I think Cyclingnews had it right with their photo caption snafu (preserved at left) on today’s Stage 19 write-up. Carlos Sastre once again put time into everyone on a mountaintop finish, but it was essentially a sideshow. The Spaniard needed to plan on being a little less far down for a late-race surge to work, and even then, he might have found himself more closely marked.
The efforts of Pellizotti (who will henceforth be referred to as “Zaza” on this blog—as much for Joey as Gabor) have also benefited from the close battle between Menchov and DiLuca. Perhaps if his team car hadn’t been hijacked by an offer-caffeinated bonobo around Stage 3, and an alliance with Basso had been better forged, he might have a shot, but right now, this race belongs to one of two men.
And for Dennis Menchov, that’s a problem. I cannot imagine a rider I’d want to be 18 seconds ahead of less in the final stages of a Grand Tour than Danilo DiLuca. With the TT into Milan still looming, I think the Rabobank man would almost be more comfortable it were the Italian in the maglia rosa right now. DiLuca would be forced to rest up, his LPR team would have the burden of controlling the race, and all the Russian would need to do is put back 1.2 seconds/kilometer in a discipline at which he excels.
But with Menchov in the lead, its Rabobank that must control the pace, and DiLuca, 18 seconds down from the lead, but over a minute ahead of third, has incentive and insurance for whatever crazy maneuvers he can think of in tomorrow’s stage. Rabo might look into forming an allegiance with the sprinters teams to keep things together—except that DiLuca’s LPR team also represents the best sprinter still in the Giro.
Let’s recap DiLuca’s exploits. In Stage 10‘s unconventional finish, the Killer flashed the brilliant panache of a one-day racer to put ten seconds and a stage winner’s bonus on the field. In Stage 3, he was mixing it up with the bunch sprinters in the final K, and in Stage 4, he showed as long as the stage is steep at the end, he’s still the best around. Tomorrow’s stage is an unconventional finish, that could be for bunch sprinters but is steep at the end. It makes me want to overnight a bottle of Xanax to the Rabobank team’s hotel.
You might think, given his crushing victory in Stage 12 that the final ITT into Rome would be an insurance policy for Menchov. But 14.4 twisting, narrow, cobblestoned kilometers are hardly what a TT specialist wants to see. A single blown corner, a flat tire, heck, even grabbing too much brake could cost the Russian seconds, and possibly an entire Grand Tour. Let’s not forget, the last Grand Tour decided by a few ticks of the clock concluded with a “too-short-to-matter” time trial as well.
Whatever happens, I’m pumped for it. Grand Tours that are close in the final days are a rare thing—and the opportunity to watch them live is even rarer.
thoughts on “How Do You Solve A Problem Like DiLuca?”
Yeah! I’m psyched myself to see what happens tomorrow.
Menchov was like a magnet on Di Luca today. I kind of wished Menchov had settled things today with Di Luca instead of playing defense.
In regard to Grand Tour coverage, I think this race may be the best ever in Human Bicycling History. The combo of live and on-demand, plus the super-cool real-time tweetfest, backed by blogs and websites – WOW!
Agree wholeheartedly. Sleeping in can wait another week!
Word. Menchov didn’t ever try to put Di Luca in difficulty today, presumably because he couldn’t. The only other explanation is that he is confident with 18 seconds, which seems kind of unlikely. In any case it will make for a great final two stages.
Quite a final TT yesterday!
1989: I like to argue that LeMond’s key time gain over Fignon was in stage 16. It was the only mountain stage (apart from the uphill TT) that LeMond gained time on Fignon. It was more than 8 seconds, maybe 12 or 13 seconds.
Josh — yeah, I think it was 13 seconds. I remember how, on the old Tim Grady tape, Phil Ligget makes a point of asking the viewer, “And just who knows how important those thirteen seconds might be?”
Anyway, this was a helluva Giro — the contrast in style between Di Luca’s face-wrenching, elbow-knocking accelerations and Menchov’s stoical motoring was great. Now let’s just hope the next few weeks don’t bring any unhappy revelations.
I still have the original *betamax* tape from 1989 somewhere. My dad recorded it for me while I was away at a stage race in Canada. I raced for a bit as a junior.
Phil Liggett is much more animated in the live version than he is in the ‘recorded-after-the-fact-but-in-a-manner-in-which-it-appears-to-be-live’ on the DVD available today.
Agreed on the 1989 assessment and on this year’s Giro. I think Menchov’s screaming and shouting after the finish line, even with the fall, showed what a battle it really was.
Definitely holding my breath on that other thing. So far all I’ve heard is the rumors that surfaced a few days ago of Menchov using the Humanplasma lab—it seems pretty tenuous, though. Hopefully there’s nothing to it.
Certainly the closeness of this year’s Giro, the cracking he is occasionally prone to, and the steadiness of his rise to the top of the sport make Menchov look like a clean rider to me.
Agreed on Mechov, Cosmo.
I’m curious to see how the internal dynamics of Astana will play out for the Tour de France. On paper, there’s little doubt that Contador would be the team leader. He did win the last three Grand Tours he raced.
But mega-ego-Armstrong and his BFF Johan might have a different take on things.
Does anyone else think that Levi came across as surprisingly whiny during the Giro?
Ligget later said that he was in tears after calling that final 1989 stage.