Saturday, May 26, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 21

Gianni Savio explains:
The last stage of the Giro; the time trial in Milan. It’s been a very interesting race and it’s still very close. I’m not surprised it’s this close between the winner and the second place though and I think it’s possible for Hesjedal to take back the time he needs to win the Giro.

My favorite for the stage is Taylor Phinney.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 20

Gianni Savio explains:
This is what everybody has been looking forward to! I have talked about "photos of the Giro" and this one will be the last and definitive photo. I find it very difficult for a breakaway to make it since this stage is all about who is in the best condition right now.

I think that the winner on Stelvio will be the overall winner too or at least he will end on the final podium in Milano. It looks like a stage for Joaquim Rodriguez.

Don't forget to read what Michael Rasmussen has to say about the stage. Click here to read!

Michael Rasmussen: You can't overestimate the Stelvio stage

Michael Rasmussen is sure that Stage 20
will determine who's going to win the Giro.
Ryder Hesjedal has pole position before Saturday's final mountain stage ending with 22,4 km of climbing up to Passo dello Stelvio. Before that four categorised climbs have been on the menu, including 11,4 km in hell on Mortirolo with an average of 10,5%.

Asked about this stage, former climber champion Michael Rasmussen told me:

"This stage is so much harder than anyone think it is. You really can not overestimate this stage. It's really that hard. Mortirolo is a nasty climb and most riders will already be in red [zone] when they start on Stelvio. It's going to be a nightmare."

If Purito, Scarponi and Basso want to shake Hesjedal this is their last chance so get ready for a big show on Saturday!

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 19

Gianni Savio explains:
This is a very, very hard stage! It's the third photo of the Giro. The last climb is unbelievable hard and therefore I have no doubts that it will be one of the small climbers who will win this stage.

A guy like Domenico Pozzovivo has been looking very strong in this Giro and this is a very good stage for him. Also for Purito and hopefully for Rujano too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 18

Gianni Savio explains:
Okay. This is the last chance for the sprinters before the Giro ends. A break probably get away in the beginning but I'm sure the team of the sprinters will work hard to make it all come back together. Even though nothing is for sure in this sport.

The big favorite is once again Mark Cavendish.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

GIRO EXCLUSIVE: Savio criticizes Rujano's Giro perfomance

Gianni Savio hopes his star rider will
find himself in the remaining stages.
Team manager of Androni Giocattoli, Gianni Savio, had big expectations for José Rujano before the start of this year’s Giro d’Italia, stating that Rujano was even better than last year. Before the last three decisive mountain stages José Rujano is number 22nd in the overall classification, 7,50 min behind Joaquim Rodriguez. 

First chance to turn the tables will be on Stage 17 to Cortina D’Ampezzo with four hard mountains on the menu, but even though Gianni Savio hopes for the best, he also makes it clear that Rujano isn’t where he should be.

I hope we will see Rujano in front because so far he is the only rider on the team who hasn’t had produced a good Giro d’Italia. He has told me that it has been too cold for him and that’s why he hasn’t been performing well, but I think that if you are in good condition the weather shouldn’t really matter much. But let's see, I really hope he can rise tomorrow [Stage 17]”, Gianni Savio tells.

You can read Gianni Savio’s preview of Stage 17 by clicking here.

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 17

Gianni Savio explains:
This is another difficult stage. It’s very, very hard but it’s also possible to come back on the last descent if you are not too far behind. I think the overall favorites for the Giro victory; Scarponi, Basso & Purito will try to do something on this stage. We won’t see who will win Giro d’Italia but we will see who won’t be able to do it.

Again it’s very difficult to pick out a certain favorite for the stage win. I think a breakaway can make it again and for this reason I will tell all my riders to try to get away in the morning. So far they have been doing a great job. Today [Stage 16] every rider I told to attack was able to get away and in the end De Marchi managed to get a good result, let’s hope it will be even better tomorrow!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 16

Gianni Savio explains:
This is a stage for a breakaway. I don’t think the few sprinters left can handle the last steep hill so a break will have good chances of succeeding this time. 

