And there I was saying that it was a bad day for Di Luca.
You have to accept that the old strade bianche ain’t easy at the best of times; never mind with no saddle – as was Danilo’s fate.
We’re en route the partenza at Orvieto, latched on to the Vittoria neutral service convoy.
I’m in my favourite position, bare feet on the dash, Gazzetta on my lap.
Danilo’s comments that the “Giro isn’t meant to be a cyclo-cross” ring true – maybe include these crazy dirt roads once every three or four years but not every year, it’s too much of ‘milking a good thing’ for me.
Contador is scathing in his comments; ‘percorso folle’ – “race route insane.”
But all of that political stuff is for the pundits; today, we’re fans.
No sound bites or pictures of tubulars for us, today.
First up is a cappuccino; preferably from a Faema machine – Eddy Merckx’s sponsor back in the ‘golden days.’
And of course, you need your Gazzetta – no Gazzetta, no Giro.
Orvieto sits high on a volcanic plug, dominating the surrounding country; the old city walls are still there.
The city is also famous for it’s subterranean Etruscan tombs – some of these date back to the sixth century BC.
There was no time for PEZ to go underground but we couldn’t help but see the Duomo – the glorious layer cake of a cathedral outside which was located the signing on.
An early pope reckoned that ‘on the Day of Judgement it will float up to heaven carried by it’s own loveliness’ – that sounds like something I would write !
It’s a beautiful city and we did a little bit of the ‘tourist thing’ to get the flavour.’
Little alleyways, steeples – a nice place wander.
Our ‘tourist’ cover was blown however, when one of the guys who operates the vans which sell the Giro paraphernalia recognised us from our duels out on the road, gave me a present of a ‘man purse’ and insisted on a photo op – he’s too nice a guy to say ‘no’ to and we snapped the pics.
He says that business is OK but not great, the current economic client in Italy isn’t the best.
As tourists, we get to watch the ‘carovana’ roll out.
The Giro caravan isn’t anywhere near as spectacular as it’s equivalent at le Tour, but the girls who drive most of the vehicles are without exception, lovely.
But I guess that’s incidental; they’ll be recruited on their experience and the length of time they’ve been driving – and if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.
Carovana girls duly waved to and smiled at, it’s time for the first riders to arrive at the sign on.
Each rider has his own approach to signing on; some arrive early, get it over with and scurry back to the bus – some others leave it late then squat on their top tubes ’til it’s time for the roll out.
Slovenian flyer and former Vuelta stage winner, Borut Bozic falls into the former category.
It’s OK to be a fan who knows a few riders, right ?
I remind him that we last chatted at the Rotterdam Six and laugh that it’s a bit warmer for this race, he reckons that there’s only a 30% chance of a sprint today, it depends upon the composition of the break.
Meanwhile, the ‘speaker’ never let’s up with the patter; ‘Stefano Garzelli ! Rinaldo Nocentini ! Adam Blythe !
‘Hey Adam ! how was yesterday ?
The Farnese Vini guys amble down from the podium, little baby steps across the cobbles to save those lean, brown legs.
And then Lampre arrive, or should that be the ‘Rat pack?’
Jimmy reckons that Hondo is a ‘peacock’ – it’s a good description, but it has to be accepted that the man is ice cool.
Scarponi is laid back and smiles readily – and then The Jet arrives.
Tall, handsome, tanned, hair gelled back, shades atop his head, the red Punti jersey on his back, that loose limbed slouch – Hondo ain’t easily upstaged, but Ale does it without trying.
Straight off the stage, Scarponi gets hustled off to do a TV interview.
Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish is just another rider, today – Petacchi is God-like.
Three riders who don’t sparkle today are Giovanni Visconti, David Millar and Danilo di Luca, all look sad and serious after bad days on the gravel.
Gianni Savio doesn’t look sad and serious, he’s had a fourth place, a win; and yesterday his boy Serpa was third – but I guess that the dirt roads would remind him of home in Colombia.
A man who’s surprising in his first Grand Tour is Sky youngster Peter Kennaugh – a Manxman, like Cav.
He’s been spending a lot of time with the GB team pursuit squad but has opened eyes here – 24th on the strade bianche yesterday and now 14th on GC, he looks tanned, lean and oozes good condition.
The maglia rosa appears, there’s genuine warmth from the other riders – lots of handshakes and pats on the back.
Weening beams, waves and there’s a ‘bang !’ as he signs on, shreds of pink paper fly into the air – cool !
Saxo arrive; Matteo Tosatto has been a pro since 1997 – there’s little he needs to learn about pro bike racing and exudes authority.
His Saxo team mate, Michael Morkov tells me that Matteo is always calm under fire and a master of marshalling the troops in the finalй.
This is just another day at the office for Matteo.
Alberto Contador arrives, smiling; Michael says that it’s easy to work for Alberto because he’s always where he should be in the bunch – a master of positioning.
Almost roll out time; yesterday’s maglia rosa, David Millar has moved from the front of the bunch to the back; young Kennaugh listens to the Maestro’s words.
Roll out; and time for us to go – but not before Carlos Sastre’s needs a new bike – the mechanic passes us at warp speed.
And there’s Bjarne Riis enjoying a quiet moment – ‘Buongiorno, Mr. Riis.’
‘To the finish line ?
Naw ! hot, crowded and you hardly see anything; we need a bar – cool beer, a TV and maybe a nibble ?
Cassino, ‘Bar Corallo’ – there’s the TV, Peroni on draft and the barmaid smiles a lot – this is the place.
There are five away with four minutes and more at 60 K to go – Veikkanen (Lotto), Vandewalle (QuickStep), Veuchelen (Vacansoleil), Popovych (The Shack) and Modolo (Colnago).
It figures, very little happens by chance in pro cycling – all these teams have a sprinter, QuickStep have Chicchi; Vacansoleil have Bozic; The Shack have Robbies Hunter and McEwen and Lotto have Adam Blythe – if he feels good – so none of these teams have to work.
The onus is on Rabobank, if they want to keep the jersey; HTC for Cav and Lampre for Petacchi – but The Jet’s sprint ambitions must take second place to Scarponi’s GC claim.
Farnese Vini chase, Visconti will fancy his chances in that uphill dragging finish.
Second beer – this is thirsty work !
Modolo ‘pops’ – he was fourth in the Primavera in 2010; but today isn’t his day to win a Giro stage.
Farnese aren’t riding to close the gap, just to keep it stable at around 2:45; they’ll know that the sprinters’ teams and Rabobank will lend a hand, eventually.
Visconti goes back for bottles for his boys.
The gap slips, Veikkanen pops; Cav’s dangerously near the back with 20 to go.
Best go to cappuccino; we need a clear head for the finalй.
Pirazzi tries to bridge for Colnago; but he’s a local boy and it’s showboat stuff.
Inside 10 K and it’s 46 seconds; Lotto chase – Adam must feel good.
Nine K and Vandewalle goes for the win; I thought it would be Popo.
Eight and it’s 40 seconds for Vandewalle.
Six K, 34 seconds; five K, 25 seconds; inside four and the Belgian is on his knees; three K, eight seconds; he’s gone at 1,700 metres.
It’s messy, no trains, no control, a Vacansoleil, then Hondo, but too early – Ale moves to commit but Ventoso out jumps him, – Ventoso, Ventoso !
Francisco Jose Ventoso – he’s a Movistar for sure !
This fan thing is fun; we could get into it – but we have a date at the top of Montevergine, tomorrow afternoon.
Talk to you from there.