Redemption, drama, and the road up Genna Silana

Giro D’Italia: Stage 2 – Olbia to Tortoli (221km)

Today’s Bardiani “atonement” breakaway rider was Simone Andreetta.

The race would be between Daniel Teklehaimanot and Evgeny Shalanov. At least bit where they climbed the Genna Silana would be.

They were the last of the day’s initial breakaway, and were sparring on their way up the Category-2 climb. But with 3 km to go the peloton was closing in fast.

Teklehaimanot wanted the KOM points, and the jersey that came with it. He’d wanted the same a day earlier, but found himself repeatedly punished each time he tried to reach the line first, mainly by Cesare Benedetti, but also by whoever else had the legs to get past. Like Shalunov’s teammate Pavel Brutt, who had evidently dropped back to his team car to collect salt to rub on Teklehaimanot’s wounds as he edged him on the line.

Like the very best herculean efforts, it had come to nothing. Reached the summit Teklehaimanot’ legs seemed to stop temporarily in front of thousands of pink clad fans… he was almost knocked over by a balloon.

So Shalunov was more than happy to play the bogeyman.

But even as TV pictures caught glimpse of Teklehaimanot rubbing his thighs, and later flinging his arm about to get the blood working, the Eritrean looked the stronger. We knew this. Shalunov knew this. He would have to try every trick in the book.

Shalunov tries to Marty McFly technique of getting out of a tough spot

He attacked once, then attacked again. But each time Teklehaimanot managed to haul him back. Then Shalunov attempted the Marty McFly “what the hell is that!?” system, pointing over the shoulder of Teklehaimanot at an enormous make-believe threat with big teeth and claws. Teklehaimanot was unmoved.

After all he was in the breakaway for the second time, on course for the Fuga Pinarello prize awarded to the rider — or lunatic depending on your point of view — who spends the most time as part of the break. You don’t do that sort of thing without intent, which in Teklehaimanot’s case meant the KOM jersey, which he intended to win even if it meant his teammates would have to scoop him off the road at the finish and push him to the hotel in a shopping trolley.

Teklehaimanot uses the last of his energy to raise his thumb

As the peloton surged into view Teklehaimanot left Shalunov to be swallowed up, and powered through the last 200 meters to the summit alone, collecting the 15 points to finally put him in blue. It worked. Teklehaimanot would end the day as the first Eritrean to lead the KOM in the Giro – a point he probably realised as he hung his arms over his handlebars, exhausted, and gave the camera a thumbs up.

Leave your comments on this post below. You can also follow Off The Back on Twitter: @OffTheBackBlog or on Facebook. Alternatively use the sign up box above to ensure you never miss a post.

Advertisements

When all else fails

Tour of Croatia: Stage 6 – Samobor to Zagreb

It had been a long break, and Evgeny Shalunov had been in the thick of it all day.

It was the final stage of the Tour of Croatia, a last chance to cross the line for glory. But while Shalunov had been there all day, with 6 km to race he was faced with an inconvenient truth too hard to ignore.

Looking at his fellow breakaway riders Shalunov figured he was out-gunned, out-sprinted, and outpaced on the first climb through Zagreb, left with little to show for his efforts than a desperate chase to rejoin the leaders at the summit to do it all again. Twice.

So as they approached the climb for the penultimate time Shalunov did the only rational thing he could do given the circumstances. Throwing away any sense of what was rational, he teamed up with his brain and tried to fool his legs that they were not about to fall off.

Then, with his common sense running after him shouting “you’re about to make a terrible mistake!” Shalunov did the unthinkable, and attacked.

Surely there was no chance he could maintain such a burst of speed up such a punishing climb? But sure enough, there he was, surging forward, chewing up a 10 per cent gradient while the others gritted their teeth trying keep up.

Well… for a few seconds anyway.

Then the same voice yelled: “I told you so!” Which came at the exact same moment his legs realised they’d been duped.

But it had been a glorious move while it lasted, however brief. The others soon caught him, and then left him, and his common sense, and his legs, to be swallowed up by the peloton. But all three had earned their pay.

Still, better to shine brightly and fail, than not at all. Not exactly a marketing slogan for Shalunov’s team Gazprom, but certainly good enough for him.

Leave your comments on this post below. You can also follow Off The Back on Twitter: @OffTheBackBlog or on Facebook. Alternatively use the sign up box above to ensure you never miss a post.

Things getting out of hand for Van Goethem

Driedaagse De Panne: Stage 2 – Zottegem to Koksijde

Trouble for Van Goethem

It’s not easy to take a turn up front in the break when your shirt is up to your armpits, your left arm is nearly dislocated trying to reach a pocket, and two different riders have tried and failed to help you put a radio transmitter, now kaput, into the pocket of your bib short. But this was the fate of Brian Van Goethem today, on stage 2 of the Driedaagse De Panne.

With 70 km still to race Van Goethem problems were two-fold: mechanical, and wardrobe. Noticing this, and figuring a problem shared was a problem halved, two fellow riders stepped up to help.

Shalunov takes matters into his own hands

First there was Evgeny Shalunov of Gazprom-RusVelo who, noticing Van Goethem’s distress, reached over to hoist the jersey up over the radio and help a guy out. The Dutchman looked back at Shalunov. From TV pictures it was unclear whether he was thanking him, or telling him to keep his hands off the merchandise. Either way Shalunov quickly pedaled away.

Moments later Lawrence Naesen of WB Veranclassic appeared alongside. Van Goethem had by now managed to get the radio into the pocket, but his jersey was still all over the place.

Naesen reaches over to help

Naesen looked on, in that way you watch a child trying to tie shoelaces for the first time, and unable to stay out of it any longer reached over to help, trying to pull the jersey down from Van Goethem’s ribs down to his waist. Again Van Goethem looked over, and again it was unclear what was said. All we do know is that Van Goethem isn’t ticklish.

They rode on, Van Goethem looking back for his team car, then back at Naesen who now laughing. Meanwhile there was no sign of help.

Or was there?

In the distance Van Goethem might have seen his Roompot team mate Pim Ligthart (and Alex Kirsch of WB Veranclassic) furiously trying to bridge the gap. Who knows, maybe Ligthart was on a mission to inform Van Goethem that his radio wasn’t working, and that perhaps he should drop back to the car and get it replaced.

We’ll never know for sure whether Ligthart delivered such a message, or whether Van Goethem subsequently told Ligthart where he could shove that message if it was. If so Naesen and Shalunov were on hand to help.

Leave your thoughts about this post, including any feedback, in the comments below. You can also follow Off The Back on Twitter: @OffTheBackBlog or fill in your email address in the sign up box above to never miss a post.