It’s close to impossible to pick a favorite for such a stage since everybody wants to get in the erly break, but to be honest I think it’s a good stage for my own riders like Miguel Angel Rubiano, Jackson Rodriguez & Fabio Felline. We hope for glory!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 15

Gianni Savio explains: 
This stage will give us the 2nd photo of the Giro. It’s a very, very hard stage and we will now see which riders won’t be able to win this Giro. If you already is one minute or one and a half minute behind the favorites on the last climb you will never see them again. I don’t think a break will make it again this time. This stage is for the favorites to fight for.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy to pick a winner though. Cycling is a beautiful sport because anything can happen, still I wouldn’t be surprised if the winner of this stage will turn out to be the future winner of the Giro as well. It could be Michele Scarponi.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 14

Gianni Savio explains:
Now it begins! The last climb to Cervinia isn’t very hard though so it all depends on if the favorites want to attack in the finish. I’m sure there will be established a breakaway in the beginning of the stage and if that break gets 12-13-14 minutes it’s possible it could make it with two or three minutes in the end. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get two races in the race. One for the stage win and one for the overall classification.

It’s difficult to pick out a favorite. Many riders want to the be in the break but if the peloton catches the break on the last climb it could be a good chance for my team leader José Rujano.

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 13

Gianni Savio explains:
The stage starts with a lot of climbing so if a strong breakaway gets a good gap they could make it since the stage isn't very long. That being said I still think it will end up with a mass sprint in Cervere.

Mark Cavendish is once again the big favorite!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 12

Gianni Savio explains
Here we have another stage for a breakaway to make it. I’m sure some of the strong guys who aren’t aiming for the overall classification will try to get away. The last part of the stage is very hard and I hope for my riders to be in the front again.

I would therefore like to pick one of my own riders as the favorite for this stage as I think Fabio Felline could do something important on a stage like this one.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 10

Gianni Savio explains:
This is a very dangerous stage. All the GC-riders must pay attention because you can easily lose some seconds in the end. In Assisi I expect a war between the big riders. It depends on the results but I think that Ryder Hesjedal will keep thjey Pink Jersey. The last kilometers are very hard though and there are no doubts about who the favorite is. 

Purito Rodriguez is the man to beat. Michele Scarponi is also a good rider for this kind of stage, but Purito is the man who can make the difference on the last km. Our tactic will be to stay alert in the front of the peloton and try something with Fabio Felline in the end. Or maybe with José Rujano. You can say it like this; Purito is “sure”, Felline is “maybe”. 

You can read Gianni Savio's view of the 1st week of Giro d'Italia by clicking here.

GIRO EXCLUSIVE - Gianni Savio sums up the 1st week of Giro d'Italia

Despite bad luck for José Serpa, team manager
Gianni Savio still smiles and hope for another
stage win in the final two weeks of the Giro.
Just like last year Androni Giocattoli managed to take a stage win early in the Giro d’Italia. Miguel Angel Rubiano won stage 6 after a long breakaway and on stage 9 youngster Fabio Felline took second place after Francisco Ventoso.

Needless to say, team manager - and Giro Expert during the race on this site - Gianni Savio is very satisfied with the first week of the Italian Grand Tour.

Rubiano’s win was very, very good for us after Serpa broke his finger and also today [stage 9]Felline was able to do good stage and almost got the victory. This has been a good first week I think”, Gianni Savio tells.

Unfortunately José Serpa hasn’t been able to do much good in the uphill sections ever since he broke his finger and that means that he Columbian now needs to get another x-ray in order to determine if he should continue in the race or not. Before the Giro started, Gianni Savio was expecting Serpa to do top10 in the overall classification but after a week of racing it could already be over.

Another rider who hasn’t been quite up there with the big favorites is team leader José Rujano. After 9 stages (yet not any real mountains) Rujano is 34th in the overall classification - 2,39 minutes behind maglia rosa Ryder Hesjedal. Gianni Savio explains:

I think Rujano has had a normal race so far. He hasn’t been doing so well but he hasn’t been bad either. I think he is rider that will increase his condition during the Giro so we will wait and see what he can do in the last week. That is where you win the Giro”.

Thanks to Miguel Angel Rubiano’s stage win, Androni Giocattoli still has the blue mountain jersey to defend and according to Gianni Savio they won’t let it go cheap.

"This is definitely a goal for us now. We will try to keep this jersey all the way”, he assures.

Giro d’Italia continues Tuesday with stage 10 to Assisi and after being right about almost every single stage so far, you really shouldn’t forget to read Gianni Savio’s preview of the stage right here on C-Cycling later tonight.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 9

Gianni Savio explains:
This is a sprint stage. For sure it is. A sprinter in good condition will have no problems with that little climb in the end. I feel pretty sure to say it will end in a mass sprint. Maybe we will see the Italian sprinters like Modolo, Belletti and Guardini do something here.

