www.chechurubiera.info - an online magazine for fans of Chechu Rubiera


11-15 February
Vuelta a Mallorca

27 February-3 March
Volta a Comunitat Valenciana

14-20 March

9-14 April
Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco

1-6 May
Tour de Romandie

12 May-3 June
Giro d'Italia

14-22 July
Tour of Qinghai Lake

4 August
Clásica San Sebastián

10-18 August
Deutschland Tour

1-23 September
Vuelta a España



3 June 2007

Stage 21 : Vestone to Milan (185km, 115mi)

The 90th Giro d'Italia finally rolled into Milan. The peloton paraded round the city, with Liquigas leading the procession. Their pink handlebar tape paid homage to Danilo DiLuca, who claimed his first maglia rosa today. The rain had stopped, thankfully, because there were a few tight bends and everybody stayed upright.

Criteriums are great for the crowd. The speed of the pro-peloton is phenomenal. From the roadside, you hear the bike chains of 100 cyclists whirring, and sense a rush coming towards you. In a second, they're gone again.

It's good for fans watching at home too. We caught a few glimpses of Chechu, he looked comfortable and relaxed.

Chechu finished in the peloton, with same time as sprint winner Alessandro Petacchi. He placed highest of the Discovery riders overall, a creditable 39th at 1hr 14' 46". This competition was hotly contested by empassioned riders, mostly Italian. But they all gave us a great spectacle.

Discovery's British rider, Steve Cummings stretched his legs off the front with a couple of laps to go. It was a doomed effort, of course, but great to see a DC shirt have a go.

If I had three wishes tonight, they would be : (1) Chechu had won a third Giro stage; (2) I'd put money on DiLuca (I knew he'd win); and (3) the UCI would issue an amnesty to allow cycling to move on. Ah! Italia. Arrivederci. (Nicky)

Credit : Graham Watson. thePaceline.com

2 June 2007

Stage 20 : Bardolino to Verona (TT), (43km, 27mi)

DC will live to fight another day, says Cathy Mehl on thePaceline tonight. Cathy is a great find for Discovery's fan site, she hooks a positive very time, even when there aren't many around.

The team will contest the next race, and of course, the next, and the next. That's their job. But there won't be another 90th Giro d'Italia, there won't be another chance to challenge at this spectacular grand tour.

For Discovery and their all important push for results, this Giro has surely been like the weather today - a bit damp and limp.

However, it was heartening earlier to see Liz Kreutz's pictures from the last few days of racing.

The team looks good. We forget sometimes that these cyclists are as tough as old boots. Physical endurance, along with pain and suffering, are a part of who they are. We must allow them a moment to remind us how hard they really are.

There have been no published comments or complaints from Chechu, not even in the Spanish press. He's kept to himself and done his job, business as usual.

Even today, in pouring rain, he put in a solid time, finishing 54th at 4'59". He's now moved into the top 40 and lies 39th overall at 1hr 14' 46". (Nicky)

1 June 2007

Stage 19 : Treviso to Terme di Comano (179km, 111mi)

28 BILEKA Volodymyr UKR 4:38:02 3:13
84 CUMMINGS Steven GBR 4:57:57 23:08
92 VAN GOOLEN Jurgen BEL 4:58:09 23:20
111 PADRNOS Pavel CZE 4:58:20 23:31
130 RUBIERA VIGIL José Luis ESP 4:58:32 23:43
137 WHITE Matthew AUS 4:58:34 23:45

Now we're concerned. Like all Giro riders, Chechu has had to work extremely hard this Giro. His aggressive performance as de facto team leader in the last week was great to see.

But, in truth, his team has gained nothing in Italy, and we think Chechu will be disappointed. Stage wins and a top 40 GC placing have eluded them. Chechu comes closest in both categories. The mood of the team, inferred from their online reports and media comments, is miserable. They're depleted, disappointed and exhausted.

This should have been a day when Chechu stayed at the front. But the weather was awful, and rain was tipping out the sky. The Discovery team stuck together at the back. Which is a shame, a man in the break might have raised spirits.

In this 90th Giro, Discovery Channel hasn't been able to compete with the Italian passion for winning or the precocious talent of almost every Italian rider in the peloton. Maybe they should eat more gelato. Go Whitey!

Despite the rain, the tifosi turned out in their thousands today, cycling is so revered in Italy. British Eurosport reported RAI viewing figures for the first two weeks (I think) of the Giro. They showed an increase of two million viewers on last year. Italian fans don't seem to be turning away from scandal-scourged cycling. And, after all, this is the Giro d'Italia.

