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Giro d'Italia Prosciutto Awards, Stage 12
By Locutus
Date: 5/22/2003
Giro d'Italia Prosciutto Awards, Stage 12
Golden Hams of the Day:
  • Gilberto Simoni (Saeco). The little Mountain Monster has a strong team that set him up perfectly for the stage win. When he attacked, nobody could hold his wheel for long. He deserves to wear the Maglia Rosa, as he is clearly the strongest climber in the race. That said, he didn't put as much time into his rivals today as he probably would have liked: his lead over Garzelli is still just 44", and there are lots of time trial kilometers to come. Fortunately for Simoni, there are lots of kilometers of climbing left to come as well.
  • Stefano Garzelli (Caldirola-Sidermac-Saunier Duval). He was the best of the rest, and is still clearly the only man who can seriously threaten Simoni. He has better time-trialing skills than Simoni, but he can't match the Mountain Monster's accelerations on the climbs. Still, his intelligent riding and steady, hard pace on the climbs has kept him within striking distance of the Pink Jersey. For a man who has barely raced for over a year, this is a truly phenomenal performance. This Giro is a very long way from over, and Garzelli's battle with Simoni could become one for the ages.
  • Francesco "Scarecrow" Casagrande (Lampre). He won't win the race, because he absolutely sucks in time trials and can't hang with Simoni on the climbs. Still, Casagrande has rebounded from his horrible performance on Stage 7 to become a realistic threat for a top-3 finish. He finished 3rd on today at 39" behind Simoni, which jumped him to 5th on GC at 4' 14". Perhaps more importantly, he is once again the top GC man on the Lampre squad as Rumsas lost a chunk of time today (see below). Last year, he lost his cool when he was struggling and punched himself out of the Giro. This year he has kept his cool and stayed the course, and this maturity looks like it could catapult him back to the biggest podium in Italian cycling.
  • Marco "Papa Smurf" Pantani (Mercatone Uno-Scanavino). The grand old man of the mountain smurfs was right there in the front group on the final climb, and even had his domestiques working to chase back Wladimir Belli (Lampre). When Simoni went, Pantani was able to hold his own with the chasers, going one-on-one with his former protégé Garzelli up much of the final few kilometers. When Pantani launched his counter-attack to chase Simoni, half of Italy probably wet itself with joy… the fans along the road went absolutely batcrap crazy when they saw "Papa Smurf" coming up the road climbing like a young man again. He faded a bit at the end, but his 5th place only 43" behind Simoni catapulted him up the GC to 9th at 5' 56". He said after the stage that he isn't 100% yet, and he's already a contender again. This was a great day for Italian cycling.
  • Michele Scarponi (Domina Vacanze-Elitron). Who says the zebras can't climb? Who says that Mario is the whole team? Scarponi came in 11th today, 1' 45" behind Simoni. I doubt any Jean Delatour rider could have done that. Pull your head out, JML.

Ham-Gazers of the Day:
  • Pavel Tonkov (CCC-Polstat). He bonked early on the final climb, and came in 22nd today, losing 4' 25" to Simoni. This dropped him to 10th on GC at 6' 43", a huge drop for the former Giro champion. He still has lots of climbs and time-trials to regain time, but it looks like the podium is no longer a possibility for the Russian.
  • Raimondas Rumsas (Lampre). He was completely anonymous again today, even though he was able to hang in the lead peloton for the early part of the final climb. When Simoni attacked, Rumsas was toast. He struggled across the line in 13th, 1' 54" behind the Mountain Monster. This dropped him to 6th on GC, one place behind his teammate Casagrande. Rumsas is still one of the best time trialists in the race, but he will likely be ordered to work for the Scarecrow on the climbs now.
  • "Rabid" Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo). Yesterday I got it wrong: McEwen didn't say he was going to drop after Stage 11, but rather after Stage 13. The Aussie sprinter stuck it out up the horrible climb of the Zoncolan, finishing in 143rd place at 28' 10" back. With Cipollini and Lopez Galvez withdrawing after their crash yesterday, McEwen will have a much easier time trying to get his 3rd stage win tomorrow. He will still have to contend with Petacchi and Furlan, but with the big Cipo out of the picture, McEwen will like his chances.

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