I hope Roberto Ferrari will be able to fight for the win but my favorite is Mark Cavendish again.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 8

Gianni Savio explains:
This could be another day for a breakaway to stay clear of the peloton. I think that we could end up having a stage with two different fights. One fight in the breakaway for the stage win and another fight in the peloton among the GC-favorites on the last climb.

It’s difficult to pick a winner on a stage like this, but on paper it looks very good for my riders. Rubiano again, Serpa if he is okay and also Jackson Rodriguez. I don’t think it’s hard enough for Rujano.

Bravo Tiralongo!

Tiralongo said that stage 7 of the Giro d'Italia
was good for him and a week later he won it!
Last year Paolo Tiralongo took his first career win when he won stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia and today he doubled that number by beating Michele Scarponi in the sprint and winning stage 7 on Rocca di Cambio.

Before the Giro start in Denmark I talked with Tiralongo (read here) and right before he took off with Astana for the team presentation he told me:

“There are many stages in this Giro that I like. Even the one in L’Aquila suits me well I think”.

And indeed it did. While everybody was expecting team leader Roman Kreuziger to participate in the sprint it was Paolo Tiralongo who went with Michele Scarponi and even managed to beat the fast Italian on the final meters.

One week after picking out this specific stage, Paolo Tiralongo actually won it - Bravo!

NB - Tiralongo actually also named tomorrow's stage to Lago Laceno as a good one for him...2 out of 2?

GIRO EXCLUSIVE - Scarponi: Now I want to win the Giro on the road!

Michele Scarponi very confident before the
start of the stage. This year he wants to win
Giro d'Italia on the roads - not on paper!
Being the second best rider in the Giro last year everybody now points at Michele Scarponi as the big favorite for the overall win. Scarponi himself though makes sure to point out that there are many other riders able to win this year.

“I don’t think there is one rider who is a bigger favorite than the others. There are 5-6-7 riders including Basso, Rodriguez, Kreuziger & Schleck who can win this race. It’s a very open Giro this time”.

Two days before the start of the Giro d’Italia 2012, Michele Scarponi officially won the Giro last year when he was rewarded with the pink jersey and the big trophy. This year Scarponi wants to show the world that he can win the Giro on the road as well and not only on paper.

“Everybody knows what happened last year, there is no reason to discuss that any further. Alberto Contador is my friend and to me Alberto will always be the winner of the Giro d’Italia 2011. This time I would love to win the race for real - on the road where it counts”.

To help him do just that, Scarponi can count on team mate and former Giro d’Italia winner Damiano Cunego.

“I think it will be very important that we have two strong riders in the team. I have a real champion like Damiano by my side and I’m sure we can use that tactically in the mountains. I’m going for the overall classification and then we will see what Damiano can do. For sure we have good chances to do something big in this Giro”.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 7

Gianni Savio explains: 
On this stage we will get the first photo of the Giro. We will not see who will win the Giro but we will see who won’t be able to win it. If you get dropped on the last climb you won’t win Giro d’Italia this year. It’s not so hard but it’s the first time the riders will go uphill for so many kilometers and all the favorites will be eager to stay in front. I hope Rujano will be a protagonist on this stage, but as I said it’s not super hard which he prefers. 

The favorites for the stage win must therefore be riders like Michele Scarponi and Damiano Cunego.

GIRO EXCLUSIVE - Podium and top10 for Astana

Last year Paolo Tiralongo won a mountain stage
in Giro d'Italia and now he hopes to do it again.
After crashing out two years ago, Paolo Tiralongo took a beautiful stage win in the Giro d’Italia last year and now the Italian veteran hopes to do it again. In my own predictions for the overall classification I have Roman Kreuziger to win this Giro but according to Tiralongo it’s the podium that’s the primary target for Astana.

“First of all we are focusing on the podium with Roman. He may have the condition to win overall but I think it’s more realistic to say podium. For me I hope to take another stage win and then hopefully end in the top10 as well. First of all I will have to help Roman though. I will be the last man for him in the mountains and I hope to stay by his side all the time”.

With a lot of strong riders the mountains, Paolo Tiralongo doesn’t hide that Astana aims for more than ‘just’ two riders in the top10.

“Last year we did very well in the team classification [won by 10 minutes to Movistar] and this year we aim to win it again. But it’s not our first goal here. First of all we look at the overall classification and a stage win”.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 6

Gianni Savio explains:
This could be another stage for the sprinters. There are some hills but they are not so hard yet. That being said, I hope that we will see a break making it to the finish. I’m sure there will be a lot of attacks on the small hills in the final 60 km and maybe a group of 5-6 riders can stay away.

