Dario “Refrigerator” Frigo: The Fassa Bortolo rider was back to the Giro podium, in a day marked by the kind of waether he apparently likes: “Well, it seems that I am used to suffer less than other riders in such cold weather conditions. I won stages at Romandie and Setmana Catalana in similar days. I wasn’t in top shape in the early part of the Giro, but I kept improving, slowly but steadily, since. And today I’ve got a further proof of my improvements”.
“Simoni and I worked well together in the last ascent. It was in the interest of both of us. He wanted to put more time into his closest rivals, and I wanted to move up some places in the GC. I started thinking about the stage win only at the last km. We did not “fix” the stage before, and I did what I had to until the end”.
“This stage was very hard for everyone. The Esischie climb took its toll on the peloton because of the gradient, the Sampeyre because of the cold, and with such difficulties before, even the last ascent, that was easier by itself, turned hard”.
Stefano Garzelli: “The Little Pirate” was negative protagonist of one of the most important images of this Giro, doomed to hit the headlines: badly crashed, along with Pantani, in the Sampeyere descent, and lost all of his chances to depose “King Gilberto”. He came close to losing the second place overall too, but thanks to his proverbial “grinta” and the awesome job done by Eddy “Ideal Domestique” Mazzoleni, managed to keep Popovych behind him.
”I’m not feeling good now. The crash took its toll. After I fell, the pain was everywhere, but I grit my teeth and made it to the line. It has been a very difficult day for everyone, from the first rider to the last. Some cycling bashers should watch stages like this and see what we have to face. I’m sorry for Pantani, hope he wasn’t hurt too badly. At the end of the stage I thought I had lost some places in the GC, but it seems I have saved my second spot overall instead. Gotta hold on in the next two days. I Hope that everything will go well”.
Gilberto Simoni: In post-stage interview “Gibo d’Italia” was all smiles, but never ceased to repeat how much he was tired, and tell about how many efforts he did today. “I’m done. I made plenty of efforts. I’ve given it all today. First came the attack on the Esischie, then the chase (to Popovych) and the Sampeyre descent. This stage has been awful, but I am glad that I put more time into my rivals. It’s not over though. I do want to finish with the pink jersey on my shoulders, but the race ends in Milan only”.
“Today I was tired in the last part of the stage, but lucky enough to find a Dario Frigo well-determined to make it to the end. We worked well together, and he helped me a lot. I am glad that everything has gone right. This was the kind of stage where everything might happen. And it actually happened. But luckily not to me."
"The only moment I panicked a little was in the Sampeyre descent, where the route was slippery and dangerous. Popovych and Frigo took some more risks and went clear, but I didn’t want to run the risk of messing everything up, so I was extremely careful there. No matter if the others would catch me. I just didn't want to risk".
“Frigo was absolutely loyal to me. He pulled a lot. And I couldn’t attack him on the last ascent. I also knew that the gaps were getting broader, so I was happy at the way things were going”.
And eventually a praise to his Saeco teammates: “They always keep their promises. When you have such extraordinary guys, you feel comfortable. They have done a great job today as well. It all becomes easier with such “guardian angels”.
Yaroslav Popovych: The young Ukrainian amazed everyone when he attacked on the Sampeyre and leave Simoni and Frigo behind on the descent. Perhaps he made a tactical mistake, but one more time proved can be a true champion in years to come, and even though he bonked in the last climb and failed to take second place, didn’t sound too upset: “It has been a hard day. The route was difficult, and we had to face rain and cold too. I wasn’t able to stay on Simoni’s wheels. Maybe I am still a bit too young for this, who knows. I couldn’t take the second spot from Garzelli? Well, it’s OK anyway. I think I am doing fine and hope I may continue this way until the end”.
In the end, some words on Alessandro Petacchi: The man who stole the show to Cipollini, still suffering from the consequences of Sunday's crash, couldn't make it this time. The mountains took their toll on him, and the man got to line in last place, well outside time limit. True that about 40 more riders did the same, but he came in about 10 minutes behind them, and it looks difficult now that the jury may keep a closed eye.