Iban got of to a good start, riding well in the opening TTT, before being well ahead on the first two summit-finishes. It all looked rosy for Iban and Saunier, but come the next mountain stage, he was nowhere to be seen. Iban knows the stage to Briancon like the back of his hand, and was eager to impress. But then it all went wrong. On the Colle dell`Agnello, Iban was sent back to the team-car to pick up water bottles for Simoni, Cañada and "Litu". Iban was the one who had to pick them up as the Saunier chiefs reckoned Iban was the best climber, and that he wouldn`t have any problems getting back to the pack. But, when Iban was with the car, loading up bottle after bottle, Piepoli and Ricco` intended to get clear. Liquigas started a mad chase, and Iban, far back, and with loads of bottles, gave it his all to rejoin the now much thinner lead group. He just made it, totally exhausted, and understood straight away that he wouldn`t be able to fight for the win after such a massive effort so early on. Realising this, Iban took his foot of the gas and rode the rest of the stage at a moderate pace. Iban saw this as a good chance to get some high-quality training in ahead of the Tour, and therefore languished in, seemingly unaffected, way back. The next day seemed tailor-made for Iban. The Oropa hill ITT would provide a good chance for Iban to shine, and I expected a lot of him. Though, he got some technical problems early on, with the derailleur to be precise, and, with no captain to ride for or a high overall placing in jeopardy, he took it easy again, and rolled in mid-pack. At the Tre Cime stage, Iban stayed with Simoni until the lakes, before dropping backwards to conserve some strength for later, as he saw straight away that he couldn`t win the stage. He tried on the Zoncolan several times early on, as was clear for all to see. He looked really strong and totally unaffected by the gradient, but decided to chill out again as he didn`t think it would be possible for him to win the stage with the GC contenders all wanting the win. With an eye on tomorrow`s stage, he relaxed, so that he will have enough energy left to join the break that will go all the way tomorrow.
All this info comes from a guy on Iban`s forum. Sopelan is his name, though I have no idea who he is. But, most importantly, he seems to know Iban well, and certainly knows what he`s talking about. He pointed to an interview with Iban on Wednesday, where Iban allegedly said that he`s been conserving strength and energy for Friday`s stage as well as the fast-approaching Tour de France. Thank you Sopelan, whoever you are, for clearing things up a little. It made me feel so much better to know that Iban`s in fact in great shape, and that he`ll be giving it a go tomorrow. I hope this article will have cleared some things up for all you readers as well. Iban will win tomorrow, trust me. Aupa Iban!