I hope that we [Androni] can take a win like we did last year with Angel Vicioso. This time with Fabio Felline. That would be great!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 5

Gianni Savio explains:
This stage is made for the sprinters. Simple as that. The break will get away in the beginning of the stage and then it will get caught again before the finish, no big surprises. The favorites are the ones we have seen so far.

This could be for Mark Cavendish again.

GIRO EXCLUSIVE: Modolo: Look out for Pozzovivo!

Modolo hopes to repeat his stage win
from Tour of Turkey in the Giro d'Italia.
Sacha Modolo got hold up by both crashes on stage two and three in this year's Giro d'Italia, but the Italian sprinter still keeps his good spirit.

"I finished Tour of Turkey in a very good way and I have high hopes for this Giro. I see a total of 7 stages that should end with a mass sprint so I still have my chances. I hope to raise my arms as winner of one of the remaining stages".

Today is the day of the team time trial and if the Colnago team can manage to minimize their time loss, Sacha Modolo believes that team leader Domenico Pozzovivo will be a man to fear in the overall classification.

"My favorite for the overall win is Michele Scarponi, but I hope that Pozzovivo will end on the podium. If he does well in the time trials we can expect him do to great things in this Giro!".

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 4

Gianni Savio explains:
This team time trial is very flat and will be very difficult for a team like ours. I hope that we can minimize the time loss to one minute maybe even 45 seconds. It’s not crucial though because I think that it will be possible to take back the time again in the mountains. With so many uphill finishes for sure the climbers have the possibility to take back the seconds they lose in the time trials.

My favorite for the stage is BMC. I think they have a very good team for this time trial.

Giro d’Italia - Rest Day catch up

At this first Rest Day of the Giro I give you a chance to catch up on the all the Giro d’Italia related articles being posted on this site the last week. 

07/05 - Giro Interview - Gianni Savio
06/05 - Giro Expert Preview - Stage 3
06/05 - Exclusive - Phinney ready to help Hushovd
06/05 - Exclusive - Fuglsang: I want to stay
05/05 - Giro Expert Preview - Stage 2
05/05 - Super Phinney - Super Cool
05/05 - Exclusive - Uran hopes for Top10
04/05 - Giro Expert Preview - Stage 1
04/05 - Exclusive - “I fear Denmark more than Stelvio”
04/05 - Giro Interview - Gustav Erik Larsson
04/05 - Giro d'Italia - The Favorites
03/05 - Welcome to the Giro d’Italia

Monday, May 7, 2012

Exclusive Interview - Gianni Savio (Team Manager, Androni)

Gianni Savio and his Androni team have very
high expectations for this year's Giro d'Italia.
The Androni team have high hopes for their team leader in the Giro d’Italia, José Rujano, and according to team manager Gianni Savio the little Venezuelan isn’t the only rider with good chances of success. I made the following interview with Gianni Savio about his team’s ambitions in the Italian Grand Tour.

First of all we want to be protagonists. We hope to get a rider on the podium. José Rujano was already on the podium back in 2005 and I hope he can be there this year too. He is our team leader, but we have also two other riders who can do something big in this race, José Serpa and Emanuelle Sella. Also we have a good sprinter in Roberto Ferrari and a great young rider in Fabio Felline. All in all we have a good compact team and I think we will be protagonists in this Giro”.

What about the team classification, is that a goal too?
For sure! We hope to be on the podium as winners of the team classification. That is a goal for us. Last year we were second in the team points classification and this year I hope we can be on the podium for the time classification.

How is Rujano coming into this Giro compared to last year?
I think that he is a little bit better this time actually. He has prepared very well for this Giro. He was second in Langkawi where we won with Serpa and after that he did well in Italy, in Giro del Trentino, so I think he is ready. Plus he is also a rider who is able to increase his condition during the Giro, which is very important for the last week. 

Can he win this Giro?
There is no doubts that Rujano has the possibility to win the Giro but with him nothing is certain. For sure I hope he will win, but we will have to wait and see.

How about Roberto Ferrari, what do you expect from in this Giro?
Ferrari had some stomach problems when he started the season in Tour de San Luis and withdrew. After that he began very well [1 stage win and 3 second places in Tour de Taiwan] and he has now three wins this season. He is a good sprinter, for sure, but it is not easy for him, because here you have riders like Cavendish, Hushovd etc, so it won’t be easy to win. To be realistic, I would say he can do top3 or top5 in the mass sprints.

