The Week That Was...
In the build up to the start of the Giro last week, Discovery Channel Director Sportif, Johan Bruyneel spoke with The Paceline about his thoughts for the coming three weeks and in particular, the stage 17 Mountain top finish the Plan de Corones.
"I think Basso is the big favourite, at least that's what his director, Riis, says...so from day one the race will be on Basso and CSC's shoulders, and we'll see where it goes from there."
He went on to add that, "while Paolo Savoldelli is not a specialist climber he is a very complete rider. He is also very strong in stage races and of course he has his chances. He may not have as big a chance as say Basso, Cunego, or Simoni as they are all specialist climbers, but he did well in the mountains last year - he rode his pace and did not panic - and then did very well in the time trials," he said.
Looking at the race profile, like other Directors, Bruyneel has his concerns. "This course is really very, very hard and you have to ask yourself - why? The interest in the Giro was higher than ever last year; it's always an intense race right up to the second-to-last stage.?
"So as a director I would prefer it to be less hard - I think the makers of this course have lost their minds a bit. Paolo and Tom went and previewed a lot of the course recently; including Stage 17 - there's no road at the end: its
"We'll be using 34x28/29 gearing - that's not cycling. We have struggled more with making sure we have the right components and equipment than at any other race in our team's history; even at the Tour de France we know that as long as you have a 39x25 you're good, but this race..."
German rider Jens Voigt last week explained to the Frankfurter Rundschau that he believes his team mate, Ivan Basso is on course to win Team CSC there first Grand Tour this year, and that he won?t stop at one.
"I believe in Ivan (Basso) and the possibility that he will win both Grand Tours. Of course we know that it is brave of us to say we want to win both the Giro and Tour, and that with a rider who has never won even one Grand Tour."
That said, Voigt admits it will be no easy task. He explained that this year?s Tour de France "is custom made for Jan [Ullrich]. There is no team time trial, but two long individual time trials. The major difficulties in the mountains come in the last week, so it looks good for Jan. But I still think that Ivan can do it. He has the privilege of youth; after all he is five years younger than Jan."
Australian power-house sprinter Robbie McEwen last week explained to Het Laatste Nieuws that he expects to have withdrawn from this years Giro at about the half way stage, with one eye already then on preparing for the 2006 Tour de France.
"I'm not going to be there for stage 15 and the last criterium in
McEwen?s main rival in the sprints, Italian Alessandro Petacchi agreed, explaining that he "won't be winning nine stages this year"
He went on to add that, ?the last ten days are not tailored to a rider like me. I also want win stages at the Tour; and who knows? Maybe even at the Vuelta."
Seguros ? Wurth Director, Manolo Saiz, last week spoke to French velo101 about his rider, and former Tour de France hopeful, Joseba Beloki. The Spaniard has struggled to regain the form he once showed since his crash on the Col de la Rochette in 2003. Liberty
?When I look at Beloki's level right now and compare it with when he placed second at the Tour, I think that he is even better now! We'll see how he develops throughout the month of May, but he will work very intensively and bring down his weight to Tour de France level. We will see how he is at the end of May, but his season start has been encouraging."
Saiz ruled out however Beloki taking any leadership role come July. "At the moment, our leader clearly is Vino. Everybody will have to ride for him. But for me, Beloki and Luis-Leon Sanchez are very important for Vino in the mountainous parts of the parcours."
He went on to add that, ?we have 12 riders who are aiming for the Tour. I have the basis of the team, which will be put together around J?rg Jaksche, Alberto Contador, Joseba Beloki, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andrey Kashechkin and Luis-Leon Sanchez. Then, we will have to choose between riders like Angel Vicioso, Marcos Serrano and Allan Davis, but for the moment, 12 riders are on the list."
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Until next week