David Dario Cioni, Italian but born in 1974 in Reading, England. Professional since 2000; three seasons with Mapei; two seasons with Fassa Bortolo; two seasons with Liquigas; two seasons with Lotto; now in first year with ISD. Best results – Italian time trial champion, 5th in Tour of Romandie, 4th in Giro D’Italia, 3rd in Tour of Switzerland (all 2004).
It’s damn hot in the car park of the Hermitage Hotel, we’re pestering the mechanics – as usual, when Dario freewheels around the corner. He’s just back from his rest day easy pedal; the sleeveless, fluo yellow ISD jersey he’s wearing accentuates the squareness of his shoulders – he’s a big strong looking man. He walks slowly, short steps, to save energy; his legs are slim with knots of varicose veins – 16 Grand Tours can do that.
An hour or two later, we’re in the reception of the hotel and Dario is sprawled in the chair opposite us – that energy has to be saved.
First of all we ask how many Grand Tours he’s ridden; ‘seven Giros, four Tours and five Vueltas. This is a hard race, the heat is making the stages heavier and there is just no ‘piano’ at the start, good breaks go, but one team has missed them and they are pulled back.
We wonder if ISD management is happy with the show, so far? ‘They were happy that we opened with a strong team time trial; we’ve been in nearly every break, got the TV time, but we lack a result – sometimes, that’s bike racing!
And the new fluo ISD Giro kit? ‘Mario Cipollini has started a clothing company and is supplying our strips now. “And he likes bright colours,” I add – Dario just smiles.
And how was the Cinque Terre chrono for you? ‘I was 29th, that was OK, but I hoped to do better, I was not good on the first climb but improved on the second one.
We mention Grivko’s strong ride to Bologna; ‘He got a lot of exposure, but the climb to San Luca was a little too steep for him.
How was that monster Monte Petrano stage, yesterday? ‘It was one of the hardest I have ever ridden; there were 5,300 metres of climbing and I would see it is among the hardest three or four stages that I have ever ridden. Not just the climbing, but with the heat.
We wonder if there’s still a place or need for eight hour stages? ‘It’s part of cycling’s history to have long stages.
And this heat? ‘It’s exceptional, maybe you would get this for one day normally, but it’s been consistently very hot – every stage. The thing is that some guys like the heat and it gives them an advantage. Yesterday we went through forty or fifty bottles each, not just for drinking but for cooling, too.
Is the Giro won? ‘Unless Menchov has a bad day on Blockhaus or Vesuvio, I think it is 99% won. Danilo Di Luca will be dangerous tomorrow from Chieti to Blockhaus, but even if he gains time, Menchov has the time trial in Roma to pull it back. But if Danilo is to give himself a chance of victory, then he must attack, tomorrow.
And finally, how are the olives tree? ‘Good, when I go home I will check the flowers and small olives, that will indicate how good the crop will be. Also, while I was away, we had one-and-a-half hectares of vines planted.
We’ll have “Vintage Cioni” then? ‘In a year or two, yes.
It was time for us to grapple with the wi-fi and for Dario to go back to doing as little as possible. He’ll need all his strength for tomorrow – on the Blockhaus.