And Fabio Felline?
Well, I think there have been some mistakes in Felline’s race programs in the past. For me he was too young to participate in the Tour de France for example. The way I see it, it wasn’t good for him. Felline is from my town where I live [Torino] and I always explain to his many fans that it’s important not to put too much pressure on him. He needs to progress gradually. But for sure I hope that he will win a stage in this Giro. 
There are many stages that suit him very well.

Who is your favorite for the overall victory?
Personally I would be very happy if Michele Scarponi wins this Giro. He used to be one of my riders. I signed him back when nobody wanted to touch him [after Operación Puerto] and with us he won three stages in the Giro, he got 4th overall in the Giro, he won Tirreno-Adriatico and suddenly all the teams wanted to sign him. Actually he called me after Giro dell'Appennino where he was in the breakaway. At one point it looked like the breakaway could make it to the finish so I put the whole team in front to catch him and we won with Felline. Afterwards he called me and said he was very happy for us winning the race, even though it meant we had to catch him first. We have a good relationship and I would be happy if he wins the Giro.

Who else do you think will be up there?
Ivan Basso looks good, Roman Kreuziger too. Purito and Pozzovivo will also be there together with Fränk Schleck who I think will do a great Giro. There is not a superman this year and because of that I think we will get a very open and very interesting Giro this time.

Androni brings a team full of climbers. Is the mountain jersey also a goal for you?
Well, we will see. It’s not our first goal. It will depend on how the race goes but for sure we will try to get it if it’s possible. First of all we aim for a stage win and then afterwards we will see if we can also go for the mountain jersey too.

Do you have any specific stages red-circled already?
No. I think the most important stage will be the one to Stelvio [Stage 20] but in cycling nothing is certain. We all may think that Stelvio will be the key, but then maybe in Cervinia [Stage 14] everything changes. Remember two years ago in L'Aquila [The stage where a big breakaway with Carlos Sastre & David Arroyo among others got away with 12 minutes to the peloton]? What many forget is that it was Androni who back then saved the Giro! I personally stopped three riders of my riders in the breakaway to get back to the peloton where we started to chase, chase and chase. If we hadn’t done that, the Giro would have ended on that stage and Arroyo would have won overall.

As Giro Expert during the race Gianni Savio will give a preview of each stage and his winner pick for all the stages in this year’s Giro d’Italia. You will find Savio’s latest preview on the front page and can see all of them by clicking here.

This interview was made before José Serpa broke a finger on his right hand on Stage 2 and before Roberto Ferrari caused Mark Cavendish to crash on Stage 3.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 3

Gianni Savio explains:
This third stage is very similar to stage two. It’s more or less the same. I think that Stage 2 was the most dangerous one, for what concerns the wind, but I think that for sure we will also have a lot of wind on this stage.

Mark Cavendish showed to be in good condition so he is the favorite but I also see a very strong Matthew Goss.

GIRO EXCLUSIVE - Phinney ready to help Hushovd

Phinney can enjoy another
day in Pink on Stage 3.
Despite suffering a crash within the last 10 km of Stage 2 in the Giro d’Italia, Taylor Phinney managed to get back to the peloton thanks to an impressive amount of work from his team mates Danilo Wyss and former World Champion Alessandro Ballan. The grueling chase left Phinney without any energy to participate in the sprint – in order to get gain bonus seconds in the GC – and according to the American he won’t try on Stage 3 either.

"Actually no, I don’t think I will [participate in the sprint on Stage 3]. I know Thor [Hushovd] is very strong right now, so I will try to help him get a result instead. Hopefully I will get a less stressful day tomorrow and be able to enjoy this Pink Jersey a bit more than I could today”.

Thor Hushovd ended 7th in the sprint on Stage 2 after a poor time trial the day before. Stage 3 ends with three very technical laps in the center of Horsens so Hushovd needs to be on the top of his game to get a good result against the guys like Mark Cavendish and Matthew Goss.

Exclusive - Fuglsang: I want to stay with Radioshack

Jakob Fuglsang before the start of
Stage 2 of the Giro d'Italia 2012.
There have been rumors about Jakob Fuglsang’s future ever since the merger between Leopard and Radioshack last year. One very strong rumor these days is that Fuglsang will return to Bjarne Riis and Team Saxo Bank next season, but according to the Dane himself, that’s not necessarily the case.

