Team rider is the second Spanish rider in history to win this three-week stage race. After the race Contador was congratulated on the podium by Jaime Lissavetzky, Spanish Minister of Sports, and by Kazakh Minister of Defense Daniel Akhmetov. A Kazakh delegation followed Alberto Contador’s performances during the last week of the Giro.


Alberto Contador winner of the 91rst edition of the Giro d'Italia.
Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

“Incredible.” Alberto Contador must have used this word a thousand times during this Giro d’Italia. It is indeed difficult to believe what he accomplished, knowing only eight days in advance that he and his teammates would participate in this demanding event. He showed himself vulnerable and did not win a stage but was simply overall the best. “I never saw Indurain on the bike, as I was still a child when he rode, and in that time I played football and athletics, but yes, I am super proud that I follow in his footsteps.”

Team Manager Johan Bruyneel was more than proud as well. “No one in their right mind would think that a professional cycling team with one week's notice could even participate in a Grand Tour, let alone come out on top. My hat is off to our whole team, and to all our staff that came together on such short notice to make this possible. As for our riders, well they saw opportunity where others saw no chance whatsoever. We will toast this victory tonight, not only for Alberto Contador, but for the Astana Team as a whole.”

Alberto Contador added: “It is amazing what the others did for me. Riders like Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden, who are potential Grand Tour winners themselves, worked for me like all other teammates did: Assan Bazayev, Toni Colom, Vladimir Gusev, Maxim Iglinskiy, Andrey Mizurov and Steve Morabito. A sick Andreas Klöden did so much for me. I didn’t know him well before this Giro. I think I have found a new friend. It is amazing how we all grew close to each other during these weeks.”

Johan Bruyneel: “Many fans and pundits rightfully wondered if Andreas Klöden would be our featured rider following his recent victory in the Tour de Romandie. I say he was a champion here because he willingly took on the roll of ‘super domestique’. Unfortunately he came down with a respiratory infection mid-race, but managed to play a decisive role for Contador in Stage 19 before having to abandon. We could not have won without him.”

The sports directors Alain Gallopin, Sean Yates and Alexander Shefer always hoped that the team would eventually be allowed to race in the Giro, but to be told just one week prior was definitely not on their wish list. Johan Bruyneel: “ We have faced many challenges over the years, but none as difficult as putting together a squad with just seven days notice. This, coupled with a very difficult first week's racing, tested our team in ways we could never have imagined. To say I am proud of our staff and riders is truly an understatement; they accomplished the impossible and yet did it in the most professional manner I can think of.”

2008 seems to already be a perfect year, even without the Tour de France. “No I don’t think Tour the France will change their mind,” said Alberto Contador. “Now I hope to finally take my holiday. Anyway I hope that the Tour directors have watched this race. And this pink is maybe nicier than yellow, as I didn’t expect this. On the other hand, the Tour is definitely a harder race.”

“It is often said that actions speak louder than words,” said Johan Bruyneel. “Today I hope that the ASO takes firm notice of the actions of the Astana Professional Cycling Team, not just in our victory at the 2008 Giro d'Italia, but also how professionally we have conducted ourselves throughout the entire season. This is the proof. We have taken a team of riders and staff and under the most arduous of situations won one of the most important bike races in the world. I cannot be prouder of any of them, nor can I understand why we cannot be allowed to defend our title in the Tour de France. Alberto Contador is our champion, and he is supported by an amazing group of people. This is a victory for the ages, and we will continue to build upon it – that you can be sure of.”

The Team Manager witnessed the evolution of a great champion. “Alberto Contador literally went from opening a beer on the beach while on vacation a few weeks ago in his hometown to popping the cork off a bottle of champagne in Milan atop the final podium at the Giro d'Italia. This is unprecedented. He didn't preview the stages, he didn't ride the mountain passes, and neither he nor his team were close to top form when the race began. And so they raced with their heads as much as their legs, knowing when they needed to lead and when they needed to conserve their energy. We knew it would be close, but yet we also knew we had the reigning Tour de France champion. As we saw with Lance Armstrong, great riders can bring out the best in their teammates. Alberto Contador did just that in the 2008 Giro d'Italia, and we look forward to the days ahead.”