Chechu is now 41st overall at 1hr 11' 44". (Nicky)

31 May 2007

Stage 18: Udine to Riese Pio X (203km, 126mi)

Flat as a pancake. That's how this stage was described by David Harman on British Eurosport (you can tell when they're bored at Eurosport, they start talking about charity bike rides in Britain).

Chechu, along with almost everybody else, was content to sit in the peloton and ride safely to the criterium finish at Riese Pio X.

He finished 91st, at the same time as winner Alessandro Petacchi, and is still 31st overall at 51'14".

So what's next?

If Discovery, and Chechu, are looking for a stage win in this Giro, there's really only one more chance. Tomorrow's transition stage from Treviso (home of the Pinarello cycle company) has two decent climbs, the Pian delle Fugazze and the Passo Ballino.

Watch out for a move by Discovery. The route should suit Chechu, and if he gets in a break, he could give it a real go. (Nicky)

Credit : Graham Watson. thePaceline.com

30 May 2007

Stage 17: Lienz to Monte Zoncolan (142km, 88mi)

Swoon at the the torment inflicted on the peloton this Giro d'Italia. Bask in the glamour of the astonishing locations, especially the mountain top finishes. A fan's life is a quixotic and exhausting.

The long, winding road up into the heart of Briançon on Stage 12 was challenging for the cyclists, simply stunning for spectators. My ticket is already booked, I need to be there.

The time trial (was it really just last Friday?) brought us to a mountain top idyll, the Santuario Di Oropa. It was a privilege to watch the stunning aerial pictures, sadly not one normally enjoyed by the cyclists. They're usually cycling back to their vehicles.

Today was bewildering. This little track road, guarded by the Italian Tyrolean division, wound its way up, and up, and up.

On the steepest and hardest climb of the Giro, the cyclists and 100,000 tifosi engaged in pure theatre. From pain to ecstacy, every emotion was on display. A drama, peculiar to Italy, unfolded before us and it was quite wonderful.

Bravo, encore ... although I'm not sure my nerves are up to it!

Chechu did another great ride on this toughest climb, finishing 42nd at 8'26". He now lies 31st overall at 51'14". Looks like he took tumble recently, spot the grazing on his knee and elbow. (Nicky)

Credit : Fotoreporter Sirotti, www.dailypeloton.com

29 May 2007

Stage 16: Agordo to Lienz (189km, 117mi)

What a star! Chechu raises his game today to give Discovery the boost they so badly need.

And as luck would have it on an exciting day for Chechu fans, Eurosport stayed with tennis today, perhaps because of poor picture quality. The coverage online with Rai Sport was all static and broken pictures.

Chechu was again part of a break, this one chasing down a super-strong Stefano Garzelli, who had attacked on the last climb.

Credit : Fotoreporter Sirotti, www.cyclingnews.com

As they raced into Austria, it was wet and windy. cyclingnews.com reported live that, "the chase of five with Rubiera and Lastras is now rotating in a counter-clockwise motion, which means that the wind could be coming from their left."

Chechu finished an outstanding 4th at 1'01 behind Garzelli. He's moved up to 29th overall, at 43'19".

thePaceline describes Chechu's efforts nicely today, "Rubiera put in a strong performance throughout the stage and held on for 4th place. After feeling under the weather a few days and losing team leader Yaroslav Popovych due to crashes, Rubiera’s ride was a good shot in the arm for the DC boys, showing they still have the drive to compete to try for stage wins in the days to come."

I mentioned yesterday the need for Discovery to find a leader who inspired. I should have added that he must lead by example. Well, what do you know - he was there all the time. Forza Chechu! (Nicky)

Credit : Graham Watson, ThePaceLine.com

28 May 2007

Rest Day 2 : Time to reflect

As I write this, Chechu and the team will be in the saddle again for another day in the mountains, this time heading towards Austria. I wonder how they're feeling today.

Morale is a key issue this week for Discovery. Their resolve to win has been sorely tested in the last two weeks. The departure of Popovych on Friday was a huge blow, when fatigue was high, and spirits low.

Already resorting to Plan B after Basso's suspension, the malais in Discovery was set on Stage 1, when Popo fell on an easy bend in the team time trial. For a superstitious bunch, doubts and foreboding may have trickled into their minds.

