Bruyneel: Paolo rode like a champion

Johan Bruyneel is full of praise for Paolo Savoldelli after the Italian capitalises on a bad day for

Johan Bruyneel is full of praise for Paolo Savoldelli after the Italian capitalises on a bad day for

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Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel must be enjoying his weekend watching the television at home in Spain. With Discovery's Yaroslav Popovych already leading in the Tour of Catalonia and seemingly heading for victory, on Saturday team-mate Paolo Savoldelli moved into the leader's maglia rosa at the Giro in the American team's first appearance in the race.

"The stage win from the other day was great but today I think he rode like a champion," said Bruyneel about Savoldelli's taking of the race lead from Ivan Basso on stage 13 to Ortesei. "He went with [Gilberto] Simoni when he attacked without any doubt, he just went with him. When he saw Basso was in trouble, he took over and then dropped Simoni. He said after he had a great day, had very good legs. If he hadn't lost all that time in the beginning behind that crash (43 seconds in stage four, 10 days ago), his lead would be around one and a half minutes."

However, Bruyneel remained realistic about the rest of the race. "In my opinion, Basso remains the favourite. Everybody can have a bad day and it's pretty clear Basso did today. Normally, he would have stayed with Simoni and [Danilo] Di Luca. Basso had a bad day, Paolo can have an off day also. It's better to be ahead than behind, but we have to remain realistic and just think about the podium. That's been my goal since the start, the podium, and it's still like that.

"We are not thinking about winning the Giro. Basso has proven in the other stages he is very strong and there is still a time trial to come. Everything until now has been great for Paolo, being in the leader's jersey in the Tour of Italy, it's amazing. It's proof the stage win from the other day was not a single happening. He's in great shape and has worked very hard to get there."

Savoldelli said the stage showed that in "cycling, anything can happen. On the last climb of a mountain stage it's about whoever has the most energy and I was the strongest today. When Gilberto Simoni attacked I went with him. I saw that Basso didn't move and so I accelerated and went clear on my own. I faded near the top of the climb but hung on and managed to keep a decent gap on Basso."

The only down point for Discovery was the retirement of Ryder Hesjedal, leaving Savoldelli with just six team-mates to protect his lead. "There is still a long way to go to Milan and the team we have now is not the strongest at the moment. We'll have to take it day by day. One thing is certain - they have to make up the time, so we're in the driver's seat," said Discovery DS Sean Yates.

Basso admitted the whole stage had been a struggle for him. "I felt sick and had a stomach ache right from the start, but I hoped it would get better as the stage went on. Well, it didn't and I really suffered on the last climb. I tried to limit the damage, and compared to how bad I felt, the time loss wasn't too bad. I've always known you can't take anything for granted in a race like this, and anyone can have a bad day for one reason or another, and today it was my turn. Now I'm hoping for a speedy recovery, so I can attempt to recapture the jersey," he said.

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