Pez: Is it good to be home in Italy for a couple of days, Dario?
Dario: The racing is always the racing, but the small things are nice, like being able to talk to the waiters in Italian or watch Italian TV, good for the morale.
Pez: How was the rest day?
Dario: It was a real rest day, I didn’t touch my bike. I’ve had a fever for three days and the team doctor said I should have a complete rest. I did a lot of sweating last night – my temperature was 38.5 degrees – and I slept ’til 11.30 today, so maybe that’s it out of me. Cadel was going out on his bike, and I was just getting up!
Pez: How was week 2 for you?
Dario: It started well; on the Hautacam stage I was with Cunego and Valverde on the Tourmalet and I just missed getting across to the lead group before Hautacam. Of course, when I didn’t make it, I eased up to save energy. My GC is not important, I’m here to work for Cadel.
Then I got the fever, I was with the leaders on the Agnel yesterday, but felt ‘flat’ on the Prato and just rode up it.
Cadel answersrest day questions, while Dario rests.
Pez: How’s Cadel?
Dario: His injuries from the crash have healed well. I’m actually glad he lost the jersey because it means today is a proper rest day for him – if he’d been in yellow today then there’s no way he could have relaxed, there would have been a lot of stress. He’s still very close to Schleck, but we don’t have to control the peloton.
Pez: Did you have to work hard in defense of the jersey?
Dario: A couple of times we had to ride hard to control things because the combination in the breakaways wasn’t right to start with, maybe for 50/60 K at the start.
Pez: Cadel seemed to be struggling a little on Prato.
Dario: With Cadel’s style on the bike, it’s sometimes hard to know if he’s comfortable or not. CSC were driving very hard in the finalй and he lost very little time. I think if he had bad legs then he would have lost much more.
Pez: The game plan for the final week?
Dario: To have Cadel wearing the yellow jersey in Paris! We have to keep him close to the climbers so he can use his strength against the watch in the final time trial.
Pez: ‘Crunch’ points between now and Paris?
Dario: Tomorrow (stage 16), l’Alpe D’Huez and the time trial.
Tomorrow will either be easy or very hard, nothing in between – I hope it’s easy! I think gaps will appear on l’Alpe D’Huez though.
Pez: Your thoughts on Schleck.
Dario: He’s a very talented rider, but he lacks experience of the third week of a Grand Tour and so does his management. He’s also not special in the time trial.
Dario: He’s a surprise, if he was high on the GC after maybe ten days, that wouldn’t be a surprise, but now, yes. However, I remember a year or two ago he was very good in one of the lesser Tours, Germany or Suisse.
Dario: For me the most dangerous. He looks good and he’s very good in the time trial, he has no team support, but CSC are the only ones who can play team tactics.
[As we talked to Dario, Menchov was being interviewed by Spanish radio, right behind us; a ‘bear’ on the bike, he’s shy and retiring off it, his body language expressing his discomfort at sitting in the foyer and being asked a lot of questions by a vocal Spaniard.]
Pez: Vande Velde?
Dario: He’s having a very good Tour, he’s a good rider with a lot of experience as a domestique. He rides a good time trial and I think he’ll be on the podium for sure.
The PEZ Crew scores a bottle of Dario’s famous olive oil. Nice.
Pez: I hate to ask, but, Ricco?
Dario: He’s part of the past, a minority which is diminishing.
As the controls get tighter, they will be eliminated.
Pez: A lighter question to end, how is the olive oil business going?
Dario: It’s doing good. I’m looking forward to seeing the olives when I get home; they were very small when I left, but when I get back they will be much bigger. My parents were at the race today and they had to bring bottles of the oil with them for me to distribute. Our team and Rabobank share a chef and they have started to use my oil too. Hushovd approached me for some, yesterday.
Pez: So, if Menchov wins, it’ll be because of your olive oil.
Dario: No, no! Cadel will win because of my olive oil!