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Giro d'Italia Prosciutto Awards, Stage 14
By Locutus
Date: 5/24/2003
Giro d'Italia Prosciutto Awards, Stage 14
Golden Hams of the Day:
  • Gilberto Simoni (Saeco). The little Mountain Monster was at it again today, winning another stage and stretching his lead in the GC. Whenever the road has gone up, none have been able to match his accelerations. He doesn't have the reputation of being a good time trialist, but in the past he has shown that when his form is good and he is fighting for the Pink Jersey, he can smoke most everyone in the race against the clock. He is the strongest man in the race, and brutal mountain stages like today have a tendency to sap the legs of the time trial specialists and diminish their advantage over the pure climbers. The only man who can really threaten him is Garzelli, whose form for the time trial is a huge question mark.
  • Stefano Garzelli. Once again he was the 2nd best man on the course today, keeping his cool and riding his own pace up the final climb to limit his losses. He finished only 35" back of Simoni on the stage, and is still 2nd on GC at 1' 19". This final week of racing will be the big test for Garzelli, as his lack of racing over the last 12 months could cause him to blow up big time in the home stretch. Garzelli himself has said that he has no idea how his legs will respond to a time trial. Still, he has shown no signs of weakness in the race so far, and while Simoni has been a half-notch above him, Garzelli has been a half-notch above everybody else. If he can ride a respectable time trial tomorrow, he should be able to ensure himself of a podium placing in Milan.
  • Raimondas Rumsas (Lampre) and Yaroslav Popovytch (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago). Rumsas moved back into the lead in the Lampre struggle with his teammate Francesco Casagrande today, finishing 3rd on the stage at 36" behind Simoni. Like in last year's Tour de France, Rumsas has proven himself to be a world-class wheel-sucker, latching on to Garzelli today and taking a tow to the top of the final climb. He will attack tomorrow in the time-trial, a discipline in which he excels, and likely improve on his current position of 5th in GC at 5' 08". For his part, Popovytch has been the revelation of this Giro. The young rider has finished at the front in all the big mountain stages, and is now locked in a pitched battle with Rumsas and Noe' for the 3rd on GC. He finished today in 5th at 49" behind Simoni, and he stands in 4th on GC at 4' 09" heading into tomorrow's all-important time trial. Popovytch is supposed to be a good time trialist, but tomorrow we'll see how he performs in this discipline on the big stage. If his climbing so far is any indication, he will jump to 3rd and make himself the man to beat for the final place on the podium in Milan.
  • Fredy Gonzalez (Columbia-Selle Italia). The little climber has attacked on the early slopes of each mountain stage, spanking his only rival Constantino Zaballa (Kelme-Costa Blanca) every time the two have locked horns. Today he took it to Zaballa again, going on an impressive solo escapade that netted him maximum points on all three category one climbs before being chased down at the foot of the final monstrous ascent. He has a stranglehold on the Mountains Jersey, and the way he's riding, he will be the Giro's new King of the Mountains come Milan. He has worked hard, shown outstanding courage, and livened up a number of otherwise monotonous moments in the race. Here's hoping he keeps the rubber side down and takes home the Green Jersey he so richly deserves.

Ham-Gazers of the Day:
  • Francesco "The Scarecrow" Casagrande (Lampre). He didn't ride poorly today, finishing in 7th at 59" behind Simoni. However, Casagrande is a terrible time trialist who will lose chunks of time tomorrow to most of his rivals. He is currently in 6th on GC at 5' 33", and he has to close the gaps on his rivals in the mountains if he hopes to gain the podium. More importantly, he was the 2nd-best Lampre man on the course again as his teammate Rumsas leapfrogged ahead of him on GC. It could be that Lampre is trying to pull an ONCE by putting as many of their men as they can in the top ten on GC without worrying so much about trying to get one man to the top of the podium. Still, I can't see Casagrande taking kindly to being anything other than a team leader in his national Tour. The tensions on this team could lead to some very interesting racing over the next week.
  • Andrea Noe' (Alessio). Like Casagrande, Noe' didn't ride poorly today as he came across the line in 6th at 56" behind Simoni and only 7" behind Popovytch. His ability to keep close to Popovytch preserved his 3rd spot on GC, where he sits 3' 39" behind Simoni and 30" ahead of his Ukrainian antagonist. Still, his grip on his podium position looks to be in serious jeopardy, as both Popovytch and Rumsas are now breathing down his neck. This battle for 3rd will be the 2nd most exciting part of tomorrow's stage.
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