Ham-Gazers of the Day:
- "Rabid" Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo). For whatever reason, yesterday's winner wasn't at the front of the sprint today, finishing in 5th. It may have been sub-par legs or bad positioning in the final few kilometers; in any event, he still has several more opportunities for stage wins in the next week. His also beat his rival from Australia today, as Graeme Brown (Ceramiche Paneria-Fiordo) came in 6th. Brown has yet to win, which makes Robbie the fastest Aussie in the race so far. With all the quality Australians in cycling these days, that is really saying something.
- Raimondas Rumsas (Lampre), Pavel Tonkov (CCC-Polstat), Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo), and Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo). Caught behind the crash in the final kilometers, each of these riders lost 19" to some of the other big contenders (see below). Rumsas came in 68th, Tonkov came in 77th, Gonzalez came in 78th, and Frigo came in 93rd. 19 seconds can be a huge amount of time in a Giro with this many favorites. This is why you ride up at the front in the final kilometers of a stage in the Grand Tours: getting caught behind a crash like this could cost a place or two, and maybe even overall victory. The 19 seconds may turn out to be trivial, but these riders must be kicking themselves this evening for their lack of vigilance and positioning today.
Golden Hams of the Day:
- Alessandro Petacchi, Fassa Bortolo. The future has arrived for Petacchi, as he has bested the best Italian sprinter a few times now in the biggest Italian race of the year. He has held the Maglia Rosa from the start, and has yet to finish outside the top four with two 1sts, a 2nd, a 3rd, and a 4th place finish. Cipollini looked strong today, but Petacchi looked just that much stronger. With each win he gains in confidence, and he appears to be the best sprinter in the race. This could be an historic moment, with Petacchi taking the mantle of best sprinter from the head of the Lion King by the end of the race.
- Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze-Elitron). He did almost everything right today: he made it over the big Cat 2 climb with the peloton, his team took control in the final 3km, he positioned Petacchi so that the younger rider had to lead out the final few hundred meters, and he came around strong on the left near the finish. Petacchi, however, saw Cipo's charge and accelerated just enough to win. Cipo didn't fully extend in his lunge for the line, and Petacchi did, which was the difference in the race. This one mistake could have cost Cipo his Binda-tying stage win, but all hope is not lost. The fabulously dressed World Champion showed some improved form today, and he still has several chances for victory before the end of the Giro. Once Petacchi loses his Maglia Rosa, he may find that defending the jersey has cost him some legs during the second and third week of the race. Cipo is a wise and patient champion, and anyone who thinks he won't win at least one stage this year is a couple of beans short of a burrito. Petacchi is on top for now, but Mario is coming, and he will still have his day in the sun.
- Marco Pantani (Mercatone Uno-Scanavino), Stefano Garzelli (Caldirola-Sidermac-Saunier Duval), Serhiy Honchar (De Nardi-Colpack), Gilberto Simoni (Saeco), and Francesco Casagrande (Lampre). These GC favorites kept themselves near the front and avoided the crash that cost several other favorites 19" today. Pantani was 15th, Garzelli was 22nd, Honchar was 45th, Simoni was 46th, and Casagrande was 48th. Riders like Tonkov, Frigo, and Aitor Gonzalez cannot afford to be losing chunks of time to riders like this so early in the race. As so many people have often said before, you don't win a Grand Tour in the first week, but you can lose a Grand Tour in the first week. These riders have put just a little bit more distance between themselves and some of their chief rivals today, and kept themselves in position to win once the race hits the mountains and the time trials. It's a small victory, but small victories like this often become the difference between the podium and frustration.
ham-gaze verb: 1) in cycling, the practice of watching other riders make the race; to sit on while other riders take off down the road. 2) the act of staying in the peloton and watching the "hams" of other riders in front of you. 3) the visual aspect of going off the back when other riders increase the tempo. noun: ham-gazer. synonyms: ass-watch, rear-view. antonyms: attack, hammer.