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Discovery Channel sport director Sean Yates isn't one to mince words, but he can't help but sound confident ahead of the Giro's three-day finale high in the Italian Alps.
Discovery Channel team leader and Giro race leader Paolo Savoldelli finished with the main bunch in Wednesday's run to the Italian Riviera safely tucked behind four team-mates coming across the line in Varazze to conserve his 25-second lead to Danilo Di Luca. With two-time Giro champ Gilberto Simoni at 1-48 back, Yates said the team is cautiously optimistic Il Falco won't lay an egg on the road to Milan.
"We're not counting our chicks before they're hatched, but we are in a good position," Yates said. "Paolo is the favorite. He can put time on people in the time trial and he won't get dropped in the mountains. All things being equal, he's got a very good chance."
The three-day shoot-out above Turin plays into Disco's hands despite not having the strongest team for the mountains. Savoldelli will have to fend for himself in Thursday's 194km climbing stage with a summit finish up Colle Tenda and Saturday's 190km stage to Sestriere - but so will everyone else, Yates says.
"The way these stages are, we aren't at a big disadvantage without having a lot of climbers, because when the shit hits the fan, there are going to be just two or three guys anyway," he said. "Everyone wants to have a team like Lance at the Tour who set a pace so hard that only Lance can follow. Sometimes you've got to fight for it."
Yates admitted Savoldelli's rise is a surprise even to them. After two injury-plagued seasons with T-Mobile, even Savoldelli modestly set a goal of "being among the best." Now that he is the best, Discovery is rising to the occasion, doing the best they can to protect Savoldelli's flanks until the decisive final climbs.
"We haven't got the strongest team in the world, but we didn't think we'd be coming to this race with Paolo poised to win the Giro with three days to go," he said. "We're not a weak team, the other six guys are giving 110 per cent and they're riding as hard as anyone. Everyone might be saying we don't have a strong team - blah, blah, blah - but we're the ones with the lead."
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