Objective: Pink Jersey

05 May 2004

The 1993 Giro d'Italia started from Isola D' Elba: a short stage in the morning and an even shorter time trial in the afternoon.

Two days before the start, the teams were already on location, busy with the last preparations. I was there too, among the Mecair-Ballan crew with Moreno Argentin, and as usual I had my bike with me.

The day prior to the start of the Corsa Rosa, early in the morning, I was pedaling on the roads of the first semitappa. After just 4 km the road was already going up through a forest: the gradient was not impossible, but the course was extremely winding. The pavement had been rendered wet and slippery by the heavy rain of the days before, and a carpet of dead leaves and pine needles had covered it almost completely.

The following ascent, always in the shade of the forest, was very dangerous. A couple of other climbs had similar asperities. It was undoubtedly a difficult start, and an ideal ground for ambush.

As I got back to the hotel, I spoke about it with Argentin and the team director Emanuele Bombini. Argentin, being a professional for more than 10 years, had never worn the Pink Jersey, even though he had all the qualities to do it: an extraordinary hunter of the Classics and a great finisseur, he had placed third in the Giro d'Italia of 1984, after Moser and Fignon.

The great favorites for the final victory of the stage race were all focused on the noon time trial: Indurain, Bugno, Chiappucci, Fondriest tried their special TT bikes on the course more than once.

The morning of the race, the alarm clock for the Mecair team riders was set at 5.30 a.m.: they went out for a "pre-warm up" of 40-50 km, then a little breakfast and finally the start of the semitappa at 9 o' clock

As the flag gave the start, the group was already stretched and long, broken by the first climb and especially by the insidious descents. Lots of riders, still "cold" in the first hours of the morning, struggled to keep the furious pace; while none of the "greats" were able to keep in the front. Attack after attack, a small group of 5 riders was able to break away and gain ground in a few km; Argentin was among them.

The rough profile of the Isola D'Elba and the fierce wind made a further ruthless selection on the fugitives and Argentin found himself ahead of everyone with a 3 minutes advantage. In the last 20 km the great Indurain put his whole team, full force, in the head of the peloton: eventually the gap was reduced to just below 2 minutes.

Argentin held the jersey for more than a week. Indurain took the Giro.

I'm sure also this next Giro d'Italia, with some very nervous and hard courses from the beginning, is going to present situations and possibilities that might give surprising outcomes to those with courage and fantasy.