Friday's fifth leg will be the first, difficult test for several would-be Giro winners, and even more for one challenger: Stefano Garzelli.
For the first time in his career, the rider from Varese will have to defend his pink jersey from very likely wicked attacks by all other main competitors. True that he already won a Tour of Italy (in its Y2K edition), but in that occasion the man wore his first ever pink jersey only at the end of the "real" last stage (the penultimate day's Sestriere ITT, when he stole the lead to an unfit Casagrande) and the final "procession" into Milan posed no threat at all to him.
So how will Garzelli try and defend his overall lead, which riders does he fear the most ? Does Mapei's captain think he took the race leadership too early ? The answers too all of these questions are in the interview he gave to "Gazzetta dello Sport" daily in the rest day.
"I'm feeling good now, sure I feel the tension, but am not that nervous" the stage 2 winner told the journalist, but also added that "I know Friday's stage will be hard, but for all of us, not just me. We'll have to be careful, keep our eyes open and try not to be surprised by any attack; we'll see how things go, anyway. The rest day, after the first intense stages, was of help to me, but I think to other riders as well. So I think we'll have a stiff competition on Friday, although I got the feeling all main contenders would also wait and see what their rivals are able to do. There's a long way to go before the end, after all".
" I expect some attacks to come from Casagrande on the Colletto del Moro, but also other competitors, such as Frigo and Simoni, could do it. Riders in condition might launch their attack, although I think that, as the climb is not so close to the finishing line (actually when riders get to the top of the climb, they will be at 23 km. from the finish in Limone Piemonte), they will evaluate all pros and cons before starting the fireworks. As for my tactics, no doubts that I won't be the first to attack on the steepest ascent. I'll be there waiting for others to make their move. Of course if I had the chance to fight for the stage win, I'd try not to miss it. I'll just wait and see how the stage goes, then make a decision. Which domestiques will help me the most ? Noé and Cadel Evans in particular ".
The 2000 Giro winner sounds like he really believes in his chances to make the double "I have been showing for two years that I'm steadily improving as a rider, and if hadn't suffered that bronchitis I could have played my part in the 2001 Giro too. I'm here to win, so I don't think I've done anything sensational so far in this race ".
And if you wanna know whether Garzelli will live up to his words, just tune to the DAILY PELOTON'S LIVE COVERAGE of STAGE 5, to get underway in a very short time (at about 345 PM Italian time, 2h45 PM in the Uk & Ireland, 9h45 AM in the US East coast, 6h45 AM in California ...) on this site.
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