“It’s only rumors, I really don’t know how they are started. I haven’t talked with Saxo Bank at all. Actually I haven’t talked about my next contract with anybody yet, not Johan [Bruyneel ] either. The team directors need to prioritize and find out how they want the team to look like next season, but I’m very interested in staying with Radioshack and I’m looking forward to have a talk with Johan about it”.

About the ongoing Giro d’Italia Jakob Fuglsang’s favorite for the overall win was originally Michele Scarponi, but after the Italian's poor time trial yesterday Fuglsang now put his faith in Ivan Basso. About team mate Fränk Schleck’s chances he says:

“I think Fränk has a good chance. He got thrown into this very suddenly and he really doesn’t have any pressure on him to perform. I think he can benefit from that. For sure he can end on the podium, but winning is another thing. It will depend on how well he performs in the time trials”.

Jakob Fulgsang's big goal this season was the Giro d’Italia but after his injuries he will now focus on the general classification in Tour de Suisse and then to help Andy Schleck in the Tour.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 2

Gianni Savio explains:
This stage is very, very dangerous. Alongside the sea there will be a lot of wind, I think, and therefore you have to pay attention all the time. For a team like ours [Androni] it’s all about defend, defend, defend and be very determinated. The key is to pay attention every second.

My favorite is Mark Cavendish.

Super Phinney - Super Cool

Taylor Phinney has been fixated about this time trial ever since the race course was revealed and after having the Pink Jersey as his desktop background for months he managed to make his dream come true and win the first stage in this year’s Giro d’Italia.

From the way he had been practicing on the course the last two days it was clear to see that he would do great today and despite bike problems before the start he kept his cool and showed the world what he is capable of doing.
Taylor Phinney didn't panic but kept his cool
when his bike had to get fixed before the start.

At the obligatory UCI bike check right before the start it turned out that Phinney’s saddle wasn’t even and therefore had to be fixed. Phinney didn’t panic and had confidence enough to stand there smiling when his saddle got put into the right direction.

Many of the other rider, aiming to do well in his time trial, put up a stone face when they got on the starting ramp, but not Taylor Phinney. Despite having put an enormous pressure on himself he still took the time to wave out to the audience when the presenters said his name.

As cool as he was before the start, just as cool did he turn out to be on the course. Taylor Phinney smashed Geraint Thomas’ time by 9 seconds and took the first Pink Jersey in Giro. Truly impressive!

GIRO EXCLUSIVE - Uran hopes for Top10

Team Sky may be build up the team around Mark Cavendish for the sprint stages, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have riders for the overall classification. One of them is Rigoberto Uran, and according to the young Colombian he is ready to fight with the best for a spot in the top10.

“I feel very good right now and I’m ready for this Giro. It’s a very hard and very long Giro and the last week seems to be very tough. I will take it day by day and see what happens but I’m aiming for Top10, no doubts about that!”

To help him in the mountains Rigoberto Uran can count on help from Sergio Luis Henao. The rest of the team is all about Mark Cavendish.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Giro Expert Preview - Stage 1

Gianni Savio explains:
This is a difficult time trial because of the many corners. You have to pay attention at all the time not to crash. For the climbers it’s good because the corners also means you have to change the rhythm many times so they won’t lose as much time as if it has been a straight out prologue.

My favorites for the stage win are Taylor Phinney and of course Alex Rasmussen because he has a lot of motivation on his home soil.

GIRO EXCLUSIVE – “I fear Denmark more than Stelvio”

Last year Ag2r surprised a lot of people when both John Gadret and especially Hubert Dupont turned out to be some of the strongest riders in the mountains. The expectations are therefore very big this year but Hubert Dupont makes it clear that his job first of all is to help Gadret before taking his own chance.

“My ambitions are the same as last year. My goal in this Giro is to help John [Gadret]. That is my job, but of course when that is said I would like to go for a stage win and hopefully end in the top10”.

In the Tour de France a couple of years ago Ag2r team leader Nicolas Roche had a puncture and asked John Gadret for his wheel. Back then Gadret refused to help Roche in order to get a nice result for himself. Asked about such a situation, Hubert Dupont has no doubts.

“I will help John as much as I can. That is why I’m here. If something should happen to John it will be up to the managers in the car to decide what I should do. It is not my call to make”.

Many of the pure climbers fear the windy stages in Denmark, some more than other. Hubert Dupont has a very good way of explaining his fear.

