ALPE DI PAMPEAGO, Italy (VN) — Michele Scarponi and his Lampre-ISD remain confident despite some dangerous signs in the Dolomite Mountains on Wednesday, in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
The Italian formed part of an elite group with pink jersey Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda), Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Rigoberto Urán (Sky) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Inox) on the Passo Giau. But in the last kilometer, he lost ground and over the top and trailed by 20 seconds.
Only a desperate and dangerous ride down to Cortina d’Ampezzo saved his day and his chance to defend his overall title. He re-joined at two kilometers left, and ahead of today’s stage to Alpe di Pampeago he trailed Rodríguez by 1’36”.
“I’m tired! I’m tired and I hope the others are worse off than I am!” Scarponi told VeloNews at the Lampre team bus this morning in Treviso.
The race sees its last two mountain days today and tomorrow. After Pampeago today, they race over the Mortirolo and Stelvio on Saturday. If the others are going to try to get an advantage over Hesjedal before Milan’s 30km TT, they’ll need to make their moves soon, and Scarponi is not hiding his intentions.
“I’m starting today confident to be able to play my cards and try to win the Giro d’Italia,” he added. “The others are thinking about their power. I’d be worried if I were them.”
Scarponi rode off surrounded by a mechanic and a circle of fans after Friday’s stage. They hope that today Scarponi will erase any doubts from Cortina d’Ampezzo and attack to win.
“Everyone is waiting for these last two days because, in the end, whoever wants to win the race has to play their cards today,” Lampre sports director, Maurizio Piovani told VeloNews. “I’m convinced that whoever wants to win the Giro will have to show themselves today. Pampeago is a hard stage, you have to do it two times and doesn’t allow for any excuses.
“They have to face the Stelvio tomorrow – it will be hard. It won’t be as bad though, as the Mortirolo is too far away to make the difference. If you don’t go today then it will stay status quo to the Milan time trial, and [then] it’s likely Hesjedal will win.”
Piovani and Scarponi admitted cramps were the problem over the Passo Giau. Others, including Hesjedal, suffered cramps that day too.
“If Michele had cramps two days ago, maybe one of the others will today. The Pampeago is a climb that doesn’t offer excuses. It’s a stage that won’t allow excuses,” Piovani added.
“It’s not a bad sign. It was hot stage. You have to drink a lot. It was an episode which could’ve happened to anyone. We are calm; we are not lowering our guard. He’s still convinced to do something great; he’s still fighting to win this Giro. Otherwise, if you start already beat, then there’s no reason to start racing these three days.”