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Giro d'Italia Prosciutto Awards, Stage 21
 
By Locutus
Date: 6/1/2003
Giro d'Italia Prosciutto Awards, Stage 21
 
Golden Hams of the Day:
  • Gilberto "Pinko" Simoni (Saeco). He didn't ride well today, but who gives a rat's ass? "Il Pinko" kicked everyone all over the hills for three weeks, so it really didn't matter. He was all decked out in pink—shorts, shoes, wheels, rims, gloves, fans—and got a royal mounted escort from his faithful admirers to the victory stand. After last year's awful humiliation and disappointment, his 7' 06" victory showed an Armstrong-like dominance of a full and talented field on a horribly difficult course. Now it's off for some champagne and then to preparations for the Tour. After this performance, though, any good showings for the rest of the season will be icing on the pink cake.
  • Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola-Sidermac) and Yaroslav Popovytch (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago). After so long out of competition, few thought Garzelli could maintain his excellent form for three full weeks. He did slip away from Simoni in the last week, but he showed an iron will in his dogged battle with the talented young Popovytch. Garzelli only had a slim 2" lead in the race for 2nd on GC at the start of the day, but at the time splits he stayed within a couple of seconds of the Ukrainian and then he closed the door in the final few kilometers. Garzelli finished the stage in 7th at 1' 16", a full 3" ahead of Popovytch who came across in 9th at 1' 19". But Popovytch immediately showed the class that has earned him so many fans, coming over and congratulating Garzelli on his great performance. Popovytch has shown not only the talent but also the temperament of a champion in this Giro. He took 3rd on the final podium at 7' 11", only 5" behind Garzelli, and he will be a force in the sport for a long time.
  • Sergei Gontchar (De Nardi-Colpack). He finally went out and took a stage, storming the time trial to finish 19" ahead of his closest competitor; with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places going to Fassa Bortolo riders Bruseghin, Gonzalez, and Frigo, he seemed to single-handedly frustrate the Fassa drive to take yet another stage win. He also rode home with the 8th position on GC at 14' 14", climbing over Pellizotti (Alessio) for the only change in the final top ten. This is an excellent result for this veteran rider on a small team.
  • Lampre. With the strong ride of Rumsas (5th on the stage at 1' 03") they climbed over Saeco to take the Teams competition by a mere 1' 08". This will guarantee them the much sought-after invite to all of next year's grand tours, making it much more difficult for JML to exclude them. Though this was a very disappointing tour for them in many ways, this team trophy will ease the pain of their sponsors and help them return to the top in the future.
Ham-Gazers of the Day:
  • The Fans. The men in the top ten all fought hard. Sure, Pellizotti lost one place on GC and Saeco blew the teams competition, but they will be happy with their performances and final positions in the race. Andrea Noe' (Alessio), Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner), Rumsas, Frigo, and Eddy Mazzoleni (Vini Caldirola-Sidermac) all put in strong rides to hold their GC positions. Everyone else just finished the damned race, and in this cruel Giro with so many crashes and harsh jury decisions, that alone is a victory. There were no drug scandals, only a few entertaining controversies, and a hell of a lot of exciting stages. We couldn't have asked for more. So rather than giving the ham-gazing award to any rider, I'm giving it to the fans: we were treated to some of the best ham-gazing possible for over three weeks as the riders hammered their way through Italy, and for that, we're grateful.

    See you all for the Tour de France in July!
 
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