Hincapie went home after 10 stages (was it pre-planned?), and Vandborg didn't finish Stage 14. They're down to six men, which is super-tough if you're looking for a stage win in the mountains.

You'd expect that the team management would be doing everything to buck up their spirits. Maybe they are, what do we know.

Well, actually we know a quite a bit.

Long-term readers of ThePaceline will realise that the coverage of this year's Giro, compared to last year, is very low key. Race reports are well written, quite interesting, but there's nothing much that's special for Discovery fans. No inside-the-team pictures, not many anecdotes. It seems like just another race that they have to endure.

The team are obviously exhausted. In an interview on cycling.tv, Sean Yates let slip that Chechu "was disappointing" although on Eurosport a few days later, Chechu (in the break) was now "a class act".

Other team members spoke live on cycling.tv, saying how awful, horrible and disappointed they were feeling. Vandborg said, "I've just been creeping trying to finish stages."

In his latest journal, PJ Rabice is very low, he talks about fatigue, loss of focus, nightmare logistics and there's an uncertainty about their resolve, "I think everyone is looking forward to the final week". Don't forget, this is the PR man, these are not off-the-cuff comments. When he's negative, it means things have got pretty bad.

The void left by Lance Armstrong at the heart of Discovery is still wide open and suffocating a fabulous team. As fans, we miss him. We miss his invincibility, his certainty and sheer class. He was one step beyond. It's going to take years for the team to mould or find another leader to inspire like Lance, to lift and motivate the team when times are really tough. (Nicky)

27 May 2007

Stage 15: Trento to Tre Cime Di Lavaredo (184km, 114mi)

Commentators call this the queen stage of the Giro. With the toughest climbs, this stages sorts out the main GC contenders. And things are certainly getting interesting with Astana's Eddy Mazzoleni offering a serious threat to Danilo Di Luca for the maglia rosa.

Whilst the cycling was special today, the tifosi were spectacular. All energy and noise, the empassioned support of Italy's extraordinary sports fans was pure theatre.

Thousands upon thousands lined the road, it was cold and pouring with rain. As the cyclists struggled with final steep climbs, the tifosi took charge. They stepped into a cyclist's path, shouting into their faces, touching them, running alongside and all the while, speaking on mobile phones. All men.

The barriers of the final kilometre were ignored. And still they harried the cyclists, it reminded me of the bull run in Pamplona. Fabulous but sooo scary.

Chechu did an unbelievable race today, finishing 32nd at 15'36". He's leapt up the GC again, to 33rd at 50'28". And now he can rest. After 12 straight days of hard racing, tomorrow is a rest day. Que duermas bien, Chechu. Sleep well. You've done good.

A word for Pavel Padrnos. Another unsung hero, he rarely features in thePaceline reports, or many other places. As a rouleur, he does what's required and quietly gets himself to the end. He's another star. (Nicky)

Credit : Graham Watson, ThePaceLine.com

26 May 2007

Stage 14 : Cantù to Bergamo (192km, 119mi)

Fireworks, carnage, drama, trauma, on the road and in the press. In spite of the daily news, it’s hard to resist smiling and laughing at the spectacle of the race.

Credit : Roberto Bettini, bettiniphoto.net

Rather than telling it in song, an Italian passion, let’s take it to the sidewalk.

Anybody up for jump rope? I’ll get the rope turning, you jump in and chant ...1 2 3... okay!

Simoni, Savoldelli, Pellizotti, and Bettini,
Garzelli, Baliani, Iban Mayo, Mazzoleni,
Pinotti, Codol, DiLuca, Ivan Parra,
Wegelius, Brúseghin, and Chechu Rubiera!

Chechu earned his place in the playground patter. He escaped with an elite group, getting a gap of 2:00 before attacking the slopes at the 86 km mark. They commanded the race for over 50 km, powering up the massive Passo di San Marco, sweeping down and onward.

Descending the San Marco, the breakaway was transformed by chaser Paolo Savoldelli. Il Falco bergamasco screamed downhill with paesano Eddy Mazzoleni in his wake. Joined by Simoni and Garzelli, the four blazed their way forward.

Italian bloodlust overwhelmed all foreigners except plucky Colombian Ivan Parra Pinto. Chechu’s time in the vanguard was over. He went backward with Mayo, Pinotti, Pellizotti and others, out of the heat.

Savoldelli motored the group into a stiff headwind for 20 km, pulling the flaming Italians and Parra into Bergamo, his hometown. Simoni dug deep, but was robbed in a thrilling braggadocio sprint finish. Garzelli vincitore!

