The Giro d'Italia is definitely approaching. You can notice that by looking not only at the calendar, but also at the results of the recent, most important races. This is particularly true for Giro del Trentino, whose result are perfect indication of a rider's form: if your performance in the hilly region of Northern Italy is good, you can look at the near future with optimism.
And this year seems to be no exception to the rule: the 5-stage race began yesterday with an impressive 1-2 by Fassa-Bortolo (a team constantly in the spotlight during its 2 past Giros), thanks to a couple of riders who already had pleasant experiences in the most recent Tours of Italy, and seems well-intentioned to go for some more satisfactions in the 2002 Version of the race.
And Friday's result was even more favourable to would-be Giro protagonists, as 31-year-old Francesco Casagrande, one of the most serious candidates to the "Maglia Rosa," both soloed to victory in Stage 2 (from Arco to Velloi over 176.5 km., featuring a 7-km. uphill finish with an average gradient of 8% and max. gradient going up to 12-13%) and took the overall leadership.
And the remaining podium places of the stage went to two more likely protaginists of the coming Grand Tour: Mexican Julio Alberto Pérez Cuapio (Panaria-Fiordo) ranked second, while Gilberto Simoni came in third.
Very good news for the two Italian riders in particular, as both Casagrande and Simoni come from an unlucky period, marked by two different crashes in Spanish stage races (Setmana Catalana and Tour of the Basque Country respectively) which made them lose some precious time for training.
But in spite of this, seems that both are finding back their ideal form, that should help today's winner in his bid to win the Giro for the first time, and the Saeco "newbie" to defend the title he took last year.
Today's result is a good omen also if you look at the demanding parcours of Giro del Trentino's stage 2, featuring not only the final ascent to Velloi, but two more more ascent: Passo della Mendola (1363 metres of altitude, after 116 km of riding) and Passo Palade (1512 metres, coming after 138 km into the race).
Casagrande made the difference by attacking no less than 5 times in the last 3 kilometres of the stage, and finally managed to drop the likes of Pérez Cuapio and Simoni, but also other Giro's likely protagonists such as Garzelli and Austria's Peter Luttenberger.
A leading bunch including some 40 riders got to the foot of the final climb, where of course the pelotn splintered, mainly due to the efforts of Casagrande and veteran Roberto Conti (Acqua & Sapone-Cantuina Tollo), the Alpe d'Huez winner in the 1994 TdF who, despite his 38 years of age, still can go up front a set a fast pace for a long part of the climb. Of course he couldn't hold for the whole ascent, and was later dropped.
Only 4 riders remained in Casagrande's wheel in the very final part of the stage: Pérez Cuapio, Garzelli, Simoni and Luttenberger. But not for long. The last "hero" trying to hold the tempo set by the Tuscan was Pérez. But even the thiny Mexican climber had to give up with some 1500 metres to go. He came in second, 23" Behind the winner and new Fuchsia Jersey's wearer. Simoni got a good third spot, 38" behind one of his most dangerous rivals for the Giro victory, while Luttenberger took fourth (47" his gap to Casagrande), and LBL hero Garzelli came in just six seconds after the Austrian mountain goat. Pantani lost 20'15".
"My legs are good now, and the morale is high. The injuries and bad luck that marked my first part of the season, including the crash I had at Vuelta al Pais Vasco, are forgotten, this victory is a further confirmation of the good things I had done in the Belgian Classics" the winner said after the race.
STAGE 2 - RESULTS
1. Francesco Casagrande (Ita - Fassa-Bortolo) 4h44'47" (37,186 km/h);
2. Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (Mex - Panaria-Fiordo) - at 23";
3. Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Saeco-Longoni Sport) - at 38";
4. Peter Luttemberger (Aut - Tacconi Sport-Emmegi) - at 47";
5. Stefano Garzelli (Ita - Mapei-Quick Step) - at 53";
6. Faat Zakirov (Rus - Panaria-Fiordo) - at 54";
7. Tadey Valjavec (Slo - Fassa-Bortolo) - at 54";
8. Andrei Teteriuk (Kaz - CCC-Polsat) - at 1'03";
9. Gerhard Trampusch (Aut - Mapei-Quick Step) - at 1'13";
10.Massimo Codol (Ita - Lampre-Daikin) - at 1'18"
OVERALL RANKING AFTER 2 STAGES
1. Francesco Casagrande (Ita - Fassa-Bortolo) - 8h48'11";
2. Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (Mex - Panaria-Fiordo) - at 25";
3) Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Saeco-Longoni Sport) - at 42";
4. Peter Luttenberger (Aut - Tacconi Sport-Emmegi) - at 52";
5. Stefano Garzelli (Ita - Mapei-Quick Step) - at 58";
6. Faat Zakirov (Rus - Panaria-Fiordo) - at 59";
7. Tadey Valjavec (Slo - Fassa-Bortolo) - at 59";
8. Andrei Teteroiuk (Kaz - CCC-Polsat) - at 1'08";
9. Gerhard Trampusch (Aut - Mapei-Quick Step) - at 1'18";
10.Massimo Codol (Ita - Lampre-Daikin) - at 1'23".