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Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Report - Stage 15
By Locutus
Date: 5/27/2007
Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Report - Stage 15
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Leonardo "Piccolo" Piepoli (Saunier Duval). The pint-sized Italian is well on his way to being crowned King of the Mountain Smurfs for this Giro. He won the uphill finish on stage 10, came in an amazing 2nd place on the stage 13 uphill time trial, then today he worked with his teammate Ricco to put the wood to everybody in the race once again. Though Piepoli finished in a ceremonious 2nd behind Ricco at the finish line today, he won the 2nd and 3rd climbs to take a massive 19 point lead over Di Luca in the race for the Green Jersey. Only the big climb at the finish on Wednesday really poses a serious problem for Piepoli now. Given the way he's riding this race, I'd put money that he's wearing that Green Jersey when he rolls into Milano.
  • Ricardo "Babalu" Ricco (Saunier Duval). The kid suffered a bit this week, but he really came through strong today. He attacked early with Piepoli, put all of his team's rivals on the defensive, and then drove it home for the victory on that brutal final climb up Tre Cime di Lavaredo. This moved him up into 6th on GC only 3' 39" behind Di Luca and 43" off the podium. With a good climb on Wednesday and a strong final time trial, Ricco could very well finish up in the top three next weekend. Not bad for man who is clearly Saunier Duval's successor to Simoni.
  • Julio "Smiley" Perez (Panaria) and Ivan Parra (Cofidis). These two climbers have been flying up the climbs, and unfortunately have yet to come up with a stage win. Perez set a great time in the uphill time trial on stage 13, and today he was with the big attack until the final kilometer. Parra was in on the big attack yesterday, and was up there threatening for the stage win again today. Though they haven't won a stage, these two riders exemplify the attacking spirit of true winners: you cannot win a bike race unless you go on the attack and risk everything. They've both risked big, came close, and never gave up fighting. Here's hoping they can get a win before next weekend.
  • Paolo "Salvo" Savoldelli and Eddy "Mad Dog" Mazzoleni (Astana). These two have just kept attacking and attacking and attacking. Savoldelli blew up last week and fell out of contention for the GC, so he has unselfishly switched to riding for the on-form Mazzoleni. Yesterday, Savoldelli helped his teammate pick up a nice chunk of time on most of his rivals. Today, Savoldelli was there once again giving his teammate a leadout, destroying the struggling Liquigas team and launching the climb-happy Mazzoleni on another successful mission. This time Mazzoleni finished in 5th at 1' 29" behind Ricco. This meant that he took 1' 24" out of Di Luca, 2' 01" out of Simoni, 2' 07" out of Cunego, and 2' 23" out of Schleck. This brilliant attack has moved Mazzoleni from 9th on GC at 3' 15" up into 2nd on GC at 1' 51". Mazzoleni now has over a minute on the guy in 3rd, and with only two more difficult days really left in this Giro, he is looking like a good bet for the final podium. This is a great accomplishment for the widely respected Italian veteran who has ridden for years in the shadow of other men.
  • Danilo "Nuke" Di Luca (Liquigas). This has not been an easy week for Di Luca. His team has clearly had the Pink Jersey much too much in this Giro. They are a bit fragile now, and when put under pressure they don't seem to have the legs to respond the way they should. Take today: Piepoli, Ricco, and Mazzoleni attacked and blew the team apart, leaving Di Luca on his own for the second half of the stage through the mountains. On his own, Di Luca had to control all of his big rivals. Like a true champion, when his back was against the wall Di Luca decided that the best defense was a good offense. He counter-attacked up that final climb, taking back almost two minutes on Ricco and Mazzoleni while dropping Simoni, Schleck, Cunego, and just about everyone else. Di Luca came across the line 2' 53" behind Ricco, but he actually increased his lead in the Pink Jersey. Yesterday his lead was only 55" to the man in 2nd, but today he can enjoy his rest day knowing that his lead is up to 1' 51". Anything can happen on the climb of the Monte Zoncolan on Wednesday; heck, a guy can lose two days on a climb like that with patches of road pitching up to 22%. But Di Luca is looking more and more like the champion, finally living up to the expectations everyone has had of this attacking monster since he first became a pro.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Andy "Kid Flash" Schleck (CSC). He has suffered like a dog the last few days, but Kid Flash is still hanging in there. He finished 10th on the stage 13 uphill time trial, giving up only 32" to Di Luca, and he hung with the Di Luca group yesterday to hold onto his GC position. Today he was hanging strong until that brutal final climb: he ended up in 9th at 3' 52", which means he lost 59" to Di Luca. Still, he didn't panic, he rode at his own tempo, and he held onto 3rd on GC at 2' 56". The bad news is that there are now three riders within 43" of him breathing down his neck. Schleck will have to ride aggressively on the uphill finish Wednesday and in the final time trial if he wants to hold onto the final podium in Milano.
  • Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre). These former teammates turned bitter rivals are both getting it handed to them by Di Luca on their preferred terrain in this race. Simoni has been attacking, and he took some important time with his 2nd place finish yesterday. But with his teammates doing the work to isolate Di Luca and put him on the ropes, Simoni couldn't deliver the knockout blow. Cunego has tried to attack a couple of times in this race, but most of the time he has been struggling to match the accelerations of other riders. Both are riding well—Simoni was 7th on the stage at 3' 30" and Cunego was 8th at 3' 36"—but as former champions, they are expected to ride better than well. Both are still in contention for the podium: Simoni is 4th on GC at 3' 19" and Cunego is 5th on GC at 3' 23", which puts them 23" and 27" behind Schleck respectively. Look for both of these riders to lay it all on the line at Monte Zoncolan, because that will be their final opportunity to take some important time (neither is a particularly skilled time trialist).
  • Marzio Bruseghin and Patxi Vila (Lampre). Bruseghin won the stage 13 time trial, showing that he is on excellent form and riding well. Today, however, he and Vila blew to the sky as they worked for Cunego over grueling roads. Bruseghin crossed the line in 23rd at 11' 27", which dropped him in the GC standings from 2nd to 10th. Vila managed only 24th on the day at 12' 44" back, which plummeted him from 6th to 14th on GC. But hey, these guys aren't here for the GC results: they've been doing their jobs well, riding hard and doing what they can to set up their man Cunego. It's not their fault if he can't win his battles with Di Luca, Mazzoleni, and Simoni.

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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