Chechu proved there’s life in Discovery Channel, who lost Brian Vandborg today. The going got tough, but he finished 34th at 8:23. Chechu moved up 10 places in the GC, now seated 44th at 37:45.

He’s free to test himself, no worries about a leader or the clock. Tomorrow we can relax and see what happens.

Rasmussen, Arvesen, Szmyd and Schleck, Tomorrow to the Lavoredo! Chechu, give ‘em heck! (Rebecca)

Credit : Fotoreporter Sirotti, www.cyclingnews.com

25 May 2007

Stage 13 : Biella to Santuario Di Oropa (mountain ITT) (12.6km, 7.8mi)

Rai Sport is an Italian TV company. If you didn't already know this, you might have guessed from the coverage of today's inividual time trial. They followed every Italian on wheels (admittedly they were pretty good) with only fleeting glimpses of others (CSC's Dave Z and Andy Schleck got lots of airtime ... for some reason).

Just as Chechu was about to come down the ramp, Eurosport went to ad break. When he crossed the line, we were indulged with a Liquigas rider, viewed from above.

So we don't know whether he was strong or not. His result (58th at 3'18") is great, but not typical of him. There's no word from Discovery but our gut instinct is that he's not 100%. He complained last week of stomach problems, relentlessly hard days in the saddle won't help his recovery.

We've said it before, but twelve days of straight racing is too much. The organisers obviously haven't heard of the European Working Time Directive, EU legislation gives all workers in Europe basic rights and protections.

It limits the amount of hours you're required to work (EU says 48 hours, in France it's 35, Britain opted out). All workers have a right to 11 hours rest a day. All workers have a right to a day off each week. All workers have a right to an in-work rest break if the working day is longer than 6 hours.

Today, we've endured a further confession of illegal practice in cycling. For decades, young cyclists have carried expections, ambitions and responsiblities, often beyond their ability. For decades, many have sought a quick path to success.

We know all this. Yet we still demand that they perform super-extraordinary physical feats, day after day. I thought sport is an entertainment, not a blood sport.

Please support Chechu, tell him that you care about him for the amazing man he is. (Nicky)


UPDATED : 20.30 BST The Discovery team were really down today as they spoke live on cycling.tv.

Matt White about today's TT: "Definitely not an easy one, not an easy one at all." He also added that the stage was not super steep, but steeper sections combined with breaks made a variable contour that even in the car made him "carsick."

Brian Vandborg about the race in general: "I've been pretty bad. We lost Popo, I'm out of the GC. Pretty bad. I've just been creeping trying to finish stages."

Steve Cummings about the stage: "Horrible. I'm alright when it's flat, but we've had 12 days racing already. Man, I was empty. Yesterday felt awful and I cracked a bit on the final climb. Today I felt awful. But I want to finish."

The plan from here on out? Matt White: "Chechu Rubiera is definitely not feeling the best. With Popo out, we'll just try for some stages. I'm sure Popo's just as disappointed as we are."

24 May 2007

Stage 12 : Scalenghe to Briançon (163km, 101mi)

It was an emotional and hair-tearing day for fans who really love their guy.

To recap : yesterday, Popovych took one of the worst spills on the Wham-O Slip 'n' Slide.

Today Italian TV turned it into commèdia dell'arte with the Flinststones theme song, but it wasn’t funny. A mangled team leader is no joke.

Yesterday evening, the team announced that George Hincapie was retiring from the race.

Discovery's PJ Rabice told Velonews that Hincapie "is at 100 percent but (he) does not want to overdo it in Italy as his big goal is to be ready to go for the Tour de France ... Looking at the upcoming terrain and the intensity in the peloton these days, 10 days here turned out to be just right and was very good training for him as he prepares for the Tour."

Discovery’s double whammy - half of it self-inflicted - is tough cookies for Chechu and the rest of the guys. Chechu was 10th overall last night and Popovych 19th, so it’s hard to account for a strategy that removes a massive block of power like Hincapie from the roster.

With lukewarm comments and ambivalence about riders’ abilities, Discovery’s leadership from the team cars has not reeked of confidence. It’s tin-eared, tactless, psychologically out-of-tune. If the guys can keep heart and get pumped for victory with this drone in their ears, they’re even tougher than I thought.

Has it brought bad karma?
Today’s Cima Coppi stage was not kind. Chechu sank in the mountains and ended 91st at 26:06 back, with Van Goolen and Padrnos near him.

