DiLuca In Pink, Zabel Confesses

May 24 2007

How about that DiLuca, eh? Gapped Simoni over the Izoard despite The Spider’s frequent surges, and denied him the stage win twice in the final KM. Maybe Bobke Strut was wrong after all. Gibo didn’t do so poorly himself, but I’m sure he would have like to have taken back some Stage 1 TTT losses today. Also in the Top 5 were ’04 Giro Champ Damiano Cunego, up-and-comer Andy Schleck, and…73kg, grizzled, 11-year veteran Eddy Mazzoleni?

Though the Astana rider’s been a competent climbing domestique for a number of teams, I think the Cyclingnews commentator asked a very pertinent question during today’s climb of the Izoard. And I do find it a bit hard to believe the answer has nothing to do with Mazzo’s alleged involvement in Operacion Puerto (“Amigo de Birillo”, it’s claimed) and Operazione Athena, especially when he’s married to Ivan Basso’s (hot) sister, and rode last year on Jan Ullrich’s team.

But enough speculation. Not everyone did well today, notably Paolo Savodelli (+5:49) and Yaroslav Popovych (+6:49). I’d say it’s fairly certain they can kiss the maglia rosa good-bye. Stephano Garzelli and Richardo Ricco also cracked a bit (each lost over 2 minutes), meaning that, at a simpleminded glance, it’s now a four way race between DiLuca, Simoni, Cunego and Schleck. Of course, the GC reflects none of this due to the corn/shotgun effect mentioned here at Cyclocosm earlier this week. Tomorrow’s doofy uphill TT stage should make it all just that more clear.

And because I am sick of Spanish stage races and UCI ProTour giganticism, I’ll only mention the Volta a Catalunya in passing, as a segue to today’s obligatory doping news. See, Erik Zabel dropped out uncharacteristically yesterday, meaning that Stage 2 might well be his last pro race ever. Why? Because he manfully came forward and admitted doping in tandem with his hetero-life-mate Rolf Aldag.

Zabel apparently did less EPO than Richard Virenque puts on his breakfast baguette, but Ete still stood tall and took the heat. WADA might stick him with a career-ending suspension (two years from now, Zabel will be nearly 39), but I’ll certainly never forget that the flat-topped German raced always as a professional, and left the sport an honest man.

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