Saturday, May 17, 2008

Giro d'Italia 2008 Stages 7 & 8: Inspired By True Events

Watching this Giro is kind of like watching a docu-drama. You want to take it on its face value and just enjoy the ride. But you're afraid of finding out later that significant facts were fictionalized, thus changing the whole feeling of the story. I want to believe that no one is so stupid to still be doping now, but people do stupid s*** every day, why should cycling be different?

So yesterday, when there is a blistering attack by Danilo Di Luca, and Riccardo Ricco and Alberto Contador jump on it, and they meet up with Leonardo Piepoli, and the four of them put on a good show gaining time on the other rivals, what to do? In the moment, it was fun - that's why they call him Killer, look at his face, what great effort and intensity, he could make plants wilt with that fierce gaze. Ricco and Piepoli are the Dynamic Duo once again, what great work Piepoli does for his man Ricco. Contador has such great instincts, you can see what Johan saw in him, look how he sweeps by Joaquin Rodriguez (who tried to go with Di Luca, but quickly faded) - excuse me, I'm with the big boys, see ya. Contador talked of testing the form, maybe going home, but in the moment he is a fierce competitor and gives it his all. Always alert, he was right on Di Luca's wheel for much of the stage, watching him like a hawk, and was ready to go when the moment came.

But what of the whispers and outright charges in their past? Should they even be here? On the same day Alessandro Petacchi is fired by Milram, here is Piepoli in the thick of the race. Ricco makes suggestive remarks after the race about where Contador really was on his vacation. Ironic, considering it was Ricco and Di Luca who had the pre-adolescent hormone levels last year. I guess Contador has had the least dirt stick of the four, but those Puerto questions linger. To be fair, I haven't studied any of their cases in depth, so I'm just giving the fan-on-the-street perspective, but I know I'm not the only one seeing things from this angle.

So do we consider all that sins of the past and give them the benefit of the doubt? Do we just call the race as it is and hope nothing comes along later to burst the bubble? I disagreed with all those fans who said they were through with pro cycling, and couldn't watch anymore. I didn't understand how they could just turn their backs on such a beautiful sport and throw the baby out with the bathwater. I'll keep watching, but on days like these, you do see the conflict. It's kind of sad when you find yourself encouraged by signs of fatigue - look, Contador fell off towards the end, and Di Luca was really struggling. They're really hurting, it must be a clean effort, right? Right?

Okay, back to the baby. After their emotional embrace on Thursday, it was fun to watch Paolo Bettini take such care of Giovanni Visconti in pink on Friday. Being under the world champion's wing in the leader's jersey on a Grand Tour, that's a story for the grandkids. Today was a stage for Bettini, so it was Visconti returning the favor as best he could. It all caught up to him and he went backwards a little in the final kilometer, but still held on to pink. Bettini nearly made it for the win, coming up just short on Ricco. Too bad, it would've been nice after all he'd done for Visconti.

Christian Vande Velde continues to carry the flag for Slipstream-Chipotle, still hanging in there amongst the contenders. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, I wish him a smokin'-hot TT on Tuesday.

Valiant effort by Adam Hansen of Team High Road. With the way breaks have been making it this week, can't blame him for trying to be last man standing today. But the gasket blew in the closing kilometers, and the big guns were hungry for their shot. I was with the RAI guys, alarmed at Di Luca in the back of the pack with just a few K to go. His slingshot to the front a few moments later was impressive, but alas, too early. Piepoli and Ricco were at it again, the former setting up the latter for his second stage win. Whatever else, they do work well together.

In our RAI tidbit of the day - I knew there was a dude named Francesco out there on a motorcycle in the peloton, but I didn't realize he was doing face-to-face interviews with the team directors! Just like the riders, he sidles up to the team cars and sticks his microphone in the window. Seems a little more dicey than when the bikes do it, but I guess they all know what they're doing. It's like at the Preakness, where the chick on the horse interviews the winning jockey as he's cooling down his steed. Yeah, just like at the Preakness, where the pre-game show was filled with discussions of steroid use, and that sticks in the back of your mind as you try to enjoy Big Brown dusting the field again.


Nikki said...

Wow! I really do love your writing recaps Julie! I hope you keep doing them as I love reading what you have to say! I'm pretty thankful tomorrow is a rest day at the Giro but there's now Catalunya to keep an eye on. HighRoad has a great team as I love keeping an eye on Michael and Papa Georgio! The fun never stops!

I hope you had a great weekend. Busy yet quiet here. Good weather by you finally? Chat soon! ~nic

Nikki said...

Where art thou Julie?!?!?

Jim said...

If you want to learn some Italian then a course like this is probably better as it is pretty much 100% audio. Every day you listen to a short story or dialogue that lasts about a minute or so, and you listen to that over and over for twenty minutes to half an hour, repeating it until you pretty much know it by heart. That way you tend to learn Italian idioms and word order from the start, rather than starting with an English idea, translating the words first then trying to remember the little grammatical tweaks you need to make it work.

Or to make your own cycling version, just record small segments of commentary and then play it back on a loop while say you are driving, then once you start to recognise words try to find them in a dictionary.