Over the first six stages of the Giro d'Italia, a variety of errors and problems have caused the Fassa Bortolo team to fail to launch Alessandro Petacchi, the greatest pro cycling sprinter, to victory. As I watch the Giro stages, I'm struck by how perfectly things have to go in order for Petacchi and his team to win each stage.
No better example of this was the situation in Stage 6 when the leadout rider for Fassa crashed in a tight turn in the finishing circuit in Marina di Grosseto. This crash involved all of the Fassa riders, meaning that Petacchi didn't even get the opportunity to sprint for the finish.
While the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team does not generally contend for sprint victories in stage races, I feel that there is some similarity in the difficulty of executing a plan that results in Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France again and again, and with Petacchi trying to win each sprint.
In both cases, these riders enter the races that they specialize in as the prohibitive favorites. All of the other contenders plan their races in terms of how to stop them.
I look at the orchestration necessary for Fassa Bortolo to achive a sprint stage victory as a microcosm of a grand tour. With all of the stage victories that Fassa has achieved in the Giro and the Tour de France over the last couple of seasons, it surprises me when they don't win. I think that they are planning their races just as carefully as they did in the past, but due to bad luck or lack of concentration, they have not been able to finish with the expected flourish.
Doesn't this make the victories that the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team (formerly the United States Postal Service) has achieved in the Tour de France over the last six years even more amazing?