Blazin' Saddles

Belletti confetti

Blazin' Saddles

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On the day after the day that the very foundations of modern cycling's stratosphere were left quivering with Landisgracity following the confirmation of what most of us had really suspected for, erm, quite some time now, it was left to an unassuming local lad (with terrible tattoos) to remind us just why we also love the sport.

It's not just the ongoing doping soap opera which keeps us transfixed, it's the rare occurrence when the result goes the right way and a wave of sentimentality knocks us off our surfboard of Armstrongonian Schadenfreude.

People kept saying on Friday that you couldn't have written a better script than what the previous day had thrown our way - right from the publishing of Floyd Landis's emails to the RadioShack retaliation and, unpropitiously, Armstrong's painful crash in California.

But you can. Ish. Manuel Belletti's win wouldn't make as good a film as the Larmstrongis debacle - but it would make a good episode of, say, Dawson's Creek.

The 24-year-old hails from Cesana, just five kilometres (and a tico) from the stage 13 finish in Cesanatico. This was Marco Pantani territory, the Pirate having popped his clogs in a rundown Rimini hotel around the corner back in February 2002.

It was ironic that Pantani's spectre should have hovered above a stage on such a day as this. So too was the passing by of the small village of Valverde on the Adriatic Coast near Pesaro. Surely the place would have undergone a name change by now?
Belletti was in floods of tears on the podium, the win meant to much to him. It's refreshing to see a rider cry after winning - not just after making a confession about systematic doping.

Belletti is yet another rider to have won a debut Grand Tour stage on this Giro. Saddles makes that six out of 13 now. And coming 24 hours after Filippo Pozzato's win, it doubled Italy's triumph tally in this ever unpredictable Giro.

For a guy who didn't even have a Wikipedia page on Friday morning, it was a career-defining moment. Colnago-CSF Inox will be pleased too (whatever they do - toothpaste manufacturer?). Team Sky's Greg Henderson will be kicking himself for missing out with second, but that's neither here nor there.

The mover of the day was Vladimir Karpets, who most people deemed crazy when he went off in pursuit of the leaders, who were 10 minutes ahead, with 60km to go.
At one point, Saddles got all excited about the possibility of a 'Karpets Bomb' headline - but that will have to wait till another day. Still, the owner of cycling's favourite mullet managed to claw back 2'25" over his GC rivals. Time will tell whether or not it was worth it.

Oh, and before we go, just a quick last reference to Thursday's blog. Out of all the comments made underneath, Saddles was particularly impressed with one: "Guess in the end everyone is entitled to their own favourite cheat." Kind of sums up the current mood in a nutshell, doesn't it?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The elbow's starting to hurt most now but the face isn't exactly great. I need the eye to see but the biggest issue for racing is the elbow. [...] What do you do? I've never stopped a race like this before. F***ing sh*t! Where are we man? Are there hospitals here?" Armstrong's reaction to his more immediate worries after coming a cropper in California.

Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the Giro and the ongoing Landisgrace on

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