Gerolsteiner woke this morning with an embarrassment of riches. Olaf
Pollack in Pink and only the fourth ever German to do so, the others being
Heppner, Braun in 1981 and then Buse way back in 1932. Fabian Wegmann in the
mountains jersey and Rebellin still on target for the overall.
The team management must have mused over a glass of sparkling water or
two trying to decide the best course of action. To back Rebellin or try to
hang on for pink and reap the subsequent publicity. The decision was not
that straightforward. The Peace Race is also live on German TV; a race that
arch rivals T-Mobile are racing. In some ways the two races are a direct
publicity battle between the two German Giants to see who can get most
headline space. Advantage Gerolsteiner so far.
Inevitably they made the only sensible decision, to try and back all three
men for as long as possible.
So when the major break of the day of 23 riders got away it was a very
sensible Gerolsteiner who got men in the break. Sadly for them, so did
Saeco, Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, Vini Caldirola-Nobili and just about every
With the final climb of the Passo del Brattello looming and Phonak
leading the peloton, Saeco made the first of two great tactical moves. As the
leading group of 23 riders started to disintegrate, Gorazd Stangelj (Saeco)
made a searing attack on the remaining escapees.
Simoni, surrounded by his red army, waited for someone to respond. Garzelli and his Vini Caldirola rose to the challenge and set off in
pursuit. Mario Cipollini had long been left behind following a puncture; now
Petacchi slipped off the back surrounded by his Fassa troops. Pollack's day
in Pink ended too, as Caldirola hunted down Stangelj.
Stangelj finally hit the wall with 2 kilometres to go. Any joy the
Caldirola team felt was short lived. A mass attack by the Saeco saw only the
strong hold on and the race split for good.
Damiano Cunego, Eddy Mazzoleni, Leonardo Bertagnolli, Sylvester Szmyd and
Andrea Tonti were all magnificent for their captain as they led the charge
to the top of the mountain and down the 20 kilometre descent to the finish.
Riders of the quality of Astarloa had to fight on the descent to rejoin
the leading group as it swooped down into Pontremoli.
If Simoni and his Red Army had proved a point, then so too had Brad McGee. Not only had he kept up with the Saeco pace where many established
mountain men had not, with team mate Philippe Gilbert keeping him company,
he now found himself not only in a position to take the stage but also
reclaim the pink. For the second time in two days we saw an Australian make
the first move on the finishing straight. McGee went early, but Saeco were
not to be denied their crowning moment.
Damiano Cunego put the icing on the cake for the Saeco team with a
perfectly time late sprint.
Mc Gee reclaimed Pink, and it will be very interesting to see how the FdJeux team respond to the challenge tomorrow.
Alessandro Petacchi surrounded by his team mates came in 2.39 down,
although David Cioni remains well placed on the overall.
Yaroslav Popovych moves to second overall, but lost team member Cristian
Gasperoni; bad luck, this looks like a race where the will of the team may
decide who finishes in Pink.