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Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Report - Stage 4
By Locutus
Date: 5/17/2007
Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Report - Stage 4
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Danilo "Nuke" Di Luca (Liquigas). He was looking a bit peaked on the early sections of the climb, likely suffering from the effects of the crash that took him down along with dozens of others in the rain. But when the whip came down, Di Luca showed why he is looking like a real, legitimate threat for the top step of the final podium. His teammates were patient, setting the pace and letting the unimportant attacks go up the road. When Di Luca hit the front in the final few hundred meters, nobody could come even close to challenging him. The closest man to Di Luca on GC who is not a teammate is 53" back, and Di Luca now has minutes on many of his biggest rivals. Yeah, it's still early in the race, but the lead that Di Luca has is now, officially, not trivial.
  • Julio "Smiley" Perez (Ceramiche Panaria). Boy, it does my heart good to see the magic Mexican rider flying off the front on another daring (and perfectly timed) mountain attack. Smiley has made his career launching such attacks, but some critics were starting to think he'd lost his touch. Well, he's back, and he's looking to be in fine form. Only the mad Liquigas train could chase his down in the last 500 meters, and he still held on for 11th at 15". Here's hoping that we see a repeat performance on every mountaintop finish from here on out.
  • Ricardo "Babalu" Ricco (Saunier Duval). Well well, perhaps there is an intra-team rivalry brewing on Saunier Duval after all. Ricco looked solid on the final climb, and when Di Luca punched it, Ricco was the only one who could stay in the ballpark. Ricco finished in 2nd at the same time as Di Luca, and now sits in 18th at 1' 33". Ricco is a rising star who is clearly on great form, and Simoni has made clear that if he falters, he will not ask Ricco to stay back and wait for him. With that in mind, keep a close eye on the men in yellow the next time the hills go seriously skyward: we could be witnessing another young Giro champion on the rise.
  • Andy Schleck (CSC). The young hopeful—he's only 21—finished 4th at 3" behind Di Luca. This kid is still too raw to really expect a podium finish out of, but this is definitely a good sign. Look at some of the names he dropped on that final climb, and then it becomes clear: this kid is about a year or two away from being something very special. For now, he's in 5th on GC at 53", which is not bad at all for a work in progress.
  • Pavel "The" Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems. The mangy-mopped Ukrainian was off the front on another attack. On the last climb, he attacked his mates in defense of his Green Mountains Jersey. In the end he fell short, but you've got to hand it to the guy: he went down swinging. You can bet we haven't seen the last attack from him in this Giro.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval). While his former teammate Damiano "The Omen" Cunego (Lampre) was mixing in the sprint and finishing 3rd, Simoni was languishing in a group 15" behind the winner. He came across the line in 15th place, which isn't bad, but you expect more from a super-climber who has finished on the final podium more than half-a-dozen times. The true test for Simoni, or course, will come in the deep mountains where the time gaps will be much larger. But this early test seems to show that Simoni is not on his best form yet, and lacks the pop to keep up with the younger favorites.
  • Yaroslav Popovich (Discovery Channel) and Paolo Savoldelli (Astana). Popo and Salvo came in 34th and 37th respectively, struggling across the line in the group that was 34" behind Di Luca and Ricco. Both of these men are known for holding on in the mountains and attacking in the time trials and on the descents. However, their climbing legs failed them today, and today's climb was nothing compared to what's on the horizon. It could be that the day off or the first day in the mountains just caught their legs off guard. Here's hoping that these two classy favorites recover quickly, and bounce back in the second week.
Grazed Hams of the Day
  • Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and Enrico Gasparotto (Liquigas). The World Champ hit the deck hard about 45 kilometers from the finish. He seemed to have some problems with his ribs, and on the final climb he had to sit up and roll quietly to the finish. Gasparotto also hit the deck, and the Pink Jersey wearer was clearly upset and suffering after being dropped early on the final climb. Here's hoping both men and all of the other riders who went down today are able to recover quickly. The flattish nature of the next several days should help.

Locutus, a.k.a. Patrick Sharp, is the author of the new book Savage Perils from the University of Oklahoma Press.
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