- an online magazine for fans of Chechu Rubiera



9 to 31 MAY 2009

Photograph © Elizabeth Kreutz, Team Astana

31 May

Stage 21 : Roma (ITT), 15.5km

Passion and drama. We hope for both at the Giro d'Italia and, as the centennary race rolled into Rome for the finale, we weren't disappointed.

The ancient gods of Rome were toying with our modern gladiators, spicing up the contest with a little rain. In the stunning Roman arena - yes, the backdrop was more amazing than the Champs Elysees - there was just enough rain to make the cobbled route wet and slick. It was no longer just a challenge of speed but also bike handling skills. Not a bad thing, reminding us armchair spectators that these guys are craftsmen.

In a final test of courage, maglia rosa Denis Menchov skidded on the wet cobbles just after the flame rouge. And he was magnificent. We were literally on the edge of our seats, eyes wide. Disbelieving. Courage too was shown by his team mechanic, who was out the car with a replacement bike faster than ... well, Cupid's arrow(?).

Wow, what a finish. Congratulations to all combatants of this historic Giro d'Italia. Extraordinary. Dramatic. Controversial. Memorable. Thrilling. Grazie.

Chechu gave another solid performance today, finishing 70th at 1'30" (just 11" slower than Lance Armstrong). In the final general classification, he was 49th at 1hr 38' 56".

We guess he'll be disappointed yet philosophical. This is a good result, all things considered. It has been the hardest of stage races, and he has endured punctures and crashes, allergies and much, much bottle-carrying. Chechu has done a great job and we continue to be inspired by him.

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

30 May

Stage 20 : Napoli to Anagni, 203km

Fast and strung out. And some final point grabbing for the GC leaders. Chechu crossed the line at 2'48" and is now 49th overall, at 1hr 37' 50".

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

29 May

Stage 19 : Avellino to Vesuvio, 164km

Chechu finished 32nd at 3'47". He's now 50th overall, at 1hr 35' 05".

28 May

Stage 18 : Sulmona to Benevento, 182km

Chechu finished 57th at 3'57". He's now 53rd overall, at 1hr 31' 48".

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27 May

Stage 17 : Chieti to Blockhaus, 83km

There must be many considerations when devising a Grand Tour parcours. Lurking somewhere between safety and challenge is anticipation. This stage was touted as "the big one", and it was certainly interesting.

The 1600m ascent of the Cima Coppi (Blockhaus is this year's highest mountain in the Giro) marked another tribute stage. In 1967, Eddy Merckx burst onto the scene, unleashing his devasting acceleration to win on Blockhaus' race debut.

No matter how many times we were told that this was Danilo Di Luca's stamping ground, and he wanted to win here so badly, he just couldn't do it. Liquigas' Franco Pellizoti chose his moment to create the crucial gap, and he wasn't going to be caught. He crossed the finish line, shrouded in cold, low cloud, with over 40" to spare. Great to see Lance Armstrong tapping the pedals in pursuit, but it was Pellizoti's day.

We saw Chechu at the start of the climb, he looked comfortable. He finished 121 at 16'45". He's now 53rd overall, at 1hr 31' 48".

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

25 May

Stage 16 : Pergola to Monte Petrano, 237km

I'm starting to feel guilty now. These magnificent (and mad!) cyclists are suffering on the hot, steep and difficult Appenine mountains and I shouldn't be enjoying myself. But it is so exciting!

This was a classic stage, like in the tales of cycling folklore, when each cyclist was tested to the limit over seven punishing hours. They rode up and down all day, with three of the four categorised climbs in the last 90km. The descents were dangerous and the mountain finish to Monte Petrano spellbinding. Yaroslav Popovych cleverly launched himself on the final climb and it looked like Astana's first stage win was certain. It wasn't to be though. Despite Popovych's valiant efforts, he was overhauled by TdF champion Carlos Sastre in the final few kilometres with Di Luca and Basso and Menchov chasing, and catching up fast. Brilliant stuff, but it was clear today that everyone was hurting badly. Despite enjoying every moment, I feel some concern.

Great to see Chechu in the chase group, and he had a good ride, finishing 30th at 12'53". He's now 47th overall, at 1hr 15' 51".

Tomorrow is a very welcome rest day!

24 May

Stage 15 : Forlž to Faenza, 161km

Faenza is the home of Majolica pottery, and the training ground of Marco Pantani. This undulating stage had four categorised climbs, and a number of other sharp lumps to overcome, And all at super-hot 27C. Unimaginable.

Chechu preserved his energy today, he'll be needed tomorrow for a classic stage with a difficult mountain finish on Monte Petrano. He finished 114th today, at 22'48". He's is now 57th overall, at 1hr 3' 11".

23 May

Stage 14 : Campi Bisenzio to Bologna (San Luca), 172km

Chechu finished 118th today, at 1'09". He's is now 50th overall, at 42'19".

