|Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Report - Stages 10 and 11|
|Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Report - Stages 10 and 11|
|Golden Hams of Stages 10 and 11
Ham-Gazers of the Stages 10 and 11
- Leonardo "Piccolo" Piepoli, Gilberto "G-Man" Simoni, and Ricardo "Babalu" Ricco (Saunier Duval). The diminutive climber Piepoli has really become the supreme mountain stage attacker of the Giro over the last few years. Last year, he won two stages uphill in the rain. In stage 10 yesterday, his team leader Simoni once again sent him on the attack to soften up his rivals, and once again Piepoli took the stage honors with a brilliant acceleration up the final climb. Saunier Duval looked much stronger and more patient as a team than all of their rivals yesterday on the final sections of that climb. Simoni sat in the wings with Ricco, waiting for the right moment to counter-attack before blowing folks away. The G-Man finished the stage in 4th at 32" behind stage winner Piepoli, and Babalu Ricco finished in 5th at 41". This moved them up the GC quite a bit: Piepoli is 14th at 4' 32", Ricco is 16th at 5' 06, and Simoni is 18th at 5' 24". More importantly, they look to be getting stronger and stronger, which means that nobody will be safe from them in the brutal uphill climbs in the final week. Look for these three and their teammate Iban "Miracle Whip" Mayo (15th on the stage at 1' 41") to really make their move on that uphill time trial on stage 13.
- Danilo "Nuke" Di Luca and Andrea "The Ghost" Noe' (Liquigas). As usual, the Ghost was invisible on that final climb of stage 10, blending invisibly into the pack of leaders as he worked his way to 10th on the stage at 52". Despite having what he saw as a "bad day," Noe' still moved himself into the Pink Jersey with a 1' 08" advantage over the next guy. The bad news: this means that Liquigas will have to once again spend energy on the front of the peloton setting the tempo for awhile, which will sap their strength a bit and perhaps undermine their ability to protect team leader Di Luca. For his part, Di Luca nuked that final climb, dropping his rivals on two separate occasions en route to a 2nd place finish at 18" behind Piepoli. He looked like the strongest GC favorite on the climb, moving himself up into 8th at 2' 58" behind his teammate Noe'. This gives him a 1' 06" lead over Schleck, a 1' 31" lead over Cunego, a 1' 42" lead over Savoldelli, and a 2' 26" lead over Simoni. Two years ago, when Di Luca finished 4th on GC, he faded in the final week. I think he has learned his lesson, and now predict he will win this Giro in Milano. But it won't be easy.
- Andy "Kid Flash" Schleck (CSC). The almost-22 year-old is looking downright scary: he launched a blistering attack off the front on that final climb of stage 10, blowing past Sella and holding off Simoni to take 3rd on the stage at 27". Sure, Di Luca passed him near the finish, but for a guy so young to be doing so much damage at a grand tour like this is really rare. He is now 12th on GC at 4' 04", and is looking like a serious threat for the final podium. He just has to keep it up, which is always tough for a young rider heading into the second half of a grand tour.
- Paolo "Salvo" Savoldelli (Astana). Some people thought that Savoldelli's performance on Stage 10 was disappointing. However, I thought he did what he needed to do: limit his losses to his rivals on an incredibly steep climb (over 15% at two points) that really favors the little climbers. Salvo finished in a very respectable 6th on the stage at 41" behind Piepoli. This meant he beat Cunego by 2", and moved up into 15th on GC at 4' 40" behind Noe' and 1' 42" behind Di Luca. Remember that Savoldelli is the best time trialist of the GC favorites, and there are two big time trials left in this race. While I don't think he'll win the Giro, I do think he'll do well enough in the time trials to make a serious run at the final podium.
- "Gorgeous" George Hincapie and Yaroslav "Jiffy Pop" Popovych (Discovery Channel). The Big Hink was once again on the attack in stage 10, getting into the day-long break and doing that Captain America Jersey of the United States Road Race Champion proud. He faded on the final climb, giving way to the GC climbers, but his attack gave his teammates the ability to sit on and save their energy. Look for the Big Hink to continue to attacks and finally pull off a stage win in this, his first Giro. For his part, Popovych once again showed why Discovery made him co-leader of the team: while Rubiera struggled, Popovych hung with the pure climbers until just at the end of the stage. Popo finished the stage in 9th, which moved him up into 19th on GC at 5' 27". This might be considered a disappointment by some people, but Popovych seems to be getting stronger when in it counts. Look for him to keep climbing better, and then smoke that final time trial to move up into the top five on GC for Milano.
