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Giro 08
Giro di PEZ: Bravissimo Slipstream!
When we heard Slipstream set the fastest time check, we knew something was up. Then the time held and history was made, but it wasn’t until I watched the team take the podium that I knew what I’d report on. Never have I seen a team so absolutely thrilled with their performance as I did today on the streets of Palermo.

The big show is on and what a start it’s been – !

Vande Velde, Hesjedal, and Zabriskie… Do you think they had any idea what they were about to do?

The genuine emotion gushed from all members of the team as they rode like the stars they are and put Christian Vende Velde into the maglia rosa. With engines like Swedish TT champ Maggy Backstedt (who’s been grinning every time I’ve seen him), British TT champ David Miller, Canadian Champ Ryder Hesjedal, and US TT Champ Dave Zabriskie – there were some expectations for sure – but judging by their reaction on the podium – these guys were actually surprised.

Go Team! David Millar leads the way of the ramp and onto the streets of destiny.

It’s 7PM local time after today’s Giro stage 1, I’ve just made it into the press room and joined the world’s cycling journos jamming out the news of the day to all anxious fans across the globe. My original plan of chasing one of the teams on their TTT run was kaiboshed when the organizers disallowed the usual press chase vehicles. At that point I spent the rest of the day at the start, taking pictures and wondering what my story would be about.

It sure was good to see some bike racers smiling from the gut today.

Then came the smiles – and cheers – and even Dave Z’s usual smirk was replaced by an ear-to-ear grin that said it all. This team was damn happy and it was something to see as the presentation was made.

Dave Z opened the champagne for the team’s win, and proceeded to let fly one of the more impressive money shots of champers spray I’ve seen outside of late night cable. Then he suggested a team ‘crowd dive’… Maybe it’s the Groucho ‘stache, or maybe it’s the team… but his public displays of humor had me chuckling more than few times.

Dave Z plants for the pause that refreshes, while Matt suggests he save some for the “rest of us”.

Checking out the team busses in the hours before the start, and then watching each team arrive in the starthouse, the tension was clear – among every team except Slipstream. The Italians of course are under the most pressure – with Paolo Bettini and Quickstep being undisputed crowd faves, followed closely by last year’s winner Danilo Di Luca.

The Quickstep bus was pandemonium when the team took the rollers – even Lance would have been impressed.

Meanwhile, right next door to the Quickstep bus, you could hear paint dry at LPR… if not for the noisy neighbors.

Into the starthouse Bettini was his usual joking self, while Di Luca was all business – after his winter of ‘discontent’, he’s got something to prove after his 2007 win has been brought into question by unproved doping allegations.

The clock strikes 1 and Denis Menchov rolls out to 16th place 1:04 back.

Former Italian TT champ Marco Pinotti held a last minute strategy session in the start house paddock. They bagged 3rd place, 7 seconds back.

I asked Slipstream Team DS Matt White before the start how the boys were feeling – this being the Giro and all – their biggest race to date. He replied matter of factly – “You gotta be nervous to win, don’t ya?”

Maggy Backstedt was clearly happy to be here and seemed relaxed and excited at Thursday night’s team presentation, and even on that stage, Dave Zabriskie was leading the yuks as the team was introduced to a pretty much non-responsive crowd.

It was almost like they knew something no other team did.

And Christian Vende Velde – I’ve always known him as a good natured guy (going back to some TDF phone interviews we did a couple years back), could barely contain his laughter at the unexpected surprise of pulling on the leaders jersey. Not because it was a joke in any way, but because of what the team has accomplished here today. The sense is clear they came prepared and simply did what they all knew they could – but daren’t hoped they would.

That was an amazing ride and my hat goes off to ‘em – Bravo Slipstream!

You could feel the pressure on Di Luca’s shoulders as he waited for the start, but there was no way the Italian press would give him any peace.

Di Luca left nothing in the tank, but only managed 6th place, 26 seconds down.

On the way to the podium, Maggy is well into the moment while Matt White looks like the big win hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

• When you finish checking out the cute espresso girl, please take note of my ‘autista’ for the day – . Massimo is not only an active local racer, he’s also a member of the Palermo polizia – nobody knows there way around Palermo – and through the crowd control – like this guy.

It’s now 9PM, the Giro roadies are actually standing behind the few of us left in the press room – they’ll got a lot of work ahead tear this show down and hit the road for Agrigento tomorrow – so I’m signing off.

And a big shout out and thanks to Larry at CycleItalia Tours for hooking me up with local shop CicloTour – and their American in Sicily – Jamie Horner who’s local knowledge made this week a lot easier than it should have been.

Tomorrow will be another big day and I’ll be riding the finish circuit for myself… so will talk to then!

Ciao – a domani-


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