And so is Ventoso, he’s quick when his head is right and his face looks like he feels good to us.
Peter Kennaugh sits up, shakes his head and swears – all that damn work for nothing.
Goss is down !
So is Pippo – the Katusha mechanic gives him a helping hand.
Tuft was down too, Goss is up, Hunter shepherds him. The workers and the simply wasted trickle in.
The last rider passes and the riggers start to strip the barriers within seconds. Van Halen pumps up the finish straight; ‘Might as well JUMP !’ The music fades; ‘Fran-cis-co Ven-too-so – Moovee Star !’
The Spaniard got it – and Ryder keeps pink.
The flares pop, Ryder beams.
Matt Goss smiles for the cameras as he retains his red points jersey – but you can see the pain is there. There’ll be a little shock after that knock he just too.
Caruso keeps white as best ‘Giovani’ – he looks cool.
Those tall, slim, lovely podium girls have to bend down for Rubiano to take his Montagna jersey – he doesn’t seem to mind.
Madness, all of it, but beautiful – the minute Dave and I saw that corner, we knew there would be crashes.
Stage nine of the Giro, Frosinone – somewhere around 17:30. Let’s go back to 10:30.
The BlackBerry flashes – again. But this isn’t any old message: ‘Ryder Hesjedal’ says the screen. We sent him a little note of congratulation on his maglia rosa, the other day and despite the huge media pressure upon him, he’s taken time to get back to us.
It’s a sign – it’s gonna be a good day !
When I think about it, we had our Gazzetta within metres of leaving the hotel – and then collecting the creds was silky smooth.
Yes, a good day.
We drove the last 30 K of race route, as we headed here, to Frosinone to collect our creds. The percorso for the whole 166 K is sprinter friendly – but gets nasty in the last 10 K. Bends, snaps, tricky descents, bad road surfaces – a strong and/or bold man could win today.
Pippo, Gaspa, Casar, Visconti, Gatto or maybe one of those aggressive Vacansoleil guys ?
The rigging crews were hard at work on the way in, stapling on banners, stringing bunting, sweeping down the tribunes – and of course the T-shirt vans are in action.
Frosinone isn’t a salubrious place, it took a hell of a pounding in World War Two and much of it is post war low/medium rise concrete. After Mussolini lost control when the Allies invaded Sicily and Anzio, the Germans stepped in – rushing troops south and forming a line of defence across Italy, south of Rome.
The Allies bombed many of the towns in this area as a consequence of the German resistance. The legendary hill top monastery of Monte Casino is just down the road – it was completely rebuilt after the war. The German garrison doggedly defended the heights for months, sheltering in the cellars as the monastario was bombed to rubble above them.
Our hotel last night, Villa Euchelia in Castrocielo was actually the German regional head quarters during the war.
Among the bland flats and shops are the odd gems though – the concrete church near the finish is beautiful. Italy has always been a pioneering country in concrete technology and the steeple soars gracefully above beautiful leaded windows and hand carved oak doors.
To warm the crowd up at the finish, they have 100 metre races in the finish straight, for schoolboys and girls.
Dave predicts crashes – he’s right, but only pride was hurt.
And here comes our stage – start press release;
‘The Giro d’Italia has finished in Frosinone three times before: In 1975 Italy’s Enrico Paolini won the sprint finish while Switzerland’s Urs Freuler won in similar style in 1985. In 2005, Italy’s Paolo Bettini won the sprint but was relegated to last place after abruptly changing his line in sight of the finish. Italy’s Luca Mazzanti was awarded the stage victory.
Domenico Pozzovivo’s stage victory in Lake Laceno was only the seventh success by a rider from the south of Italy in the last 30 years. Most Italian professional riders come from the centre or north of Italy.
The other stage winners from the south in the last 30 years are Mario Beccia (1983 in Selva di Val Gardena), Biagio Conte (2000 in Brescia), Leonardo Piepoli (2006 and 2007 in Furkelsattel and at the Santuario della Guardia), Danilo Napolitano (2007 in Lido di Camaiore), Vincenzo Nibali (2010 and 2011 in Asolo and Nevegal), Paolo Tiralongo (2011 and 2012 in Macugnaga and Rocca di Cambio).’
All good stats – as the rain starts to fall and Alastair emails from Spain to remind us that Baden Cooke was the big loser from Bettini’s switch in 2005.
We take shelter from the rain in the ‘antidoping’ enclosure – which has a TV, so it’s not all bad.
We walked the last K earlier in the day, it’s flat and fast but with a 135 degree bend at 400 to go – that will be crucial in the finale, especially if it’s wet. The finish line crowd is good but beyond 350 metres, there’s barrier space aplenty.
Lombardy is heartland for Italian cycling – the further south you go, the thinner the crowds become. Last year in Sicily, the crowds up on Etna were feeble – there was barrier space by the metre in the last 200 metres.
Up on the TV it’s a formulaic old day, there’s a break of three. Al clues us in; ‘Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil-DCM); he’s joined by Pierre Cazaux (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Brian Bulgac (Lotto-Belisol) and they built up a lead of 4 minutes with 125 kilometres to go.’
With 30 K to go it’s back to 45 seconds with Sky not totally controlling it, but well to the fore. They’ll need their strength in the finale – there’s no question that the escape artists will have already plotted their moves.
The stage has been a quick one, almost 45 kph but most will have kept the gears down and pedaled, trying to mend muscles pummeled after two days in the unforgiving Appennines.
With 25 to go just Keizer persists – his lead has gone back out to 50 seconds. But the man is living on borrowed time. Those lumps in the finale will be his undoing.
Cav contests the intermediate sprint behind Keiser and closes the gap on Matt Goss to just six points. With 20 K to go, Keiser grinds on – that TV time is valuable.
Sky get into formation but it’s Garmin at the head of affairs – they’re taking no chances on Rodriguez springing away on one of those little rises.
The little Catalan is only nine seconds off pink.
Visconti punctures with 15 K to go – bad timing.
Time to leave our chums in the bar and take up position.
The motor bikes whine in, the official cars scream past, orange lights flash, the PA blasts; ‘Rodriguez ! Gatto ! Compatto !’
And then they’re upon us – and GreenEdge lead . . . .
• Keep it dialed to PEZ for all the Giro action – tomorrow’s stage 10 features a hilltop finish to Assisi.