Popovych fared a little better, landing 28th at 6:45.

Their GC results: Chechu 55th at 26:50, Popo 28th at 6:45.

Lordy, it was a bad day for coverage! Nothing at all from CYCLING.TV, who have spoiled us in North America with their commentary and live race chat at THE INNERTUBE.

I managed to cobble together EUROSPORT’s Live Audio Feed with live video streaming from Italy. A Frankenstein’s monster, true, but the stitched-together baby had its rewards. Cycling talk, like everything in Italian, is crazy and beautiful.

Go to CYCLINGFANS.COM to see some options for live coverage.

Try zipping out of David Harman and Sean Kelly at Eurosport during the hot spots. Crank the volume on RAI or La Gazzetta for all the exclamation marks.

Caduta generale!! Caduta generale!!! Tutti corridori su l'asfalto!!!! Guarda Popovych!! Guarda Popovych!! Mamma mia. (Rebecca)

Credit : Graham Watson, ThePaceLine.com

23 May 2007

Stage 11 : Serravalle Scrivia to Pinerolo (198km, 123mi)

Road cyclists are a rare breed. First you see them chowing down on ice-cream lollies, like it's a Sunday outing. You go off to make a cup of tea, only to return and they're face-planting at the sprint finish.

Just another hectic day at work.

You can't help feeling concerned about Yaroslav Popovych. How many times he's fallen this Giro? Three, four, five ... I've lost count. And he has such spectacular crashes. Today's tumble at the finish must have hurt. ThePaceLine is playing it down, but he's bound to be sore tonight. And with mighty Cima Coppi climb tomorrow, life is tough for Popo this week.

Chechu came home safe, finishing 90th with the same time as winner, Alessandro Petacchi. He remains in 10th place overall, at 3'22".

There have been emails flying about DS Sean Yates' comments live on cycling.tv this morning. Speaking about stage 10, he said that Chechu was disappointing.

Let's hope he meant that Chechu was disappointed, because there isn't a cyclist less disappointing than Chechu.

In his seventh season for US Postal/Discovery, he's done a great job for this team. He's protected and supported his leader, he's been there when it mattered.

In this Giro, Chechu is the highest placed Discovery rider in the GC. He finished 24th on stage 10, and lost less than two minutes.

Disappointing, is it? We think he's a hero. (Nicky)

22 May 2007

Stage 10 : Lido Di Camaiore to Santuario Nostra Signora Della Guardia (250km, 155mi)

Discovery could have been in pink tonight, but a non-sensical bid for an American stage win left Chechu unsupported. How much more does this guy have to give to get something back from his team?

Riders struggled and collapsed at the finish line on top of the Santuario Nostra Signora Della Guardia today. Hot and gritty, spent and hurting, the general classification was put into a bag and shaken. 172 men were poured out. Into tomorrow’s frying pan they go, to simmer until ready for the Alps on Thursday.

Chechu could conceivably have been wearing pink at the end of the stage today. Just one or two guys to shepherd him might have left a little more power up the steep final slope, when it was every man for himself. .

The result left me wondering why it was that a man who has sacrificed himself so many times in his career to orchestrate a victory for a teammate had no visible help today. .

Philosophical about losing a little time, Chechu said, "Now we can see that Popo is riding well and we will work for him. My legs didn't feel great at the bottom of the climb. It was very hot today and fast from the gun."

Chechu’s legs may feel like jelly tonight, but his performance was solid and strong. He arrived 24th on the stage, 3:06 after winner Piepoli. At 10th in the GC, 3:22 back, he’s only 24” behind DiLuca, a over a minute ahead of the other favorites.

Discovery’s PJ Rabice spoke today from his stakeout point, 10 km from the finish. He said that the team still considers Popovych their leader, but Chechu being placed so high in the standings gives them another card to play. He could see a top 5 or top 10 finish for Chechu, and thought he could even take the leader’s jersey on Thursday’s stage to Briançon.

PJ gave a good report of Chechu’s condition. "He’s feeling real good. The day the break got away (Sunday) he had a bad stomach, feeling bloated due to the pasta or something he ate. But he was pointing at his legs, saying ‘We’ll see how these boys can go today'.

"Chechu felt good on the bus this morning. The Giro is his priority, not just to help Popo, but given his own track record in the race, he’s always in great shape and ready to go."(Rebecca)

21 May 2007

Stage 9 : Reggio nell'Emilia to Lido Di Camaiore (177 km, 110mi)

The peloton decided to take things easy today. After yesterday's excitement, they were clearly tired and thinking ahead to tomorrow's tough stage. On the only climb, the Passo del Cerreto, they were mostly riding gruppo compatto, six abreast. An unusual sight.

