First of all, let’s pay proper tribute to the winner:
ALESSANDRO PETACCHI (right after the finish): “It’s fantastic. I have been very strong today. I hold off Mario when he was about to pass me. Yesterday I came close to victory. Today I got it. At the photofinish. But against the World Champion. I don’t know what more could I say”.
ALESSANDRO PETACCHI (minutes later, in front of the RAI microphones, when he seemingly knew what to say): “This victory is worth three times an average one to me. I won with the pink jersey on, and ahead of Mario. In yesterday’s stage I lost by few centimetres, today I clicnhed victory by the same narrow margin. That’s the way sprints go.
The sprint took a good turn as there was a strong wind, and I started ahead of Mario, and remained close to the barriers, such that he had to take a longer way and make a bigger effort to come around me. In the last 50 metres my leg was hard, but I gave all I could and this time (unlike yesterday) my lunge was good”.
So what has changed from the past? Well, as Petacchi said (and another man who know his stuff when talking of sprints, a certain Silvio Martinello, a fundamental member of Cipo’s train in the past, and a great sprinter himself, shared his point of view) it was a matter of improving his sprinting skills, but also of taking a different attitude: “I have never been so “bad” like I am in these days. Today I was well-determined to stay on Mario’s wheels, as I knew that his team would set the pace before the sprint began. So, when Brown and Nauduzs tried to put their wheels behind Mario’s, I was quicker and very motivated, and took that place. I was able to do it as my legs were good. Later, after a turn in the last km., I happened to be in front of him and that’s where I started my sprint. Things went well anyway, and I think I did a good sprint.
Even though some might think of a growing rivalry between the two, Petacchi spent kind words for the man he beat twice in five days “I feel sorry for him, but I know that Mario still is one of the best sprinters in the world, if not the best, and I’m sure he’ll take one or more stages and beat Binda’s record sooner or later in this Giro. I hold Mario in high esteem, and beating such a champion it’s an honour to me, even more when it happens in front of a huge crowd and after four days with the maglia rosa on my shoulders. What more could I ask for?"
Now to the other “man of the day” …
MARIO CIPOLLINI: I think that Yours Truly is not in a quite a good condition enough, while the other one (Petacchi) currently is very strong. I hope that in the near future I will be back doing the things I was used to. Just let’s wait and see. As for today’s stage, when there was about 1500 metres left, I almost fell, and lost the wheels of my teammates after a turn, so I ended up on Petacchi’s wheel, whereas I should have been ahead of him when the sprint began. But that’s ok anyway. I tried to come around him, and my impression is that, while I was gaining some metres on him. I hit a hole on the asphalt. Perhaps without that hole I could have beaten him, and my morale would be different”.
And his crew too …
VINCENZO SANTONI: The Domina Vacanze Team Manager downplayed the recent fuss concerning the behaviour of his team’s “Zebrato train”. While speaking on RAI TV, he said that “Our train made some mistakes at Gent-Wevelgem and in yesterday’s stage, but today they have worked well. The stage ended in a big show, with the pink jersey wearer edging out the rainbow jersey wearer. Today Mario lost by close to nothing; 1 cm. or so, but he lost anyway. In any case I’m sure he’s getting better. And there’s one more thing to say: whereas last year he took a period off after the Giro, this time Mario’s plans are different: he’ll have to ride the Tour de France as well, so he came to the Giro with a different build-up, and after racing less than in 2002. But as there are seven more stages where sprinters can do well, I’m sure we are going to see a great Mario Cipollini”.
VINCENZO PRESTI: Santoni’s confidence goes hand-in-hand with the satisfaction of the Domina Vacanze CEO: “I’m satisfied. All of us at our hotel and Travel Agencies are celebrating, and the team did well today. So I’ve to be happy,” Mr. Presti said.
MICHELE SCARPONI: Words from one more member of the Domina Vacanze crew, in this case a young rider many fans expect good things from when the route goes uphill: “Mountains are my hunting territory. So I’ll try to show off my skills in the hilly stages. As for Mario, I’m sorry that he has not yet been able to find the right condition, but he’s improving and, as there are many stages appropriate for sprinters also after the rest day, I think that sooner or later he’ll manage to hit the target. As for GC contenders, their Giro will begin on the Terminillo”.
More opinions from the Giro …
YAROSLAV POPOVYCH: The Landbouwkrediet-Colnago Ukrainian, who finished 12th overall in last year’s edition and is Ernesto Colnago’s pupil (many also said he’s one of the future Giro winners), didn’t have any particular problem in today’s stage: “It was a relatively quiet stage. The peloton kept riding fast, very fast, in the last 50 kms. only”.
GIORGIO VIBERTI: Last but not least, a journalist of the Turin-based “La Stampa” newspaper. Mr, Viberti, a veteran of cycling journalism, was one of the guys that picked Cipollini as today’s stage winner. Facts proved him wrong (even if by a few centimetres only), and he gave his own version of the final sprint: “I thought that today might be Cipo’s redemption day. And I came close to being right. But the blanket finish perfectly mirrored Mario’s current condition: he still lacks something. His sprint was not bad, he started in an ideal position, sitting on the wheels of the strongest sprinter, then came out and was about to put his bike ahead of Petacchi’s, but eventually showed that he’s not the same sprinting machine he was in the past. And will likely be very soon. So he still has to wait, and Binda too.
As for today’s winner, Mr. Viberti did spend only good words for him: “Petacchi is an extraordinary rider. None of us (journalists) could have thought of such performances from him before the Giro. Since the start of the race, he has never finished a stage outside the top 5 places. In this moment he’s the undisputed number one, the real Lion King.”