- Alessandro "Rocket Pants" Petacchi (Team Milram). Petacchi got another great leadout in stage 11. Near the finish, he actually jumped up the left-hand barriers instead of following his final leadout man. McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) went up the right barriers and looked like he might pull off the victory. Petacchi slowly closed on him, and as they threw their bikes to the line, Petacchi took it by a hair. This is a great 3rd victory for Petacchi that reinforces his death grip on the Ciclamino Jersey of points leader. When McEwen leaves the race tomorrow, it will be smooth sailing for Petacchi all the way to Milano. Now he just has to make it through the mountains.
Grazed Hams of Stage 11
- Damiano Cunego and Patxi Vila (Lampre). Cunego needs to win mountain-top finishes if he wants to win this race. He is an uneven time trialist who is only able to deliver a good time trial with pure power when he is on his best form. In stage 10, it was clear that Cunego is not on his best form, as he finished in 7th at 43" behind Piepoli, 25" behind Di Luca, 16" behind Schleck, and 11" behind Simoni. He is in 13th on GC at 4' 29", still well within range of all of his rivals. However, he is going to have to find his magic climbing legs soon if he wants to win it all again. For his part, Vila wasn't bad: he rode in support of his team leader Cunego and still managed 16th on the stage at 1' 48". He is now 4th on GC at 1' 38", and if Noe' has a bad day Vila could still end up in the Pink Jersey soon.
- Jose Luis Rubiera (Discovery Channel). Chechu struggled on the final climb of stage 10, managing only 24th at 3' 06" back. He fell into 10th on GC at 3' 11" behind Noe'. If Chechu recovers quickly, he might be able to rally and still make the final top ten in Milano. But more likely, he will begin to ride for Popovych again after the stage 13 time trial.
- Dario Cioni (Predictor-Lotto). Cioni hit the wall pretty quickly on that final climb of stage 10, limping across the line in 38th at 4' 51" behind Piepoli. He fell all the way to 20th on GC at 5' 44". Now he will just have to save his energy and try to focus on stage wins.
- Stefano Garzelli (Aqua & Sapone). The bald former Giro winner and Pantani sidekick struggled on terrain that used to suit him. He came across the line in stage 10 in a miserable 19th at 2' 07" back, which is bad for a man who hoped to finish on the final podium. He is now 23rd on GC at 6' 24", which puts him in a huge hole with a lot of climbing to come. He could still finish in the top ten, but he is going to have to start climbing better pretty soon.
- Paolo Bettini (Quick Step). The men in the front of the sprintólike Petacchi and McEwenówere slipping a little on the wet and treacherous pavement near the finish, but they managed to stay upright. Bettini, who was just behind them, came down hard when a Tinkoff rider next to him hit the brakes. That guy went down, swept Bettini's wheels out from under him, and triggered a chain reaction that caused a spectacle on the finish line that I'd never seen before: rider after rider literally sliding across the finish line on their sides and their backs. There are a lot of angry, road-rashed riders in Italy right now who are going to be really pissed off that the road conditions were so incredibly bad at the finish line. Bettini will be among the most upset, as he went down particularly hard and will have to suffer through more soreness and bruising on tomorrow's very long stage over some brutal climbs. This is Bettini's second big crash of the Giro, so don't be surprised if tomorrow he has to call it a race. He is a tough guy, but even tough guys can't climb mountains that big when their bodies are battered like this.
- Andrea Noe' (Liquigas). The Pink Jersey wearer was one of the many who crossed the finish line on his backside. In addition to the indignity of seeing the Pink Jersey brought down like that, Noe' will have to recover quickly and be on the front to help his team leader Di Luca during tomorrow's big showdown. Noe' didn't look too badly shaken up, but you can never tell how badly it will hurt the next day when you crash like this.
- Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel). Most of the riders who went down at the finish didn't look too badly hurt. Maybe some road rash and some light bruising, but pro cyclists are used to riding through that sort of thing. Popovych, however, took a particularly hard tumble over his bars and appeared to come down hard on his hip and side. While he walked away, that kind of hard knock might take the stuffing out of his climbing legs tomorrow when he needs them most. Here's hoping that Popo, Bettini, Noe', and all of the others who went down in that crash suffered only minor injuries and will have no problems as the race hits the really big mountains.
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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