Wounded in Venice
Paul Rogen gives us an insider report from the Giro d'Italia team time trial in Venice.
There is no death in Venice today, only life. I am surrounded by life abounding. The world of cycling is centered in Venice Italy today. It is the opening stage of the 100th anniversary of the Giro. To be exact, it is the Giro initial day with the wrinkle of a team time trial on a closed island course.
Twenty two teams go off at five minute intervals to determine who wears the maglia rosa heading into the Dolomites and a twenty one day twirl around Italy. Tens of thousands of fans and hundreds of journalists from all over the world are watching in person today and millions more will follow the entire cycling novel for the balance of May. Many are here to see Lance Armstrong return to the arena of major bike racing after a layoff of three plus years. Because he is here the helicopters are multiplied and the umbrella of chopper thumps start pounding down at 11 AM for a 3:30 PM race start. Welcome back Lance. But don’t forget how things have changed in the last few years. Youth waits for no one and today was a bold underscoring by the young Brit Mark Cavendish.
Cavendish’s Team Columbia High Road went off first on the 20 kilometer out and back course. They set a mark that was never bettered all afternoon. The weather was spring-like and not a factor as the best cycling teams in the world tried to better the Columbia Highroad’s time. After Garmin –Slipstream came to within seconds of the Columbia outfit no other team threatened until King Lance and his seasoned team came up last to the starting gate. They made a valiant effort seemingly flying in formation, down and back up the island. Into the final corner it looked as if they had a clear chance to better the youngsters. The team was in tight formation with Lance at the head. He had been in this exact situation in a team time trial in 2005. That was in the Tour de France, Lance’s home kingdom and the playing field was a bit larger, over 40 kilometers, twice the size on this tiny island kingdom. Just as he did years earlier, Lance came to the front and did a longer pull intent on cutting those ticking seconds. He pulled, he cornered, he pulled again and time did not have a stop. Armstrong’s Astana team finished third just behind Columbia and Garmin- Slipstream.
There is still a long way to go in this race. Thankfully there are mountains and snow coming soon. Maybe that will slow the young upstarts. Or maybe this will be the long summer of Lance’s discontent.