90th Giro d'Italia - Stage 17 Rider Interviews
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
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
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.
"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
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".