92nd Giro d'Italia- Stage One: il Giro report card.
The most highly anticipated Giro in recent memory gets underway with a brilliant
team time trial. While the winner was somewhat expected, there were surprises
aplenty in Venice...
By Tim Lee
Professional sport is unique in many ways. Perhaps one of the most intriguing
is how much confidence can affect the outcome. Whilst there were several teams
with a realistic shot at winning in Lido di Venezia today based on recent form,
it was only Team Columbia that really appeared to be exuding self belief to the
point of physically oozing it all over their canary yellow and snow white team
The favorites: Sastre, Basso, Armstrong, Simoni, Di Luca, Cunego, Garzelli
and Menchov. Photo © 2009 Karen Lambrecht
The Fluro crew have more variety that a bag of mixed lollies with respect to
the various nationalities that make up the team (seven in this Giro team) but
today they meshed as one to take an expected yet classy win ahead of a field
packed full of motivation and form. This report card will help followers to
filter out the hype until all that is left is the cold hard truth of who sinks,
who swims and who makes news for reasons of any nature. Enjoy!
A- Outstanding achievement worthy of all superlatives known to the human race
B- On the fringe of greatness but pipped at the post
C- Good performance but not enough to warrant the Moet et Chandon
D- Plenty of scope to improve but all is not lost, yet
E- Bottom of the barrel and in search of light in a very long tunnel
A- Team Columbia-Highroad demonstrated
again today that the dark old T-Mobile days are becoming more of a distant
memory with each victory they collect. It takes a special team to live up to
expectations and deliver on the big stage but that is exactly what Bob
Stapleton's troops did today.
Sure, they had three national time trial champions on the squad along
with a deadly mix of confidence, lofty ambitiousness, and a camaraderie not seen
among too many top level teams but these guys rode out of their (kind of ugly)
skins on what was a mostly sunny day with moderate winds. With their morale
continuing to soar and their sprinter widely tipped for success in the coming
days, who knows where the Juggernaut will end.
David Millar Photo © 2009 Karen Lambrecht
B- Team Garmin-Slipstream won the
equivalent stage last year when nobody knew or believed in them. They have since
shown that they can contend in big races but have learned a valuable lesson:
with success comes expectation to continue and even surpass previous results.
This can make for uncomfortable levels of pressure which Vaughters' lads must
have been feeling when they were doing their dedicated TTT drills last week, let
alone racing in Venice today. Still, to lose to the steamroller that is Columbia
by just six seconds over 20.5km when all of their big engines were not firing is
still a noteworthy performance and one that will surely give them a huge
incentive to press on and achieve bigger and better things in this Giro.
An LPR rider arrives by Gondola for the presentation. Photo © 2009 Karen Lambrecht
Considering the turmoil that has taken place largely behind closed doors in the
past couple of weeks, Astana did well just to turn up and make people take them
seriously. Yes they have good form but Gila and Giro are polar opposites in
terms of the depth of talent in their respective fields however they showed
today that they are equipped to fight and defend the title that they won last
year with Contador. Levi's chances are as good as his scone is shiny and as long
as Lance's clavicle stays strong, so too will the bond between Giro boss
Zomegnan and his accountant. Look out for these guys to go into overdrive during
the next three weeks, especially if they are potentially looking for a new
D- Team Saxo Bank are usually considered
a powerhouse team in this discipline but their objectives are a little different
in this Giro with no gun GC candidate to ride for. Voigt is fresh of a record
5th Criterium International and has been an instrumental part of many TTT
performances (remember Credit Agricole in the 2001 tour anyone???) but today his
legs were not up for it, along with most of the team given that only the minimum
of five riders crossed the line together led by ace TT specialist Cancellara.
Still, their result today was not satisfactory and Team boss Riis will want to
go on he attack in the coming days.
E- Fuji-Servetto did little to justify
the somewhat misguided faith that the organizers placed in them by giving the
remnants of the Saunier-Duval train wreck a wildcard to the centenary Giro. One
can only imagine what Filippo Simeoni must be thinking while he throws his
national champions jersey into his backyard bonfire. They do not have a big GC
hope or sprinter thus the incentive to go all out was lacking, but to finish
1'37” in arrears and behind all of the second tier teams is an embarrassment to
the them and he people who gave them the privilege of partaking in this race.
Still, they finished with a full compliment of riders....
Honorable mentions- awarded to the riders that constitute the top of the milk
when the cream has already been skimmed.
OIE- Obligatory Italian Escape- giving
patriotism a purpose for those homegrown riders doing their bit to get heir face
on the telly.
il Giro burlone idiota- otherwise known as
the 'tool' award. This goes to the rider that either makes a decision or
completes an act that any cognitively sound person would regard as wrong,
dangerous, shameful or just plain stupid.
Must surely go to the slightly lesser Italian teams LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini and
ISD (part Ukrainian but essentially an Italian team for the sake of this
instance). Keeping Italian pride intact with 4th and 5th places respectively and
showing the bigger budget Italian teams like Lampre-NGC and Liquigas how its
done in the process. LPR showed it is up to the task of supporting Di Luca while
ISD must have been listening intently when they were training with Mario
Cipollini two days ago.
The rocket scientists out there will have already done the math on this one; no
peloton = no escapes = no OIE awards. Stay tuned for the first road stage which
will possibly give us our first bunch gallop but also serve to open the account
of the OIE.
Il Giro burlone idiota
For the first time, this goes to a rider that was part of the team that scored
an 'A' in the very same report card. Mark Cavendish
is a brilliant athlete and to be honest, a great ambassador for the sport.
However the young Manxman would do well to bite his tongue whenever he is
contemplating being a verbal antagonist. He has been talking up Columbia's
chances of a win in the opening TTT (or is that talking down Garmin's?) for some
time now but the situation reached a peak in the past two days when he accused
Garmin of being disrespectful towards the Giro by targeting the TTT. Furthermore
to rub it in he then boasted about how little training Columbia had done to
prepare for today's race, which implicitly drew attention to the amount of
specific training Garmin had done.
Had they not won today, Cav would be wiping a considerable amount of egg from
his face and would do well to remember this for the future when things will not
always be so rosie.
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