In a Vuelta marked by several surprises, Dario Frigo (here in a pic taken during the past Tour of Italy) can be considered one of them.
Despite his stage-race wins, and the excellent performances in Grand Tours (he was a GC contender in more than a Giro, and won stages in the National Tours of both Italy and France), not many put his name among the main favorites of the 2003 Vuelta. But the Fassa Bortolo rider is doing fine: he’s currently sitting in fourth place in the GC, didn’t lose much time in the three consecutive mountain stages, and with a couple Time Trials coming, he might legitimately have a shot at the final podium.
After the end of Sunday’s Andorran stage, when he lost only to Alejandro Valverde’s better sprinting skills, the 30-year-old Italian had a chat with a “Gazzetta dello Sport” journalist, and briefly talked of the same leg and his plans for the rest of the race. Here’s what he said …
… about the stage and the final sprint: “Things went fine for me in the stage. It wasn’t easy, as it came after two hilly and demanding legs, and a Time Trial. And there was a strong headwind too, such that it all came down to a bunch sprint where about 15 riders competed for victory. Valverde is certainly a faster rider than me, even though until 50 metres from the line I was still hopeful. But then he came out very fast, and I just couldn’t do anything”.
... and about his Vuelta in general, and which his targets for the next two weeks are: “The balance of this first part of the Vuelta is a good one for me. I came here to do well, and things are going the best way possible. I hope they may continue this way until the end”.
… about what’s better for him: an overall podium place, or a stage win ?? “Well, today (Sunday) I could get both of them. And I’m the kind of rider that, while going for the GC, can also battle for stage victory. Just let’s wait and see what the next stages have in store”.
.. and about a spot on the final podium in Madrid. Is it a realistic objective ? With the good climbing legs he showed on the Pyrenees, even in the hot climate he never appreciated, and two Individual Time-Trials coming, it could actually be. But Dario sounded prudent: “Well, at the moment I’m not thinking about that. Again - let’s wait and see what’s going to happen in the coming days”.
A “time and the road will tell” approach that’s well justified, even more if we take into consideration what happened in the Folgaria stage of the 2002 Giro when, while Paolo “The Falcon” Savoldelli was flying towards his first Grand Tour Overall success, Frigo, then regarded by many as one of the main favorites to be at the top of the podium in Milan, totally bonked and lost more than a dozen minutes to the winner, and all of his podium chances.
And not by coincidence it happened in a hot, humid day. So, let’s just wait and see what’s about to come in the next stages. With the suspect that also this time the weather will play a fundamental part in determining Dario Frigo’s final result.