Tuesday, May 12, 2009

will he, won't he?

by Graham Watson

Will he, won't he, seems to be a better question that can he or can he not? After just a few days of this highly compelling race, the Giro reaches the mountains today with Mr. Lance Armstrong in 5th place overall and inciting a lot of speculation as to what his true intentions are. There are enough Lance fans in Italy and on the Giro to sway opinion that it is he, and not Levi, who will win or at least try to win the Giro for Astana, and even the experts are re-considering their predictions that Lance is only here to train.

It is hard not to agree with this suggestion, for Lance has been the team's dominant figure since last Saturday's team time trial. It was he who put in that last-kilometer surge, it was him that sprinted for the line in Venice as if his life depended on the result. And it has been him who's constantly on or near the front of the race in the final kilometres. Of Levi, we've seen nothing of him at all, save for yesterday's brief sorty in a late escape. Today, and if not today then tomorrow, we may well find out what Lance and Astana are up to...

It's rare for the Giro to reach the mountains so soon, and perhaps we shouldn't expect great racing right away. But the Italians know they have to garner themselves to test Astana's leadership and try to inflict some degree of damage to Levi and Lance's chances overall - so expect some mighty attacks on both uphill finishes. The finish at San Martino di Costrozza is not that tough, and most people expect a sprint finish to be fought between power climbers like Cunego and DiLuca, with someone like Michael Rogers taking the race-lead by virtue of his team's efforts last Saturday. That's if Lance doesn't put in an attack himself to take the Maglia Rosa and therefore confirm he is here for the training and will be happy to hand the pink jersey to Levi some time later.

It is tomorrow's so-short stage to Alpe di Siusi that has people talking, for the 25-kilometer ascent to the finish is tough and certain to change the classification of this race for good. By then, win or not - in pink or not - a lot of the spin about Lance and Levi will have been straightened out. I'm looking forward to working the mountains so soon in the Giro, for me the suffering and attacking cannot come soon enough, even though it will only last a few days...

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