Blazin' Saddles

One hell of a weekend

Blazin' Saddles

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Stage eight's foggy ascent up the
Terminillo may have not brought the drama of the Tuscan grit tracks on Saturday
but it capped off a fabulous weekend's racing in the Giro.

Luxembourgeois Dane Chris Anker Sorensen
picked up a maiden Grand Tour victory, following the example of Jerome Pineau
and Matthew Lloyd, two other riders to join the Big Boys' club in this
enthralling Giro.

But all eyes were on the select chasing
group, which contained all of the Giro's big guns except a rather out-of-sorts
Carlos Sastre. After the brutal heroics of Saturday, it came as no surprise
that both Alexandre Vinokourov and Cadel Evans played out a war of attrition.

Vino managed to blot out the abuse from
home Italian fans, still stewing in disgruntlement after the Kazakh refused to
wait for Liquigas pair Vincenzo Nibali and Ivan Basso following their
calamitous tumble before Saturday's dirt road section.

"Vinokourov - now you've lost your
respect as well," read one banner - presumably from an irate Italian fan a
bit slow on the uptake. That said, Vino made no mistake in taking advantage of
circumstances to take back the pink jersey - and Saddles is not the only one to
hold that opinion.

Most directeurs sportifs came out in
support of Vino's actions - and neither Basso nor Nibali actually complained.

It's a bit like the annoying unwritten rule
in football which decrees a team must return the ball to the opposition after
an opponent has gone down injured. Sometimes it's all well and good - but on
occasion it is highly unnecessary. In this case, Vino had every right to keep
the ball.

The general consensus from Saturday's stage
was that, although brutal, the use of the 'strade bianche' had been a success;
a return of cycling to a time where riders were heroes. The Dutch experiment
may have been a bit ramshackle, but the Giro organisers must be praised for
their use of these gravel tracks - it's a welcome innovation the ASO would
never have the balls to try out during the Tour.

Of course, the only people who wouldn't
have appreciated all that mud were the guys at Team Sky whose swanky new bus
interior would have been somewhat soiled. But you can't win them all, can you?

: Across the Atlantic, Mark Cavendish
reminded team-mate and rival Andre Greipel how's it's done with victory in the
opening stage of the Tour of California.

Cav avoided a multitude of crashes -
including a rather hefty fall by Tom Boonen - to win his third scalp of the
season. Somewhat anticlimactically, the Manxman didn't celebrate by making a
V-sign with one hand and flicking the middle finger with his other.

Boonen, who made crashing his speciality
during last year's Tour de France, quelled rumours that he broke his collarbone
in the fall, although US riders George Hincapie and Matt Crane did admit both
to have driven over the prostrate Belgian.

"Boonen was on the ground in front of
me. I really couldn't do anything to avoid him and I T-boned him," said
Crane, displaying an ingenious use of a type of steak as a transitive verb.

: "My form was good, but my health
is not good." Alessandro Petacchi tells a half-truth after quitting the
Giro due to bronchitis.

Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the Giro on

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