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Giro d'Italia Prosciutto Awards, Stage 18
 
By Locutus
Date: 5/29/2003
Giro d'Italia Prosciutto Awards, Stage 18
 
Golden Hams of the Day:
  • "Mr. Freeze" Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo). He had a terrible first 10 days, but since then has shown steady improvement in his form. He was 4th in the time trial, and started today in 13th on GC at 12' 45", but his great stage win jumped him up to 7th 12' 27". He was putting the hurt on Simoni on the final climb, something that nobody else had done in this race, and leaped away from the Maglia Rosa to take a very well-deserved victory.
  • Gilberto "Mountain Monster" Simoni (Saeco). Finally, after over two weeks of attacks, Simoni broke his rivals today. He tested his rivals early, and finding weakness he went for the jugular. His attack put all of his main rivals on the defensive, and forced Garzelli and Pantani to chase hard on the dangerous descent where they crashed. His superior form, climbing prowess, and bike-handling stretched his lead over Garzelli to 7' 09", an Armstrong-like gap showing his utter dominance of the race. Now his Simoni-hooligans are dancing around in pink, a nightmarish image once reserved for "B" movies and Belli's nightmares.
  • Yaroslav "Popeye" Popovytch (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago). He started today in 3rd on GC, 4' 05" behind Simoni and 2' 07" behind Garzelli. He attacked hard today, and probably a bit impetuously. He flew down the descents, showing his amazing bike-handling skills given the poor road conditions, and he was in the front of the race before bonking on the final climb. He struggled up the final climb, no can of spinach in sight, and clawed his way to within a handful of seconds of 2nd place by crossing in 4th on the stage at 3' 12". His tactics are still a bit raw and he has a lot to learn about his own limits, but his attacking instincts and pure talent are the markers of a future champion. If the previous time trial is any indication, he will pass Garzelli in the second time trial and claim the 2nd step on the final podium, a huge prize for this young star.
  • Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner). He hung on to Simoni as long as he could and rode a solid race to finish in 3rd at 2' 38". More importantly, he jumped from 7th on GC to 5th, 9' 29" behind Simoni but only 10" behind 4th placed Andrea Noe'. Totschnig smoked Noe' in the first time trial, and looks like a good bet to take over 4th on GC in the final time trial.

Ham-Gazers of the Day:
  • Andrea Noe (Alessio) He continued to slide today. He didn't ride poorly, crossing the line in 6th at 4' 01". However, he lost big time to Popovytch and Totschnig, and now holds his 4th on GC by a mere 10" over the Austrian from Gerolsteiner. He will have to find some new legs if he is going to hold off Totschnig over the final three stages.
  • Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo). Okay, maybe he's not exactly ready to take on Armstrong just yet. The Spanish time-trial ace was dropped early today, finishing in 53rd in a pack that was 26' 50" behind teammate Frigo. This performance also hurt his team in the Teams competition, as they slid from 2nd to 5th. He'll have to show better climbing legs than this to hang with the stiff competition shaping up for this year's Tour de France.
  • Lampre. They lost their big gun Francesco Casagrande today as he was struck down by the dreaded gastroenteritis. Raimondas Rumsas came across the line in 5th at 4' 01", not bad really, but this cost him his 5th on GC to Totschnig. Their performance as a whole cost them dearly in the team competition too, as they are now in 2nd at 1' 42" behind Simoni's strong Saeco squad. This is the worst possible thing that could have happened to Lampre just as they looked to be salvaging a disappointing Giro.
  • Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). The winner of six stages and the holder of the Points Jersey finished dead last today, well outside the time cut. He was in good company, as some 40-odd riders were cut with him (see below). This was a spectacular Giro for Petacchi, who overcame his nasty crash last weekend to take two more stage victories before succumbing to the course today. Hopefully, we'll get to see him again in the Tour. And we'll definitely get to see him again next year as he guns for the Points Jersey.
  • The other poor fellows who missed the cut. The brutality of today's stage, including the horrible conditions, the high pace, and the difficult profile, can be measured in the number of riders who didn't make today's time cut. The official Giro website lists only 97 men left in the race, with Hecter Mesa Mesa (Formaggi Pinzolo) the last rider to make it. Look at our list of the today's finishers here and note that everyone who finished after the 97th placed Mesa Mesa missed the cut. The list includes points leader Petacchi, sprinter Jimmy Casper (FDJeux.com), the 2nd place man in the Intergiro Moreno di Biase (DeNardi-Colpack), sprinter Angelo Furlan (Alessio), Britain's Bradley Wiggins (FDJeux.com), and many others. I wouldn't be surprised if the race jury decided to allow the 31 men who came in at 40' 27" to continue the race, as race juries often allow large groups like this who fall outside the time cut to continue. But for Petacchi, who finished behind this group, the race is surely over.

Grazed Hams of the Day:
  • Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola-Sidermac-Saunier Duval) He went down hard on a descent, crashing with Pantani as they chased Simoni. With Popovytch on the attack, Garzelli looked to be toasted; after his crash he even looked to be slipping from the podium altogether. However, with his knee and elbow bleeding, he kept his cool and hammered up the final climb while Popovytch was busy bonking, and held onto his 2nd on GC by a mere 11". He will have to fight hard to hold off the young Ukrainian over the next three days, but today he showed that he is a hard man to break who is ready for the challenge. Another bonus is that, with Petacchi missing the time cut, Garzelli now holds a seven point lead over Jan Svorada in the points competition. It will be interesting to see if Garzelli can hold off the best sprinter left in the race to claim the Points Jersey in Milano.
 
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