“To be honest I fear the wind in Denmark more than Stelvio”.

Giro Interview - Gustav Erik Larsson

Gustav Erik Larsson at his best on the
time trial bike on his way to glory.
Giro Interview – Gustav Erik Larsson (Rider, Vacansoleil-DCM) For four years Gustav Erik Larsson was a part of the Danish Team Saxo Bank but when one of the biggest races in the world, Giro d’Italia, actually starts out in Denmark, Larsson finds himself in the colors of the Dutch Vacansoleil-DCM team.

I made the following interview with the strong Swede on Thursday evening before the team rushed off to dinner.

Gustav, how is it not being a part of the Danish team when the Giro starts in Denmark?
To be honest I haven’t actually thought about it before now, but it is kind of strange thinking about it. I used to ride with Bjarne Riis’ team, now we are in his city and I’m not a part of the team anymore.

But you are happy with your change of teams?
Yes it’s been a great start for me with the win in Paris-Nice. Last year was a very bad year for me. I had a pretty awful winter and that’s why I didn’t do better in the first part of the season. But before that I think I have had three really good years with Saxo Bank and now I hope I can come back and show what I’m worth.

So what are your ambitions for the Giro this time?
I’m going for the overall classification actually. I will try to hang on for as long as possible on the climbs and the two time trials are very good for me. I aim for a spot in the Top10 but we will have to see how the legs respond first. I don’t think it’s possible to gain back very much time [in the time trials] so it’s important not to get dropped in the mountains.

How do you feel compared to 2008 when you ended 14th in the GC?
It was my first season with Riis and I was in very, very good shape. I think I can do it again.

First we have the prologue on Saturday. What do you think you can do there?
It’s always difficult to say. There are a lot of riders who are not time trial specialists but still able do to a very good prologue. I mean it’s only 8,7 km. Of course I would like to win it like I did in Paris-Nice but it won’t be easy. It would have been good for me if there had been a little hill or something to make it more tough, but I think it’s an okay route. The only thing is that it’s actually rather late on the day so it will be a little bit chilly outside.

What about the team time trial?
Well, if you look at the individual riders we have some very strong time trialists, but the problem is that we haven’t trained together. Still I think it can be fine for us if we just get the tactic straight and everybody moves around like they are supposed to when it counts on the roads.

Do you fear any of the stages in this year’s Giro?
On the first stage in Denmark we are going to ride alongside the sea so I hope it won’t be chaos. Anything can really happen on that stage, especially if it’s windy as well. We have to pay attention and be prepared. 

Let’s end with talking about the GC favorites. Who is your pick?
Hmm. Ivan Basso is always a strong contender, but I don’t know if he is ready yet. If he is though, then I think he will win it. I doubt it will be one of the pure climbers, but then again there are some very tough climbs on the menu, so you never know. We will see what happens.

Giro d’Italia 2012 - The Favorites

Giro d’Italia 2012 - The Favorites The way I see it this is one of the most open Giro d’Italias in many years. Last year Alberto Contador was the mega favorite and the year before him Ivan Basso. This time Contador won’t be there and it’s still unclear if Ivan Basso has fully recovered from his crashes earlier in the season.

Looking at all the GC-contenders I have managed to narrow it down to about riders with an actual chance of winning the Giro. Let’s take a look at them.

Roman Kreuziger
Last year Roman Kreuziger made the Giro d’Italia his big goal of the season. He wanted to end on the podium but in the last week the tough mountains turned out to be too hard for the young Czech. He ended 5th overall and this year it’s time to step up. All the way up I think! Ever since he helped Maxime Iglinsky to a podium place in Strade Bianche, Kreuziger has been among the best riders in all the races he has taken part in. He ended 3rd overall in Tirreno-Adriatico after strong performances in the mountains, 6th in Giro del Trentino (despite a hunger-knock on the last hard mountain stage to Passo Pordoi) and recently he ended 6th overall in Tour de Romandie with a strong time trial. There is absolutely no doubt that Roman Kreuziger is ready to take on the Giro. Another important fact is that Astana is one of the strongest teams in the race with riders like Petrov, Seeldrayers, Dyachenko and especially Tiralongo to help Kreuziger in the mountains. Also Astana should be one of the best teams in TTT compared to the other favorites’ teams. I expect Roman Kreuziger to be on the final podium and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up winning the whole thing.

