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Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Report - Stage 9
 
By Locutus
Date: 5/21/2007
Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Report - Stage 9
 
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Danilo "Napster" Napolitano (Lampre). This has been a good couple of days for the Lampre squad. Yesterday they got a few guys into that big breakaway, including one of their dangerous climbers Patxi Vila. Today they got the stage win they were looking for. The Napster is 26 years old, and he's been winning races for years (most recently stage 5 in the Vuelta a Murcia). However, as an Italian sprinter he was not seen as fully arrived because he'd never won a Giro sprint. Now he has not only won a sprint stage in the Giro: he has also smoked McEwen and Petacchi in the latter's back yard. To be sure, it was close, but Napolitano showed a great deal of skill and toughness fighting for position in the final five kilometers. And in that final dash to the line, he showed the most important sprinting skill: he gave a burst of speed up the left side of the road in that last 100 meters that nobody else could match. Now that he's tasted victory, his confidence will grow and he'll become even more dangerous for the sprints to come.
  • Robbie "Little Emperor" McEwen (Predictor-Lotto). After looking positively terrible the past couple of days, McEwen finally rebounded a bit today. He was right in there fighting for position, eventually getting Petacchi's wheel as Petacchi's mates led it out up the right side of the road. When Petacchi jumped up the middle of the road, McEwen held his wheel and came around him on the left. He took Petacchi by a few inches with the bike throw at the line. Unfortunately for McEwen, Napolitano had come off of his wheel and burst by him by a few inches on the left. While it wasn't a win, it was a good sign for McEwen that he can recover so quickly from bad form and still give a top-level sprint when it counts.
  • Luis "Green Machine" LaVerde (Panaria). LaVerde is serious about the mountains competition. Today he took top prize over the only categorized climb, with his teammate Sella taking 2nd to keep the points out of the hands of their rivals. This gives LaVerde an 8 point lead over Di Luca (Liquigas) in the race for the Green Jersey. Di Luca, of course, couldn't care less about that competition: he will be focused on the Pink Jersey battle that will take shape on the final climb tomorrow. If he wants to keep his Green Jersey, LaVerde is going to have to attack early in the stage and take the mountains points on offer before that finishing climb. Then watch out for Panaria's attacking Mexican climber Julio Perez, who will try to once again jump the GC riders with an early attack up the final climb for stage glory.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram). He had a strong leadout all day. His mad milkmen worked with T-Mobile to keep the break in check so that Petacchi could win in his home town. They gave him a clear shot at the line, stretching things out in that last few kilometers. Petacchi had a decent sprint, but that top-end speed was elusive today. When Petacchi gets a clean shot at the line like that, he's supposed to win, so the fact that two men came around him on the left will be considered a failure. Still, Petacchi preserved a lead in the points competition (a.k.a. the Ciclamino Jersey) of 34 points over McEwen. With Robbie likely to bid the Giro farewell soon (and maybe even tomorrow), Petacchi just has to finish the mountain stages within the cutoff time and keep sprinting like this to win the final Ciclamino Jersey in Milano.
  • J. J. Haedo (CSC). The CSC sprinter should have been right up there today: this kind of stage is perfect for his talents. However, the young rider is still learning his way around the grand tours, and his legs are now venturing into unfamiliar territory with the accumulating fatigue associated with such brutal races. If he can make it to the finish within the elimination time tomorrow, he might still find his legs and deliver a stage win down the road.
  • The climbers. The teams of the big climbers and GC men were taking it easy today. The pace was low, and nobody wanted to really race hard until the flatter section of the course. With the insane uphill finish on tap tomorrow—where the road gets up to a 15% gradient at a couple of spots—you can see why everyone was wanting to save their energy. Tomorrow is the first real, serious GC smackdown: there are hard climbs all over the profile, and the last climb is a real kicker. Those climbers with good legs with take up to a half hour on many of the other riders, and begin the sort out between the contenders for the final victory. Is Di Luca a real threat for the overall win? Do the older Giro champions and contenders like Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone), Noe' (Liquigas), and Simoni (Saunier Duval) still have what it takes to win this race? Will the younger climbers like Ricco (Saunier Duval) and Cunego (Lampre) shred their older rivals? Will the climbers like Rubiera (Discovery Channel), Vila (Lampre), Cioni (Predictor-Lotto), and Sella (Panaria) be able to hold onto the time they gained in stage 8? Tomorrow won't provide all the answers, but it will provide some of the answers. Some people think that time trials are "the race of truth," but I don't know of any greater truth in cycling than the leg-searing, merciless inevitability of a good uphill finish. As Edlund said, gravity is a harsh mistress, and she's a mistress who demands the truth of all who challenge her.


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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