Photo: Graham Watson, from Velo News
If you ask me, Danilo "The Killer" Di Luca has been the star of the Giro d’Italia. He's in good form, hungry and is racing smart.
He's held the maglia rosa (pink jersey of the overall race leader - like the yellow jersey of the Tour de France) for 5 stages after winning it by coming in 2nd to Menchov in the short but tough climbing Stage 5. Being the leader adds stress, but Di Luca seems to be handling it well. He's used his team wisely and hasn't wasted energy fending off false attacks or chasing non-threats. But he's not boring - he's got fire.
Yesterday's Stage 10 was a classic. I watched the evening coverage on Universal Sports (digital broadcast TV channel 5.2 in my area, also available on some cable and satellite TV). It was a long 262 km (163 mile) course over 3 categorized climbs. Six and a half grueling hours on the bike.
Stefano Garzelli went off on a solo break before the first major climb (dreams of Fausto Coppi glory?) and stayed in the lead until caught by Giovanni Visconti and Andriy Grivko of ISD after they managed a long bridge up to him with 20 km to go. It looked like the 3 breakaway riders would make it stick, but the peloton ramped up to an amazing speed and closed the gap before breaking into several packs up the last climb. Di Luca was in the lead group of very capable riders like Menchov, Sastre and Arroyo when he put the hammer down with 3 km to go and rode hard to the finish to take the stage win (see photo above).
Watching Di Luca take that stage was exciting and impressive. He timed his move right and rode strong. He didn't need to take the stage to remain the race leader, but the win and time bonus increased his lead and makes a strong statement. And it was just plain gutsy and cool.
I'm glad Universal is covering the Giro, but as usual it's a mixed bag. The commercial are lame and in big blocks (thankfully I have a DVR to deal with this). The announcers are green and frequently babble on about silly things, but I give them some slack because they're obviously trying to reach out to the non-cycling-fans. And they focus on Lance too much, but they're just appealing to national pride and the only cyclist name many Americans know. The camera work is very good with lots of helicopter and motorcycle shots that give a good feel for the race. The views of the Italian countryside are stunning - makes me want to go there.
Along that line, the Giro appears to be a good race to spectate - way fewer fans than the Tour de France, awesome scenery, and good racing. The announcers noted that the Giro is much less controlled than the Tour de France with fans being able to mix with the racers much more freely. The Devil (or very good look-a-like) made an appearance. Put simply, the Giro is a great race.
So thanks, Killer, for making this 100th anniversary Giro already one to remember.