“I remember when I first called Alberto while on holiday. After telling him we needed him to ride the Giro, he said honestly, ‘OK, we'll wait and see’. And that's just how we ran the race. We waited, raced into form, and now we see him atop the podium in Milan!”

“This year has been very interesting to me and Team Astana. Coming off of multiple years before when we won the Tour de France with our formula, we have now had to face a lot of adversity and challenge upon challenge in 2008. And yet here we are, with 16 victories this year, as well as the #1 and the #3 finishers in the most recent Tour de France. And now we have won the Giro d'Italia in a true team effort, with Alberto Contador leading the way. Where do we go from here? Regrettably we do not have much say in that decision. But wherever it is, know this: we will come to win, period.”

Team High Road ends the Giro on a High
The High Road team ended the Giro d’Italia on a high on Sunday, taking a first and second double in the final time trial stage to Milan.

Italian national time trial champion Marco Pinotti won the stage and young Tony Martin of Germany was an excellent second. High Road missed out on taking the top three places by just three seconds as Britain’s Bradley Wiggins finished fourth behind Mikhail Ignatiev. It was High Road’s second 1-2 in the Giro after sprinters Andre Greipel and Mark Cavendish finished first and second in Locarno on stage 17.


Stage 17: Greipel and Cavendish celebrate as they cross the line.
Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

“Last year was super because the pink jersey but winning a stage is just as nice,” Pinotti said. “I’d hoped to do well overall this year but I lost a lot of time in the Dolomites. After that I started to focus on the final time trial. I saved every drop of energy I could and not thinking about the overall classification meant I was a lot stronger.”

“It was great to come into Milan alone and hear the roar of the crowds. In the past I’ve been in the bunch but this time all the cheers were for me. I knew I’d done a good time but I had to wait nervously until all the other riders finished before starting to celebrate.”

Four Stage Wins
High Road won four stages at the Giro d’Italia and were often in the thick of the action in breakaways and late attacks. Mark Cavendish won two sprint stages in Catanzaro and Cittadella, Andre Greipel won in Locarno and Pinotti was the fastest to Milan.

“It’s been a great Giro for High Road. We weren’t initially invited to the Giro but we’ve proved we deserved our place.” Pinotti said. “We rode well as a team and we were unlucky that Kanstantsin Sivtsov didn’t finish, otherwise we would have made it to Milan with a full team. Unfortunately he hurt his knee when he was on the attack during the mountain stage but rode well throughout the Giro.”


Marco Pinotti on the podium with his trophy, smiles after his kisses from the lovely Giro podium lasses. Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

“We were all motivated to do well during the race. I want to personally thank Bob Stapleton. He was very supportive during the winter and even though he wasn’t at the Giro, he always keeps in touch via email and quickly sent me a message after I won.”

2008 Giro d'Italia Winner: Alberto Contador
Straight after taking Spain to the top of the Giro d'Italia podium after a 15-year spell, Alberto Contador was singing the praises of the Corsa Rosa: "I could have never had any better reasons to put an end to my vacations than come here and win the Giro, a race many wanted to win. I'm thoroughly happy, this victory is as important to me as it was last year's Tour de France. Nope, maybe it means even more!

The Tour 2008? Well, the organisers made their decision already, you know, and they're not going to step back. I didn't like that, but I have to get on with it. Moreover, I wouldn't be on top form (at the Tour) after racing this Giro".


Alberto gets his new pink shoes by Sidi. The company added the shoe to their catalogue to honor the winner from Madrid - Genius 6.6 Carbon have gone pink to celebrate. Photo courtesy of Sidi Sport

Lampre Comments
Marzio Bruseghin defended in the final time trial (Cesano Maderno-Milano, 28,5 kms) his third place in Giro d'Italia 2008. All was uncertain until Bruseghin crossed the finish line: in fact Pellizotti, who had 5" of gap from Bruseghin in the overall classification, realized a very good performance preceding Marzio of 3": so, Lampre's captain could obtain the third place for only 2".


