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Giro d'Italia Prosciutto Awards, Stage 15
By Locutus
Date: 5/25/2003
Giro d'Italia Prosciutto Awards, Stage 15

Ham-Gazers of the Day:
  • Stefano Garzelli (Caldirola-Sidermac-Saunier Duval). His lack of racing caught up to him a bit today…he didn't do poorly, but he lost time to the man who mattered most. He came across the line in 13th at 2' 19", but he gave up a crucial 39" to Simoni on a day when he needed to gain time. He will now have to attack hard in the remaining mountains to try to unseat Simoni. Given Simoni's performances on the climbs so far, however, Garzelli's chances for the top spot seem over. Still, Garzelli is in command of the 2nd spot on GC at 1' 58", a position he will likely hold all the way to Milan. This is an excellent return for the rider who was so disgraced by his expulsion a year ago.
  • Raimondas Rumsas (Lampre). His bike change cost him big, as the usually stellar time trialist came across in 17th at 2' 43" today. Rumsas also lost 1' 07" to Popovytch, his biggest rival for the final podium spot, and he now stands in 5th on GC at 6' 11". To add insult to injury, he only beat his not-so-stellar-time-trialist teammate Francesco Casagrande by 11". Once again, the Lampre tactics over the final week of racing should be very interesting indeed. Will they try to set up sprinter Jan Svorada? Will they ride for Rumsas or Casagrande? Will it be everyone for himself? It should be fun to watch.
  • Andrea Noe' (Alessio). His 24th at 3' 17" was good enough to keep him ahead of Rumsas on GC, but he lost his 3rd position to Popovytch as he conceded 1' 41" to the young Ukrainian. Noe' is in 4th on GC at 5' 16", and he looks to be fading in the race for the podium.
Golden Hams of the Day:
  • Gilberto Simoni (Saeco). The little Mountain Monster once again showed that he can turn in a good time trial when it matters, as he came in 7th at 1' 40". He took time out on Garzelli and Rumsas while only conceding 4" to Popovytch. He is clearly the strongest man in the race, and he is finally starting to distance himself from his dogged rivals. All he needs to do is keep the rubber side down until Milan to take home the Pink, but knowing Simoni, he will attack again when the road goes up. Now if he can only hold this form until the Tour….
  • Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago). The young star once again showed his talent today as he came across in 6th at 1' 36". He stormed into 3rd on GC at 4' 05" behind Simoni, and now has a commanding lead in the race for the final podium spot. If he continues to improve, the Ukrainian will be standing on the top step of the podium in a Grand Tour before too long.
  • Aitor Gonzalez and Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo). They both started the race as favorites, but their terrible troubles early in the mountains dropped them out of GC contention. They've been getting better as the Giro gets longer, however, and today the two ace time trialists finally gave their sponsors a win in something other than a sprint. Gonzalez spanked everyone to win the stage by a healthy 51", and Frigo came in 4th at 1' 23". Their GC hopes are still toast in this Giro, but they've given their fans reason to hope that they will be major players in the Tour de France this July.
  • Magnus Backstedt (Team Fakta-Pata Chips) and Sergei Gonchar (De Nardi-Colpack). Backstedt smoked the course to set the early time to beat, and only Gonzalez was better than him as he finished the stage in 2nd at 51". Gonchar rode to a strong 3rd at 1' 22" behind Gonzalez, but more importantly, he jumped from 11th to 8th on GC at 9' 38" behind Simoni. Gonchar won't crack the top five, but if he can continue to limit his losses on the climbs, a top 10 finish and a victory in the final time trial are still within his reach.
Grazed Hams of the Day:
  • Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). He was really banged up today as he hit a pothole and his frame snapped. He ate it hard and hurt his shoulder (among other things), but he had the Points Jersey on his shoulders and he wasn't about to quit the race. He came in last today, 138th place at 11' 34" behind his teammate Gonzalez, but dammit, he finished! The x-rays were negative, but his team isn't optimistic about his chances of starting the stage tomorrow. The next two stages are flat, and with the sprinter-depleted peloton it seemed like Petacchi had a strong chance to get six stage wins like Cipollini did last year. That is all in doubt now, but Petacchi has still ridden like a champion in this Giro. Whether he withdraws or not, the talent and toughness he has shown in this Giro places him among the elite riders in the world.
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