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

22 May

Stage 13 : Lido di Camaiore - Firenze, 176km

We were treated to panoramic pictures of Florence at the end of today's sprint stage. Ah, Florence ... in our younger days, when we discovered the joy of degustation. In our case, five courses with five, very fine wines, each more deadly with the one previous. Fabulous. I vaguely remember the walk back to the hotel.

Anyway, Mark Cavendish triumphed again today, outsprinting Petacchi, Davis, Farrar and fellow newbie Brit, Ben Swift.

So what do we know about Mark Cavendish? He's the fastest bike racer in the world at this moment. He's from the Isle of Man. Oh, and he's arrogant. The three facts that race commentators discuss every day, sometimes more than once. I think he has to be arrogant, or he just wouldn't be fast any more. Petacchi has the same attitude, only in Italian. And diLuca. And maybe Cippolini. That's what it takes to push your way through the pack, and pedal like hell. Please don't use the A-word too much though. Today, Cav is on top of the world, but give him a few more wins, and the British press will take pleasure in pulling him back down to earth. Arrogance is their hook to headlines.

Was that Chechu on the front of the peloton coming into Florence? Eurosport thought so, but I'm not so sure. There are more the mountains tomorrow, and the next day. He'll be needed then to do his job.

Chechu finished 100th, same time as Cavendish. He is now 43rd overall, at 32'14".

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

21 May

Stage 12 : Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore (ITT), 60.6km

What a strange and tough time trial! Beautiful landscape, but 600 turns! Bonkers. No wonder LA looks increasingly exhausted in his videos, they are going through the ringer on this tour. Christine gave us insight into post-race life, she and Roger stayed at the same hotel as Team Astana during the first few stages.

The team "are all awfully busy on this Giro. They get to the hotel late (often around 7pm) because the stages finish at the same time as office shutdown, and there is a lot of traffic. Also the roads are narrow and not in the best condition. Then they have their massage for one hour. One soigneur does two riders, so the second rider gets done around 9pm. And then it's Italian dinner time."

This is a super-challenge to all the riders in the peloton. Chechu deserves to know that we respect and appreciate his efforts. Send a message of support. Isn't it the least we can do?

Chechu crossed the line in 1:43:29. He now lies 44th overall, at 32'14".

20 May

Stage 11 : Torino to Arenzano (Genova), 214km

It wasn't a super-hard day today, but Chechu lost some time. It happened on the day's only climb when, at 194km, Astana took to the front and strung out the peloton. Chechu was on the front, then he fell back, and was quickly swallowed up by the peloton.

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

That said, he'd already done a lot of chasing. After he'd brought Levi Leipheimer back into the peloton following a third bike change, and after his own back wheel punctured.

We suspect that this has not been a happy Giro for Chechu so far. He told us it's neither been good nor bad. He will look forward though, and not dwell on these last difficult stages. This is a tough Giro.

Chechu finished 165th, at 7'56". He's now 46th overall, at 24'34".

19 May

Stage 10 : Cuneo to Pinerolo, 262km

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

This stage which devours men. The longest stage of this year's Giro celebrated one of the great moments of Italian cycling, the 1949 victory of Fausto Coppi after a 190 kilometre-long solo breakaway.

At 262km, the distance was epic and the climbs iconic. The long solo breakaway was achieved by Stefano Garzelli, but he wasn't to repeat Coppi's historic win of sixty years ago. The explosive finish of maglia rosa Danilo di Luca was spectacular and the tifosi loves him. He looked strong and determined, he's not going to give up that jersey easily.

Chechu crossed the line today in 53rd place, at 6'35". He's now 40th overall, at 16'36". His verdict today, "Ni fu ni fa".

17 May

Stage 9 : Milano Show 100, 165km

Have you ever seen a car hit a cyclist? I did just a couple of years ago. The car turned in the path of the cyclist. The speed was slow, so damage was thankfully limited to bruises. It could have been much worse. The squeal of brakes, the bang, the silence. They stay with you. The fear too. I knew my husband was on the road that day, and due back any minute.

The peloton flexed it's muscles today, stopping at the finish line with six laps remaining. They considered the circuit on the streets of Milan to be unsafe, with badly parked cars, tram-lines and many public crossing points. So the race was neutralised, and the only game-on was for the stage win. No GC places were challenged today.

For a number of years, Chechu has voiced frustration at the organisation of the Giro. In 2007, they raced 12 days straight. Long and difficult stages were followed by nightmare transfers. This year, we asked if he had concerns. "Yes," he replied, "but I see that they don't care about our complaints. They just care about their business and it's the same with the UCI. So there is nothing we can do ..."