Bruseghin, Saronni and Bontempi celebrate with Zomegnan (Giro's director)
Photo courtesy of Lampre

"Nor my mother would have bet on my podium at Giro - Bruseghin said - While I was pedaling, I was thinking that it would have been a pity not to hit an important target such the podium only because of few seconds: so I gave my best and I could defend the third place. For this result, I thank my team mates and the whole Lampre".

 Riccardo Riccò
At his turn Riccardo Riccò ruled out any chances to continue his Grand Tour campaign at the next Grande Boucle either. He's going to take some time off, like a two-week holiday in Sardinia, and get back in the saddle later to start his build-up to late season targets such as the Worlds and Tour of Lombardy.


Super Marzio at the start of stage 20. Photo courtesy of team Lampre

Marzio Bruseghin
Some comments from the remaining podium finisher, the great Marzio Bruseghin: "I just can't believe it. Had someone told me a few weeks ago, before the start of the Giro, of this kind of Giro, that I was going to make the podium in the race I would have thought he was talking nonsense. Now I'm truly happy, but I would have been also in case of a fourth-place finish, because I did everything I could. I could race the Tour in support of Damiano Cunego, but no final decision about it has yet been made".

Another memorable Giro for Liquigas
The 2008 Giro d’Italia is finished with star performances from the boys in blue and green: team manager Amadio sums it up
It all started in Palermo twenty-three days ago; the cyclists have covered 3,430 kilometres, and climbed up 19,700 metres. Team Liquigas arrived at the final finish line of the 91st Giro d’Italia with an enviable collection of achievements: it won four stages, Bennati got the cyclamen jersey, fourth place in Milan (just 2 minutes behind third place) and Pellizotti wore the pink jersey for four days, plus the Super Team points classification.


Franco Pellizotti gets his first kisses and his first maglia rosa.
Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

"These results show just how strong we are," said the chuffed team manager Roberto Amadio "And they place us up amongst the top teams following last year’s win. This success can be attributed to a united group of riders who gelled well together, and two leaders who are capable of great performances, Bennati and Pellizotti."

"Daniele showed all of his professionalism and skill and he won the points classification in a Giro which is mainly for climbers. We know how determined Franco is: he won an historic stage and wore the pink jersey. He has proved to be a fundamental player for the Liquigas team." A special mention also goes out to Vincenzo Nibali, "who has improved on last year’s result and made consistent progress. He’s the future of Italian cycling in the great stage races."


Daniele Bennati Stage 3 victory. Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

But the broadest smile is for Daniele Bennati, who made his mark in the sprint finishes. The Tuscan sprinter confessed: "I started the race hoping to win one stage, but I ended up taking three. To add to this, I also wore the cyclamen jersey, which at the beginning I didn’t think I could keep until Milan: I really couldn’t ask for any more."  But Bennati has shown that he’s a champion off the bike as well: his sportsmanlike gestures in Catanzaro and Cittadella won’t be forgotten. After his trip to America for the Philadelphia International Championship, he’ll have his sights set on the Tour de France: "I’ll try to take as many stages as possible and win the green points jersey. It’s an ambitious goal but with Liquigas’ support it’s certainly not impossible."

Team CSC
Giro d'Italia: An Extreme Experience
Team CSC's riders all agree on the fact that this year's edition of Giro d'Italia was a very extreme experience. It wasn't just one thing but a mixture of things, which made the race so extreme. Danish veteran Michael Blaudzun, who prior to the race announced that this was to be his final season as a pro rider, summed it up like this:

"The route was a bit tougher than normally and we've not been lucky with the weather because it's rained almost every single day and also the distance between some of the stages were quite long, so there was a lot of transport and I think we're all just worn out right now," said Blaudzun a couple of days after the race.

