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90th Giro d'Italia - Stage 17 Rider Interviews & Photos
By Staff
Date: 5/30/2007
90th Giro d'Italia - Stage 17 Rider Interviews & Photos

90th Giro d'Italia - Stage 17 Rider Interviews & Photos
After race interviews from: Saunier Duval's wondertrio Gilberto Simoni, Leonardo Piepoli, and Riccardo Riccó; Liquigas' Danilo Di Luca, Maglia Rosa. Aqua & Sapone's Massimo Codol,  Lampre/Fondital's Damiano Cunego, and World Champion Paolo Bettini of Quickstep/Innergetic.

Just call it "Mount Gibo".
Gilberto Simoni took line honours when the Tour of Italy went on the Zoncolan first in the days of 2003, and got back to the top of the podium as the race found back Europe's toughest climb four years later. So it was no surprise that the guy was all smiles after crossing the line. And not polemical at all towards anyone.

Vittoria Gibo!!! Simoni takes the victory on his mountain.
Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti

"I haven't won a stage for the last three years, I even thought I could never win again, so to get back to victory, and in a place like this, means a lot to me. It makes up for some stage victories I missed in the past, for some podiums I didn't climb". And again "I attacked Di Luca but when I realized that the gap wasn't big enough I opted to go for stage victory only. I got it, also thanks to Piepoli: I did a good job in the beginning (of the climb), but he was just great later. Sooner or later, we'll have to test him as team leader".

Speaking of the giro overall the red bird team capitano said that "In fact, I have attacked Di Luca more than once during the race, also when our team sent two men into the breakaway Sunday. But he proved surprisingly strong. I hope that he wins the Giro, because he deserves that. And because I said that, sooner or later, he was going to win the race. Schleck was also great today; when I turned back and saw that he was still there, straight on my wheels, I lost morale, but to find out that Piepoli was there too was a good morale booster".

Danilo Di Luca certainly passed the Zoncolan exam, and his first ever overall success in his home nation's Grand Tour - as a pro, 'cause he won one "Baby Giro" already, it looks very close now. As we wrote in our live stage coverage, you can see the top of the Milan podium from the Zoncolan. Which remains a helluva ascent however, also for the un(s)toppable race leader:

Danilo Di Luca responds to Damiano Cunego's attack. Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti

"This climb was very impressive. It just looked like it was never going to end, especially the final six kilometres. I had checked it before, and this was of help to me. I'm satisfied because I managed to defend my leadership well, against attacks from riders like Simoni, who showed that he's a very strong climber. I made a mistake by trying to counter an early move from him on the final ascent, and initially paid for that; then I just kept climbing at my own pace, and that was a good choice. I'm aware that Saturday's ITT will be the race decider. I'm going to have to struggle until the end, but I knew it was going to be like that. I'm confident that I can do it, anyway even if I'm not an ITT specialist I think I can do better than Simoni and the other climbers, and my advantage over Schleck is quite solid".

He might not be a "race of the truth" specialist, but Danilo is not a bad TTist either: as a young gun back in the days of 1998, Danilo Di Luca got his "Baby Giro" overall triumph at the end of a stage "against the clock" after all.

Leonardo Piepoli Mountain King of the 90th Giro leads Andy Schleck and Gilberto Simoni up the final slopes of Zoncolan.

Leonardo Piepoli was the "other" stage winner on the Zoncolan: just like three days ago, he gave up his own ambitions and played a key role in the stage victory of a team-mate of his. The man from the Apulian town of Alberobello said that "at the race start in Sardinia Gibo told me to give it a go at the overall, but three team leaders in the same squad were a bit too many in my opinion, so I decided to give him all my support, and consequently had to sacrifice myself in the stage into Briançon. Now I regret all the times I have not raced the Giro in the past. But, well, gotta look at the future ... if Simoni can still win stages like this, I can do well too. I'm younger than him by one month after all (laughs).

If Simoni and Piepoli delivered today, the other member of the "red bird" wondertrio did not. But young Riccardo Riccó wasn't sounding upset about it after the stage:

"I think that I did fine enough today. After all the efforts I sustained this past Sunday, I came in only two minutes behind Simoni; I am quite satisfied. Longer stages with longer climbs suits my skills better than this. Overall I did have a satisfactory performance. I held on to sixth place overall, and should I keep my position also in the remaining stages, that would be great".

Perhaps more disappointed was Damiano Cunego, once more unable to stamp his authority on this year's edition of the same race he won in 2004.

"I tried to stay with the best ones, but after a few kilometres I realized Simoni and the other top riders were going too fast for me. So I chose to move ahead at my own pace, I just couldn't do more. I even dropped Di Luca at some point in the ascent, and it bolsters your morale when you drop the Maglia Rosa holder from your wheels, you know, but he was back again soon after. All I did after that, was just trying to limit my time losses as much as possible".

The Tifosi line the roads of the Zoncolan. Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti

Massimo Codol was the last member of the "breakaway of the day" to give up to "The Power of Three" (Simoni, Piepoli, Schleck) and in after-race interviews the Lombard rider commented as follows:

"The breakaway group was composed of many on form riders. We got to the foot of the final climb with a lead of almost four minutes, and I think just 40-50 more seconds would have been enough for me to get my biggest career result. But unfortunately Saunier were going for the stage, and they caught me with just two km. to go. What a pity!".

Paolo Bettini stayed clear for a shorter time than Codol, but he has got no similar regrets at least:

"The breakaway went clear at a regular pace. I knew that the peloton was going to react, and our chances (to make it to the line) were minimal however. But that's okay, Simoni deserved to win the stage today. This is his mountain after all (laughs). Well, you cannot say I have never tried in this Giro, haha ... But I promise that I'll give it a go again. Nope, not tomorrow, the stage finishes onto Matteo Tosatto's home roads, and he'll be the one going for the honours. But I'll be trying again in the Terme di Comano leg in two days".

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90th Giro d'Italia - Stage 17 Results & Photos

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