By Andy McDobbin
Vini Caldirola-Sidermec are relying on Stefano Garzelli to bring the Giro
d’Italia ‘helter-skelter’ trophy into their hands. Although it should be the
2000 winner and ex-Mapei man who spearheads their attack, there could be several
other surprises in the Vini Caldiola bag of tricks.
Dario Andriotto – Andriotto is a good rtime trialist, having won the
GP Europa thrice, the most recent win being in 2000 (in fact, that’s his latest
pro win). This 30 year old should be helping his captain on the flats, however.
In last year’s event, he was on the winning team with Index Alexia and ‘Il Falco’
Massimo Apollonio – Another one of Garzelli’s trusty band of
domestiques, Appollonio was thrust into the Tacconi team (very) late last year
for Massimo Donati and he fared well, finishing 114th out of 140 finishers in a
race he surely hadn’t prepared for. Appollonio is, when in form, a good sprinter
but nothing special – he beat Oscar Freire into 3rd when winning a Tour of
Burgos stage in 2001. However, methinks he’ll be needed to help Garzelli this
Gabrielle Balducci – Balducci could be lucky in a stage if he’s
allowed to stay away in a break. The 27 year old has is a competent sprinter on
uphill finishes and even on the flat, he’s fast. In late February, he sprinted
to a win in the 4th and final Giro della Liguria stage. If a break is let away
on a stage so emphatically as it was on Stage 6 of last year’s event, there’s a
chance this man could be in it.
Gianpaolo Cheula – This man is a bright prospect for Italian cycling,
celebrating his 24th birthday on Stage 13 (lucky for some?) of this year’s Giro.
Honed expertly by the Mapei development squad, he had some great results in
2002, winning the first Circuit des Mines stage and the overall and a stage in
the International Bayern Rundfarht. However, he’s been relatively quite so far
this season and surely won’t get a chance to shine in his home Tour. Still, look
out for this one in the future.
Stefano Garzelli – The man who Vini Caldirola are depending on in the
Giro, as well as some of the tifosi. Having won the Millenium Giro, he is a hot
favourite for overall victory or at least a podium placing. Last year, Garzelli
was going well in the Maglia Rosa before he tested non-negative for a banned
substance and dropped out in disgrace, and was subsequently banned, having
already won 2 Giro stages. His form coming up to the Giro is impressive –
winning a Giro del Trentino stage and coming close to the overall. Garzelli is,
like his rival Gibo Simoni, an excellent climber and if he is to win this year’s
event, he must limit his losses in time trials to men like Aitor Gonzalez. If
his legs are warmed up by the Terminillo mountain-top finish on Stage 7, he
could have an excellent, victorious Giro d’Italia 2003. For Stefano, it’s a case
of win or bust.
Mauro Gerosa – Gerosa is currently in his 4th professional year, all
of which have been spent with Vini Caldirola (or it’s sponsorship-changed
names). He still remains winless, but should be happy to sacrifice any winning
chance of his own to let Garzelli win overall – he should be a handy domestique.
Oscar Mason – Mason is in good form, having had an excellent last
month which included him getting into the top 10 of the Fleche Wallone, by
virtue of his place in the breakaway. Also, he won the Giro d’Abruzzo (2.5) GC,
beating fellow talented Italians Lunghi and Scarponi to the crown. Mason won the
Baby Giro in 1997, and he could show himself a few times in the ‘real thing’,
though any high stage placing will be hard.
Eddy Mazzoleni – The big man from Bergamo has only had two wins in his
career, but he is a classy rider and one with good legs too. He was also in the
Fleche break, finishing 10th. He nearly won the Tour of Romandie ‘queen’ stage,
hanging on to 2nd after Francisco Perez had streaked past him. Mazzoleni was in
the defining Stage 6 break last year that gained much time on the peloton, and
that contributed to his excellent 15th overall placing. He should be in support
of Garzelli as the team’s no.2, although a top 20 place may be within his reach
even without a breakaway effort.
Steve Zampieri – Zampieri is a good, strong rider who can either ride
as a domestique or go by himself. His best result so far was about a month and a
half ago in the Settimana Coppi-Bartali where he took 2nd in Stage 4 after a
long break. He can hold his own in the mountains, and barring accidents, should
be one of the men able to support Garzelli for long stretches of time on steep,
long stretches of mountain!
All considered, Sidermec will never win the Team Trophy, and they're putting
all their eggs in Stefano Garzelli's basket. Still, they have an excellent
chance for the overall and it could be Garzelli's hands on the trophy after
Stage 21. Expect some pretty memorable stages along the way though...
Vini Caldirola-Sidermec Riders and back numbers
181 ANDRIOTTO Dario ITA
182 APOLLONIO Massimo ITA
183 BALDUCCI Gabriele ITA
184 CHEULA Gian Paolo ITA
185 GARZELLI Stefano ITA
186 GEROSA Mauro ITA
187 MASON Oscar ITA
188 MAZZOLENI Eddy ITA
189 ZAMPIERI Steve SUI
Photos courtesy Vini Caldirola Sidermec. Visit their website at