We had a few glimpses of Chechu, he was tucked near the back of the group for most of the day. He finished 129th, same time as the winner of the sprint, Danilo Napolitano. Chechu's still 6th overall at 1'36".

So ... about yesterday. We've admired the lyrical quality of Locutus at The Daily Peloton before. Yesterday, he shone, one of the few commentators to recognise Chechu for the star he is. He said,

Jose Luis "The Punisher" Rubiera (Discovery Channel).

"Chechu finished 13th on GC in last year's Giro while riding in support of Paolo Savoldelli. This year, with the shocking demise of their should-have-been Giro leader Ivan Basso, Discovery came to the race with Popovych and Chechu as their GC hopefuls.

"Chechu worked his butt off in that break to come across the line in 20th, which still got him 4' 19" on the peloton. Remember this: when Lance Armstrong used to want to shred the legs of his rivals in the mountains, he'd put Chechu on the front to do the job.

"Now Chechu might finally be getting his turn in the spotlight, and his fans could not be happier. He is 6th on GC only 1' 36" behind Pinotti. The minutes he has taken from the other climbers will be hard to take back."

Credit : Graham Watson, ThePaceLine.com

Chechu's mighty effort inspired me this morning at the gym. I knocked 1'40" from my usual 5km saunter on the bike ... oh, it burns! (Nicky)

20 May 2007

Stage 8 : Barberino Di Mugello to Fiorano Modenese (200km, 124mi)

Credit : Fotoreporter Sirotti, www.cyclingnews.com

There's a different look about Chechu Rubiera in Italy this year. When there's work to be done up front - in last weekend's team time trial, and in today's successful 22-man break - he's been right there. He's obviously feeling good and he looks hungry.

Chechu AND George Hincapie rode all day in the break and Discovery fans were spoilt with long, lingering shots of the pair. Chechu worked so hard. He took his turn in the through and off, long after others were sitting on the back. And when the group passed 10km to go, he kept the pace high, with longer pulls on the front.

It was always going to be a sprint finish today. With no teammates in the breakaway, Paolo Bettini was networking with fellow Italians all afternoon, perhaps looking for help in the sprint. In the end, he relied on his own awe-inspiring power and speed to take him to 2nd place behind CSC's Karl-Asle Arvesen.

Chechu finished in 20th at 2" but for his hard work, he was rewarded with a massive leap up the general classification. He's now a fabulous 6th at 1'36".

And the mountains are still to come.

I'm not sure we fans are doing our job for Chechu very well though. Despite his fantastic ride, he was barely mentioned by David Harman and Sean Kelly on Eurosport. It's especially disappointing because Harman could recognise a cyclist by his shadow, he's so well-informed. Let's hope the team at cycling.tv are a bit more generous.

Let us know, we need to do more for Chechu. (Nicky)

Credit : Fotoreporter Sirotti, www.cyclingnews.com

19 May 2007

Stage 7 : Spoleto to Scarperia (254km, 158mi)

Credit : Velonews

This year’s longest stage finished on the F1 Mugello race track in at Scarperia, near Florence. Inspired planning by Giro organisers produced a fast and spectacular finish. If there was more criterium road racing like this, there could be a new TV audience for cycling.

After lingering more than six hours on the route, through the gently undulating road of Umbria and Tuscany, the peloton poured onto the track in tight formation, surging around the bends in unison like a brilliant school of fish.

This was the only real excitement of the day, Alessandro Petacchi nipping just ahead of Thor Hushovd and Paolo Bettini to take the sprint and his second stage win of this Giro. .

Chechu and teammates got along swimmingly, clocking the same time as Petacchi. Chechu arrived mid-bunch at 97th and still lies 23rd overall at 5’55”.

Tomorrow’s trip over the Appenines might feel like a dirty trick on a day that looks likely to reward the sprinters again, if they survive the summits. To finish the day, the peloton will rev their engines for some mock auto-racing on the Ferrari test track.

And with a pal like Fernando Alonso, Chechu surely has insider information on riding F1 circuit, it just might give him an edge tomorrow. (Rebecca)

18 May 2007

Stage 6 : Tivoli to Spoleto (177 km, 110mi)

Credit : Fotoreporter Sirotti, www.cyclingnews.com

The break finally succeeded today. A gallus bunch jumped off the front and built up a lead of seven minutes plus.