Michele Scarponi
Two days before the Giro d’italia starts out in Denmark, Michele Scarponi officially got rewarded with the Giro win from last year. Many expect him to win it ‘for real’ (on the roads) this time and together with Roman Kreuziger he is also my big favorite for the title. Scarponi stood out in Trentino for not standing out, but I think he is ready anyway. Last year his results were better before the Giro than now, but don’t be fooled by the stats. Michele Scarponi will get excellent help in the mountains from team mate and former Giro-winner Damiano Cunego as well as from Przemyslaw Niemiec and on the time trials he should lose much time to the other GC-contenders. Scarponi is experienced enough to know how to ride a good race and without Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali this year, Scarponi really is the guy to beat if you want to win Giro d’Italia.

José Rujano
You may have to wait two weeks to see him, but then he will be there. The final week of this Giro is extremely hard and for little José Rujano it couldn’t be better. Recently he showed in Trentino that the condition is good and with a couple of weeks to get to a 100% you can be sure that Rujano will do damage in the mountains this year too. Some might say that the biggest problem for Rujano will be the time trials, but actually it’s himself. José Rujano is very much driven by his heart and how he feels and if he doesn’t has his head in the game all the time, he could easily end up losing the race on a day with no real danger. He also needs to pay attention on the first stages in Denmark where the wind can split up the peloton at any given time. I don’t think José Rujano can win the Giro, but if he hasn’t lost too much time before the peloton reaches the high mountains (stage 14) I think he will make the podium. Anything but a spot among the five best riders in the overall classification would surprise me.

Fränk Schleck
I already wrote about Fränk Schleck’s chances in his Giro right here, so I won’t do much more now. Fränk Schleck got called up and asked to ride the Giro just a week prior to the race and that extra rest could come in handy. The first weeks aren’t so demanding as we have seen in the past and that means that Schleck has the chance to enter the last week a little bit more fresh than his opponents. He may not win the Giro, but I think he will be a very strong contender for the podium.

Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez
Of course Purito has to be on my list of favorites. Last year he started out the Giro a little bit sick but ended in a very strong way and took 4th overall. Like José Rujano, Purito needs to be careful on the first windy stages in Denmark and hope his Katusha team won’t lose too much time in the team time trial. Dani Moreno will be there to support Purito in the mountains and if start the last week within 1½ min of the other favorites you would be a fool not to count him in as a player for the podium – at least. This year Purito finally won a big classic (Fleche Wallone) and with that extra morale boost I think he will do a great Giro d’Italia.

Some may wonder why I haven’t mentioned Ivan Basso among my five top favorites. It’s simple. I really don’t know if he is ready or not. His two crashes earlier in the season seemed to set him back a lot and even though he looked better and better in first Trentino and the Romandie, the Giro is still something different. You have to on the top of your game to win and I honestly don’t know if Basso is there yet. Like Fränk Schleck he may be able to benefit from an easy start and then be ready for the final week, but I have my doubts. I hope Basso will be there, that would be good for the race, so let’s hope he proves me wrong this time.

Normally I would pick a few jokers for the GC but this time I don’t really see any in the very top. Riders like John Gadret, Ryder Hesjedal and Rigoberto Uran all have the potential of doing top10 and maybe even more, but not to win the Giro.

I will take the chance and give you my pre-top10 of the Giro d’Italia 2012
1. Roman Kreuziger
2. Michele Scarponi
3. José Rujano
4. Fränk Schleck
5. Purito Rodriguez
6. Ivan Basso
7. John Gadret
8. Ryder Hesjedal
9. Marco Pinotti
10. Rigoberto Uran

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Welcome to the Giro d’Italia

Everything in Herning is colored pink!
For almost a week Herning has its very own ‘Little Italy’ part of town. Well actually it's the whole town! Color me impressed or more suitable, color me pink. From the moment you arrive you are being greeted with pink Giro d’Italia flags, posters, balloons etc etc. The chairs outside of the cafés are pink and you can’t take one step without being reminded that the Giro is in town.

Alongside the route of the prologue and stage 1 people have already set out chairs and tables (in pink of course) and you’ll find pink balloons and other welcoming messages on the facade of many houses in Herning.

Herning and its people are getting
ready for the Giro d'Italia 2012.
The sun is shining and the sky is blue. It couldn’t be better for the start of Giro. One week ago the weathercast showed heavy rain during the first stages in Denmark, but now it looks a little bit better.

Let’s hope the weather won’t change much during the next couple of days so everybody in front of the TV-screens will see how much Herning loves the Giro!

I will post my preview and favorites for the race on Friday. Stay tuned!