Gustav Larsson was best overall for Team CSC with a 14th place and he pointed out another thing, which made the race especially tough: "The whole attitude in the race was also extreme – normally in the worst stages you manage to get across the first couple of mountains before everything gets aggressive, but this year it wasn't like that at all. It's good that it's over now – it's been a stressful race because of the many up-hill finishes. There's hardly been any sprinter stages," said Larsson, who was ill for the last 10 days of the race.

"It was just a cold and some bronchitis, but I don't think it slowed me down much so that's ok," said the Swedish rider in an interview for the Team CSC Official Fan Club.

Larsson was not the only one to be taken ill during the Giro. Jens Voigt also had a cold after the race.
"During the second to last stage there was a descent lasting for about 20-30 kilometers, where it was so cold that everyone's teeth were shattering and your arms were shaking so badly you almost couldn't hold on to your bike. I think around 80 % of the peloton came down with a cold or bronchitis after this race. The temperature was about two or three degrees, it was foggy and rainy and when you're on a descent you're sitting there for ages without moving your body much so of course there was a price to pay," explained Jens Voigt.

Team CSC also had a Grand Tour debutant along and it's safe to say he was thoroughly tested. "I think it's been a very intense and extreme experience. I've suffered as I never even thought possible. But I'm happy it's over now and that I got through it all ok. It's been an eye opener as to how tough these races are and I'm happy to have done it. I think it's been a valuable lesson for me to have taken this kind of beating for three weeks," says Anders Lund, who also remembers the descents in the cold mentioned by Voigt earlier:

"On Friday we did 240 kilometers in the rain and you almost cried on the descents because you were so cold. But I'm happy and proud that I made it through," said Lund.

Team Milram
The Giro d'Italia is over. The win after the closing time trial in Milano went to the Spaniard Alberto Contador of the Kazakhi Team Astana.

MILRAM's Markus Eichler, Alberto Ongarato, Matej Jurco, Marco Velo and Erik Zabel all rode the difficult race to the end. MILRAM captain Erik Zabel finished second in Stage Two in Milazzo and finished a number of times in the top five in sprint finishes.

After the three-week race through Italy, the two Directeurs Sportif Antonio Bevilacqua and Oscar Pellicioli looked back at Team MILRAM'S performance.

"We are semi-satisfied" said Antonio Bevilacqua. "We came close to winning with Zabel in the second stage, and we worked well in all the whole sprint stages. Our riders are the best in this kind of stage. To be honest, I'm a little angry about the San Vincenzo stage when Zabel got boxed in the last meters. I think we would have been able to win it. However, the guys did well in all the sprint finishes, showing that we are the best team in setting up a sprint. "

Oscar Pellicioli, second Directeur Sportif at the Giro d'Italia, said “I want to thank our riders because they never gave up in the mountain stages. This Giro was very hard and a lot of riders, nearly 60, dropped out. Besides there were a lot of kilometers of transfers after the stages, and that is not as easy as you might think.”

Steve Cummings looks forward after great Giro d’Italia
Great Britain cycling star and Olympic Gold medal contender Steve Cummings is having a short rest after his wonderful rides in the Tour of Italy. Steve finished 4th on the races most decisive mountain stage on Friday, the 238 km stage to Monte Pora ( the longest of the race).

Part of a six rider breakaway that formed just after the start, Steve high finishing position saw him become the highest placed Briton in a mountain stage in a major Tour since mountain climbing star Robert Millar in 1989, when the Scot won a stage in the Tour de France.
Steve topped this off with a fantastic 8th place in the time trial on the final day beating the Giro winner and last year's Tour de France winner and former team-mate, Spanish superstar Alberto Contador, who has a nickname for Steve " The Motor Bike". This performance was also one of the best ever results by a British rider in a major Tour time –trial. Steve finished 2nd best Brit overall, only 3.45 behind time trial star David Millar , who was part of the Team Time trial team the won the first stage.