And their rewards were huge, points galore, a stage win, and two jerseys - the overall maglia rosa for Marco Pinotti and the mountains jersey for stage winner, Luis Felipe Laverde.

The Tinkoff team were active yet again in today's break. By being in a break day after day, Tinkoff have had lots of TV exposure. Today, Eurosport discussed Tinkoff's future sponsorship, suggesting that if anybody had a few million Euros, they should get in touch with the team.

There's another team who needs a few million for next year, a bit of exposure wouldn't go amiss. And as a Discovery fan, you can't help wishing they would put somebody in a break, somebody like Bileka who could go all the way. Just occasionally. To make it more interesting.

Chechu stayed in the gruppo today, finishing 86th at 7'09". He now lies 23rd in the GC at 5'55".

We're trying hard to get photos of Chechu in Italy, including politely requesting that thePaceline get their cameras out. Apparently, there are videos in the making. Meantime, here's Tivoli and Spoleto. (Nicky)

17 May 2007

Stage 5 : Teano to Frascati (173 km, 108mi)

A boring stage turned into a nail-biter in the last 10km today. In the Giro so far, there have been so many crashes that daily bloodshed seems inevitable.

After hours of peace and quiet, pulses raced when the peloton blew through a 180º turn at 40 mph in a tight gruppo compatto. As the sprint played out, it got crazy, with riders in a frantic scrum for the victory.

The spoils went to Robert Förster of Gerolsteiner. All but the last 11 riders came in with Förster’s time.

Chechu arrived 38th, shepherding Popovych with Bileka and Hincapie. No change in the GC for Chechu, he’s still 20th, with Popo holding at 19th.

Discovery’s PJ Rabice said today that Chechu escaped yesterday without a scratch. Morale was very good around the team dinner table last night. Yesterday’s climb was hard, but Chechu and Popovych were strong, and while they lost a few seconds, so did Simoni and Savoldelli, and it’s a long way to Milan.

PJ said that thePaceline.com is filming videos from the Giro which will include shots from the road and glimpses of life off the bike. Look forward to the treat of seeing Popo and Chechu dancing on the bus, hosted by disc jockey Matt White.

PJ’s review of Chechu’s dancing? “Chechu doesn’t have quite the rhythm that you would think.” (Rebecca)

16 May 2007

Stage 4 : Salerno to Montevergine Di Mercogliano (153km/95mi)

The liturgical calendar says tomorrow is Ascension Day, but in the Giro d’Italia, that was the metaphor for today. An ascent through twenty-two sharp switchbacks delivered the riders to the first beastly summit of the three-week tour, the Montevirgine di Mercogliano.

Everybody went up, but many also went down. Crashes plagued the peloton throughout the stage, as fickle weather caused the riders to slip and spill at slow tempos.

One massive pile-up brought down a third of the pack, sending even Paolo Bettini, capo di tutti capi of this year’s Giro, for mobile treatment from the race doctor’s car. Enrico Gasparotto of Liquigas was even less lucky, finishing in pain more than 15 minutes behind winner DiLuca, losing the maglia rosa forever.

Where was Chechu in the chaos? His guardian angel must have been hard at work, because he finished at a fantastic 26th place, 34” back. Popovych was nearby in 34th.

The two have climbed in the GC ranks to 20th (Chechu) and 19th (Popo). Top 20!! Alleluia.

In Italian opera, before singing that powerhouse aria that ends on a high D, your fans encourage you by wishing you deliverance from the wolf’s mouth, a familiar expression for good luck. You respond crepi il lupo, or simply crepi, which means I’m gonna kill him!

In bocca al lupo, Chechu! (Rebecca)

15 May 2007

Rest day 1

It's interesting to read that Patrick Lefevere, chair of the team's organisation AIGCP, is a bit miffed with Giro d'Italia organisers, RCS Sport.

Getting everybody to and from Sardinia meant late arrivals, tired athletes and left teams without bikes. He calls for race organisers to pay more attention to detail when planning future transfers and that they consider not only the organisers' interests but also the necessities of the teams taking part.

Plus the three races on Sardinia were not that inspiring. Stage 1 wasted the team time trial, it never got started because of the ridiculous parcours. Cyclists complained about the quality of the roads. Stage 2 especially was twisty, so dangerous for the fast sprint finish.