Well, they did something today. Questions should be addressed to Milan's city adminstration and policing about the trams and parked cars. But who will ask? The city pay for the privilege of staging this race, you can bet the Giro organisers will tread lightly with them. The UCI? Yeah, right.

Chechu crossed the line today in 170th, same time as super-Briton winner Mark Cavendish. He is still 39th overall, at 9'43".

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

16 May

Stage 8 : Morbegno to Bergamo, 209km

These guys are tough and when they fall, they get up and get back on. Not always though. Today, Rabobank's Pedro Horrillo crashed over the barriers during a descent and fell into a ravine. We can ever forget that this is an extremely dangerous sport. There have been many trans-Atlantic calls and emails on big race days. Did you see him cross the line?

Chechu crossed the line today in 46th place at 1'31". He is now 39th overall, at 9'43".

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

15 May

Stage 7 : Innsbruck (Austria) to Chiavenna, 244km

An interesting day indeed. In protest at the team's financial crisis, Astana's latest team kit had washed out the logos of defaulting sponsors as well as the Kazakh national emblem. IThat contracts haven't been met, and wages haven't been paid isn't acceptable. What a fiasco though ... again.

It was very wet today, as the peloton headed back into Italy after a brief sojourn to Austria and Switzerland. The descending speeds were super fast, and probably dangerous considering the conditions. Lance tweeted that he wasn't best pleased, but this just ain't France.

Chechu finished 80th today, 40" behind stage winner Edvald Boasson Hagen. He now lies 45th overall, at 8'25".

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

14 May

Stage 5 : Bressanone/Brixen to Mayrhofen (Austria), 248km

Chechu finished 95th at 1'15". He now lies 46th overall, at 8'25".

Photographs © Graham Watson, Team Astana

13 May

Stage 5 : San Martino Di Castrozza to Alpe di Siusi, 125 km

It was a long, hard climb to the finish and many top riders were dropped as Liquigas set a cracking pace.

Lance Armstrong tapped away steady and strong, accompanied by Chechu, Brakjovic and Navarro, and although he lost three minutes to stage winner Denis Menchov, determination and true grit was written on his face.

Photograph © Graham Watson, Team Astana

I confess I wasn't sure about Ride for LiveStrong, it felt like we'd been there before. It felt like I needed to do something closer to home. But I've been wearing the band for nearly five years and I want to support Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong. The target is $275,000, yet they're lucky if they've got $15,000 so far. It doesn't seem enough for all that effort and pain on the Alpe di Siusi today.

This man ... heck, these men are entertaining us for free. The least we can do is give a few dollars. Make a donation today.

Chechu finished 34th at 2'58". He now lies 43rd overall, at 7'46".

12 May

Stage 4 : Padova to San Martino di Castrozza, 162km

Trailed as the first real test for Lance Armstrong - would he be able to keep up with the favourites - it actually went rather well for the Boss today. He finished only 15" down on a rampant Danilo di Luca.

We watched di Luca at the Tour of Britain last year, and I couldn't take him all in. He's so physically small but he absolutely pulses with energy and grit, even on the podium. I'm not surprised at his fearsome speed today to take the stage win.

Chechu rode towards the front on the peloton in the last 20km. To me, he looked a bit dehydrated but what do I know! It wasn't the steepest of climbs to the finish so hopefully he didn't hit the wall. It was a spectacular route, the first day in the Dolomites. It will be tougher tomorrow.

We need to find him a safe, legal hayfever remedy. Any ideas?

Chechu finished 60th at 3'02". He now lies 54th overall, at 4'40".

Photographs © Graham Watson, Team Astana

11 May

Stage 3 : Grado to Valdobbiadene, 198km

After a long stage, it was another sprinters finish, and Petacchi made it two in a row.

Chechu lost some time today after a crash near the front of the peloton with 10km to go. Many riders, including maglia rosa Mark Cavendish and Chechu, were delayed behind the spillage.

Chechu finished the stage 98th at 1'25", and now lies 55th overall, at 1'56".

Photograph © Bettiniphoto,

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10 May

Stage 2 : Jesolo to Trieste, 156km

AS the nervous, day two peloton careered around the narrow streets of Trieste, David Harmon (@spokesmen), commentating for Eurosport, was building the tension with genuine concern. Crashes were inevitable, and although nobody wants to see a pile-up, the prospect raises tension and excitement. Thankfully, no-one was hurt today. Perfect planning by race organisers. It was definitely tense and exciting.

Some glimpses of Lance in the last few laps, sadly none of Chechu. But it seems he was there, and finished just ahead of Astana's team leader in 41st place, and was given the same time as sprint winner Alessandro Petacchi.

Chechu now lies 11th overall, at 27".

9 May

Stage 1 : Lido di Venezia TTT, 20.5km

Photograph © Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images

Team Astana finished third in the team time trial. Chechu lies 20th overall, at 13".

Photographs © Bettiniphoto,

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