Steve said: “The mountain stage (where he finished 4th) seemed my last chance to win a stage, it wasn't originally planned as my aim was to have a chance in the two previous easier stages, but didn't have the legs. A rest day messes me up a little, so I had to pick the hardest stage to have a go, clever me right? But it nearly worked out!. I gave it everything I couldn't have gone harder at the time but I am sure a better chance will come along. Back home they said the final time trial would be a battle just between Brad (Wiggins)& Dave (Millar). I thought i was in good shape, although I suffered a lot in the last mountain stage on Saturday but I expected that, after the day before, so I gave it a shot. Yes I was pleased and beat a lot of top riders, although Brad beat me by 11 seconds. My girlfriend Nicky is over now, so a tiny bit of rest and then a lot of hard prep for the Olympics .I also hope to have a good end of season on the road in some of the big races." Steve plans for next year have been finalized and an announcement will be made shortly.

Rabobank Stage 21- Menchov to Tour de France
Wind spoilsport in concluding time trial
High head winds resulted in a distorted view in the concluding time trial of the Giro on Sunday afternoon. The Italian Pinotti won the last stage. There was not one classification-rider in the top ten of the stage result. Final winner Alberto Contador finished eleventh. Denis Menchov was the third best classification rider with his 25th place. His teammate Paul Martens fared a bit better and finished 23rd, three seconds ahead of him. As expected, Menchov passed Emanuele Sella in the ranking and therefore ended in an honorable fifth place. Mauricio Ardila also ended a good eighteenth in the final ranking.

Menchov Prepared for Tour
Menchov went to the Giro partly with a view to the Tour. The last few years, the Russian has always turned out to be extremely strong after the Tour in the Tour of Spain, which he even won in 2005 and 2007. The team management therefore decided, in consultation with the captain, to reverse their approach. A major tour before the Tour, and then hope for a good shape in July. A least from a sports point of view, team leader Erik Breukink finds the decision to opt for the Giro a success. "The team did not ride around as anonymously as in other years. That was also a good development for the other riders. They had a captain, an objective. That became clear on the basis of the atmosphere in the team."

Predictions are impossible, but Breukink suspects the decision with regard to the preparation for the Tour to have been a good one. "At least, the Giro has given Denis satisfaction. After the Kronplatz, when his cold was at its worst, he started to ride better on a daily basis. It is a very good sign that he recovered so well and quickly. He was amongst the best again in the final two mountain stages. His ability to recover is Denis's strongest characteristic. Here it turned out to be optimal. That is great for the morale in this preparatory stage of the Tour."


Denis Menchov on the Kronplatz. Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

'Perhaps a podium place without his cold'
Was the Tour-preparation constantly the most important thing during this Giro? Breukink: "No, the Giro has from scratch been the main goal. Denis wanted to perform as well as possible here. The Tour at first did play a background role, but certainly not in the final week. The podium was in sight. Well, as a rider, you are really not going to think about any other race. He put out all the stops to make it to the podium. Without thinking about reserves. A top-class athlete does not think about saving energy with success in reach."

Perhaps a podium place would have been possible without his bronchial tube infection. Menchov himself thinks that the coughing and the subsequent 'gasping for breath' cost him at least thirty seconds in the time trial on the Kronplatz. "That is a realistic assumption," says Breukink. "Perhaps things would have gone differently had he not had that cold. But, that is all in the game and we are not going to use it as an excuse. Half the pack has been ill. Other world-class riders have also experienced setbacks. We are content about this Giro. It was good and definitely encouraging for the Tour."

Criticism on Brown
Were there no disappointments? Breukink: "Yes, there was. I found the way in which Graeme Brown started this Giro a disappointment. He was not well-prepared. You cannot expect to just ride yourself into shape in a tour such as this one. Graeme started off on a wrong foot in this tour and then it is impossible to turn that around, which also became reality later on. Despite the fact that he also experienced problems. But, he was not in a good condition before he experienced those setbacks, but we do not need to tell him that."

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