Blazin' Saddles

Downhill dramatics

Blazin' Saddles

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Vincenzo Nibali zipped downhill quicker than the Greek stock exchange on his way to winning his first ever grand tour stage victory on Saturday.

The Shark from Sicily showed more daring than Evil Knievel as he pulled clear of the Usual Suspects of this year's Giro on a wet descent of Monte Grappa, aptly winning 'a solo' in Asolo.

It was a real masterclass in descending - and one which would have made even Fabian Cancellara utter "pas mal" while stroking his ample chin in tacit appreciation.

Blazin' Saddles has always been a big fan of the boy Nibali. The 25 year-old has showed real promise for the last two seasons and finally he's been awarded with a maiden stage victory on the big stage.

In Saddles' humble view, Nibali is a better general classification prospect than his Liquigas team-mate Ivan Basso - which is quite something considering he wasn't meant to be racing the Giro in the first place.

Franco Pellizotti's dodgy biological passport opened the door for Nibali - and if you believe the gossip, it was the latter's own blood ID that proved the stumbling block when Team Sky came knocking last summer.

Like most people, Saddles is dismayed by this constant cloud of doping hanging above anyone who achieves anything in the sport. Only the other day, Saddles learnt that seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong had been accused by a former team-mate of blood doping and using EPO. Can you believe it?!

Back to the racing, Nibali made it three Italian stage wins in three days after what had been a cataclysmic drought for the home nation. The ratio of maiden grand tour stage victors to been-there-done-its is now up to 50:50. Surely this is some kind of record? Answers on a postcard below.

With Basso taking second, it was a memorable one-two for both Liquigas and Italy. World champion Cadel Evans, finishing fourth between Scarponi and Vino, must have felt like being a few doping allegations short of acceptance with that kind of entourage.

Anyway, with David Arroyo now in pink ahead of a final week of largely mountainous terrain, there's a big chance that the Spaniard may stay ahead all the way to Verona. You would have got great odds on that two weeks ago, that's for sure.

This is really turning out to be the most exciting and unpredictable Giro in many years. Of course last year's race was epic, but somewhat soured by Danilo Di Luca's subsequent fall from grace. Such a thing won't happen again this year, though. Will it?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Someone will go on the descent but first there will be a battle on the climb." No one can blame Nibali of not warning his rivals...

Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the Giro and the ongoing Landisgrace on www.twitter.com/saddleblaze.

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