Saturday, March 15, 2008

Tirreno-Adriatico Stages 1-3: Stop The Insanity!

Great field, wacky finishes, fun race they've got down here in Italy! Too bad we only get brief highlights, but I'm happy to have them. Star-studded bunch sprint in Stage 1, taken by Oscar Freire over Alessandro Petacchi.

We just got the final kilometer of Stage 2, but worth it if only to see Riccardo Ricco throw his bike across the finish line for fifth place. Now when you hear that, normally you think of that sprinter's thrust, arms out and head down as they zoom across. No, I mean he was walking on the road, picked up his bike and threw it over the line, trotting across after it. He had been in the winning break, with a teammate, when right towards the end he and Linus Gerdemann touched wheels and Ricco broke some spokes. CyclingNews gets into who might be to blame, noting well Ricco's colorful personality. Ricco's hopes of exacting revenge on the race today in Stage 3 were dashed when he was involved in an early crash. He finished the stage, tattered and torn, but nearly last to cross the line.

Let's talk about that Stage 3 - Holy Guacamole, I've never seen anything like it! The climb up to the eventual finish included an insane 20% gradient, and they had to do it twice! Lots of guys, top pro riders, were having to walk up it. Some because their legs blew out, some because they got caught behind others who blew, and there was no way to keep pedaling up that thing unless you could keep all momentum going. Several motorbikes couldn't even make it up, causing a horrible mess. The motorbikes were sideways, or stuck in the middle of the road, so riders couldn't get past them at all, and there goes another batch who have to walk up.

You occasionally see a fan push a rider up any random climb in a race, and it's always nerve-wracking and annoying. But here, there were some riders who were completely cross-eyed, and the pushes from the fans were the only thing keeping them upright. So for these riders, there was a whole line of fans pushing them up, one would hand off to the next, and so on, until the rider could get under his own power again. Riders were zigzagging completely across the road and back, coming perilously close to tipping right into the barriers on many occasions. It was mayhem, I tell you, mayhem!

Hats off to Joaquim Rodriguez for gutting out the win. Among the boys suffering like dogs were many of our favorites, such as George Hincapie, setting up teammates Gerdemann and Thomas Lovkvist for high finishes. Fabian Cancellara, coming in a very impressive tenth on the day - as pointed out, he's not a light fella, and to drag himself up ahead of most of the pack was quite a feat. Dave Zabriskie, farther back in the pack - oh, to be a fly on the wall of his brain at that moment.

It's kind of confusing, following both of these races at once, but the more the merrier!

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