Interviews from the race favorites after the summit finish on the Larciano:
Damiano Cunego, Danilo Di Luca of Liquigas,
and CSC's Ivan Basso
and Bjarne Riis.
Stage 8 on the Larciano Pass: Basso, Di Luca, Simoni, Cunego & Caruso.
Photo (c) Fotoreporter Sirotti
First after-race comments from Damiano Cunego,
who came in second today, but didn't sound like a "first loser":
"I was fine, so I gave it a go 4km from the finish.
Ivan countered and went away. Just hats off to him! But if this was the first
mountain test, I think things went fine for me. There's a long way to go before
Milan. There's plenty of climbing left, and the last week will be very tough and
decisive. The race is still wide open".
Ivan Basso comfortably moves ahead of his rivals, Cunego chases.
Photo (c) Fotoreporter Sirotti
Danilo Di Luca:
Words from a man that was supposed to be amongst today's biggest losers, but
didn't sound like that either: Danilo Di Luca. "I'm
satisfied with my performance. I might have not achieved the result I was vying
for, but still I carried out a solid performance. I didn't bonk at all, just my
rivals went fast, but I did limit the damage.
I'm not in the same condition I was in the past year, but I'm working on that;
and I'm sure that better days will come. Now I'm going to try and make some
gains over Simoni and Cunego in the Pontedera ITT, and try and limit my losses
to Savoldelli and Basso at the same time. We'll see if Basso will be able to
keep such a good condition until Milano. If he does, well, just hats off to him,
he'll prove that he's the best one".
A happy Ivan Basso in Maglia Rosa Photo (c) Fotoreporter
And here comes the "man of the day": Ivaaaaaaaaaaaaaan Bassooooooooooo. The (un)disputed
leader of the race, who smoked opposition on the Larciano Pass and powered to
the top of the GC. He got a helluva triumph, but nevertheless kept a low profile
in after-race interviews.
"I went as fast as I could today. The whole team
gave it everything, and did a great job. They were good at taking the climb on
the front, and later in the ascent. Sastre did a sensational work; as a team
leader he could go for the top places overall, but he's here working for me.
Gotta praise, and thank him for that! I'm not used to have a teammate of mine
force the pace over a whole climb just for nothing, so if Cunego hadn't
attacked, I would have made the move. But as Cunego did, and Sastre had his job
done, I chose to counter and successively go away on my own".
So is the game over after today's impressive showdown?
"No way! We're just at the beginning. There's two weeks
left, and the GC is a close one. Plus, last year I learned that it takes no more
than a bad day for one to lose an hour or so. That's why I'm gonna take one step
at a time. What I'm sure of is that I'm very serene, and well aware that I did
everything I could in order to prepare well for this race. And that I've got a
strong, solid team around me. And also that this winter I was more quiet and
serene than in past ones, and could train in a better way, resulting in my
condition and weight now being more similar to those I used to have at the TdF,
rather than at the Giro 2005".
CSC's Boss Bjarne Riis:
"We had a very good day today. Sastre was strong. He did
everything he had to, in the best way possible, and later Ivan - who had great
legs today - finished off the job. He didn't even have to attack, keeping a high
pace to make the others suffer proved enough. But the Giro has just began. The
toughest part is still ahead of us.
The rivals? well, there's many of them. Cunego went fast today, and so did
Simoni, who lost some time, but not that much. And Di Luca, who managed to limit
his losses anyway".
The reigning champion may have lost today's battle, but when it comes to the war, he sounded far from waving white flag: "I don't know (what happened), maybe the efforts of the first real ascent in the Giro took their toll on me. I tried to stay with the best ones, but ended up bonking. I managed to lessen the damage, somehow, thanks to my teammate Tom Danielson. Losing 01'20" or so would have been acceptable, while 02'35" is no doubt a huge gap. But the Giro is a long race, you know, and in my career I've seen more than one rider looking like a Grand Tour winner after two weeks, and ending up as loser. Sure now we have the strongest rider, the main suspect to win the race, as current leader. Kudos to him, he won the stage and took the jersey, and fully deserves that. But when in the last week, we'll see who has enough gasoline left, who is good enough to hit the podium at Milan. All I can say now,is that O'll give it everything in the (Pontedera) ITT, then we'll see which results I'll get"".
"Well, I moved up over 50 places on GC in the last two days, so I think I gotta be happy" Gibo jokingly told the press after the stage. But when he stopped laughing and became more serious, the dual winner of this race (the last time being in 2003 though) admitted that he had a bad day and - similarly to Savoldelli - if he got to limit his losses today, he mainly owes that to a teammate of his. In The Falcon's case it was Danielson, in Gibo's it's the Apulian Leonardo Piepoli:
""If it wasn't for him, I would still be on the road waiting for someone to come and take me to the line" Gibo said. Simoni joined the chorus of Basso's praisers, but at the same time tried to find some weak points in the current "king" of the Giro:
""I thought I was going to make a move in the last climb, but in fact someone else did. But Basso was up to the challenge and perfectly countered. His calm and coolness were impressive. Maybe that's where one should start attacking him from, by putting more and more pressure on him (so that he may lose his calm)". Similarly to Savoldelli, Gibo has no intention to give up the fight:
"The race stays wide open as nobody would settle with second place. Sometimes it might take no more than the Mortirolo for the GC to be turned upside down. But I'd better not wait for that climb; I think I must do well in the next ITT, and go on the attack in other stages, like the La Thuile stage".
Enrique Gutiérrez Cataluña:
Last but not least, few comments from another of today's main protagonists: Spain's Enrique Gutiérrez Cataluña of Phonak:
"I came to the Giro with a top 10 overall finish as objective, but now that I'm doing so fine, I'll try and get the best result I can. How far can I go? Well, I'm not used to race a Grand Tour as team leader, I had to work for other riders in the past, so I can't tell you right now. Plus, the end of the race is still too far (for me to tell)".