Discovery Channel Team Report
Proving his stage win of two days ago was no fluke, today Paolo Savoldelli did himself one better at the Tour of Italy - he took over the race lead.
Finishing ninth in the 218 kilometer 13th stage, another brutal trek through the mountains, this one featuring six categorized climbs, Savoldelli outpaced his rivals on the final climb to Ortisei/St. Ulrich - including race leader Ivan Basso of CSC - to take the overall race lead. Savoldelli, the 2002 Giro winner, now leads by 50 seconds over Basso and 53 seconds over Liquigas' Danilo Di Luca.
"On the last climb of a mountain stage it's about whoever has the most energy and I was the strongest today," Savoldelli told Reuters. "That's what's great about cycling, anything can happen."
At the start of the stage's final climb, all of the race favorites were grouped together behind a breakaway group up the road battling for the stage win. However, somewhat surprisingly, it was race leader Basso that fell off the pace as the attacks began.
"When Gilberto Simoni attacked I went with him," Savoldelli said. "I saw that Basso didn't move and so I accelerated and went clear on my own. I faded near the top of the climb but hung on and managed to keep a decent gap on Basso."
Savoldelli finished the day 1:08 ahead of Basso, who came across alone in 21st place, 5:08 behind stage winner Ivan Parra of Selle Italia.
"The stage win from the other day was great but today I think he rode like a champion," said Discovery Channel team sports manager Johan Bruyneel from his home in Spain. "He went with Simoni when he attacked without any doubt, he just went with him. When he saw Basso was in trouble, he took over and then dropped Simoni. He said after he had a great day, had very good legs. If you now look at it, if he didn't lose all that time in the beginning behind that crash (43 seconds in stage four, 10 days ago), his lead would be around one and a half minutes."
However, Bruyneel remained realistic about the rest of the race.
"In my opinion, Basso remains the favorite," he said. "Everybody can have a bad day and it's pretty clear Basso did today. Normally, he would have stayed with Simoni and Di Luca. Basso had a bad day, Paolo can have an off day also. It's better to be ahead than behind, but we have to remain realistic and just think about the podium. That's been my goal since the start, the podium, and it's still like that. We are not thinking about winning the Giro. Basso has proven in the other stages he is very strong and there is still a time trial to come. Everything until now has been great for Paolo, being in the leader's jersey in the Tour of Italy, it's amazing. It's proof the stage win from the other day was not a single happening. He's in great shape and has worked very hard to get there."
The Discovery Channel team lost its second rider of the race today when Canadian Ryder Hesjedal was unable to finish.
"We'll have to make the best of what we have," said assistant sports manager Sean Yates. "Our main rivals are obvious and the peloton has to look out for them. Everyone else will stare at us. There is still a long way to go to Milan and the team we have now is not the strongest at the moment. We'll have to take it day by day. One thing is certain - they have to make up the time, so we're in the driver's seat."
Tomorrow's 210 km 14th stage keeps the peloton in the mountains and features the famous 25 km Passo Stelvio, known for its 48 hairpin turns.