The discontent in the peloton can only increase in the next few days. Chechu and the other Giro cyclists now face 12 days on the bike, without a rest day. They'll race 2,134km, mostly climbing, including the uphill time trial on 25 May. They will ascend this year's Cima Coppi, the Colle dell'Agnello, a 21.3km beast that rises to 2,744m after 102km of racing.

Cycling has been traumatised by endless scandal, this year has been heart-breaking. And yet still, we're aghast when cyclists are caught cheating.

Take a close look at what is being asked of these men in the next twelve days. Guilty cyclists are rightly punished for doping, but race organisers must also be held to account. (Nicky)

14 May 2007

Stage 3 : Barumini - Cagliari (181 km, 113mi)

Often, when I'm preparing our words on Chechu's race, I come across somebody who says it first and better. Locutus never fails to amuse.

Yeah, baby! Today's sprint was pure grand tour chaos: top-flight sprinters were everywhere, no team was able to control the final kilometers, and it was just a complete free-for-all in the finale.

Read more at the DAILY PELOTON.

Today there was an amazing few seconds of the final sprint, filmed from above. It was truly chaotic, criss-crosses, dodges, surges and of course, the crash. My first response was that it looked like a swarm of bees, but I don't think they would be so impetuous or so desperate. Unbelievably scary.

There was, however, a lingering and reassuring shot of Chechu coming across the line, looking calm. It looks like he managed to avoid (or was it survive?) the crash that apparently took down Simoni, Cunego and Hushovd. It's just all in a day's work for a pro-cyclist.

Chechu finished in middle of the peloton and is still 24th overall, at 49".

It's a rest and travel day tomorrow, before the peloton hits the Amalfi Coast with a twisting final climb to Montevergine di Mercogliano on Wednesday.

And finally, for diehards like me, it's really great to see a Discovery jersey in the top ten again. Today Volodymyr Bileka finished in 10th. You never know, I might even start finding these sprints interesting ... or maybe not. (Nicky)

13 May 2007

Stage 2 : Tempio Pausania - Bosa (205 km, 127mi)

The peloton was recorded at 60km per hour today. On the twisty roads of Sardinia, the high speeds in the last few kilometres meant crashes were inevitable. As the peloton wound up for the sprint finish, it was split in the last 3km by a nasty incident.

But it was a day for the sprinters (my least favourite kind of stage, sorry). Robbie McEwen and Paolo Bettini battled it out, McEwen taking the win. A great result for George Hincapie, who finished 10th in the sprint, sadly unseen by the cameras.

It looks like Chechu was one of those delayed by this final crash. He finished 83rd, but was given the same time as the winner. He's now 25th in the GC, at 49". (Nicky)

12 May 2007

Stage 1 : Caprera - La Maddalena TTT (24 km, 15mi)

As the 90th Giro d’Italia got underway today, the coastal views in Sardinia were paradise. The condition of the course, however, was the opposite.

Better described as The Hell of the Mediterranean, the opening stage was an agonizing team time trial. Taking place on narrow roads that were at times paved, unpaved, and pavé, it included an exposed bridge crossing between the tiny islands of Caprera and La Maddalena.

There was widespread apprehension in advance of the stage, with signs that none of the riders looked forward to it. They were right to worry. In the heat and dust, teams struggled to stay together, losing strong men off the back and looking jittery on the corners.

The stage turned into a trial indeed for Discovery Channel. Four men dropped back early, leaving a five-man group to continue, the minimum number needed to stay in the classification. But Popovych took a spill in the last kilometer, forcing the others to wait for him, and causing an excellent result to waft away on the sirocco.

Chechu led the boys across the line in 5th place with a time of 34:27, 49” behind leader Liquigas. He sits in 24th place, with team leader Popovych in 27th. (Rebecca)

Credit : Fotoreporter Sirotti, www.cyclingnews.com

11 May 2007

Training and team presentations on Sardinia

A film (in Italian) of the team presentation last week, with just a glimpse of Chechu. See RAI SPORT

Credit : Bettiniphoto, www.cyclingnews.com

Credit : Fotoreporter Sirotti, www.cyclingnews.com

All text © 2006 Nicky Orr / Rebecca Bell. Web design by Modem Operandi
Photo Credits: Masthead: Liz Kreutz 2007. Left column from top: ThePaceline.com (source). Right column from top: Apreal, López, Fraile, Onaindia Telepressm, EFE, Pais Vasco; Fotoreporter Sirotti, cyclingnews.com