After all other main contenders to the Giro throne, namely Francesco Casagrande (winner in Tour of Trentino), Gilberto Simoni (podium place getter in the same race) and Dario Frigo (stage winner and current Overall Leader at Romandie), had showed an excellent state of form as long as Italy's GT is nearing, it was time for Stefano Garzelli to play his part and do something more than the good "LBL show" (see link at the bottom of the page) he had two weeks ago. And the Mapei-Quick Step rider did not disappoint, as on Saturday afternoon he won the 26th edition of "GP Industria e Artigianato - Larciano", a one-day contest held in the Tuscany region of Italy.
The rider from Varese surprisingly outsprinted presumably quicker Neapolitan Giuliano Figueras (Panaria-Fiordo), while Francesco Casagrande (Fassa-Bortolo) came in third - 5" behind. The next group, led home by Saeco's Fabio Sacchi, crossed the line 23" after the winner.
It was an important success for Garzelli, especially in the day a further good performance by Andrea Noé and Cadel Evans in Switzerland could (even if remotely) jeopardize the man's leadership in the Giro squad. Good news for Figueras too, as the Italian should be Panaria's appointed leader for the Tour of Italy, although both Pérez Cuapio and Faat Zakirov had good performances in recent times (actually the Russian did well even today). As for Casagrande, he didn't need to prove anything, as he alreday acquired the status of Fassa's GC man beyond any reasonable doubt (assuming bad luck for once doesn't target him ...) but nonetheless gave a further display of his form.
The top-class 3-man (Garzelli, Figueras, Casagrande)breakaway went clear on the San Baronto ascent of this 200-km. race, with only six riders chasing them: Fassa's Leonardo Giordani and Settimana Lombarda Winner Tadej Valjavec (guess neither the Italian nor the Slovene were actively taking part in the chase anyway ...) Lampre's Sergio Barbero, Mercatone's Luca Mazzanti, above mentioned Russian Faat Zakirov (Panaria-Fiordo) and young Lithuanian Marius Sabaliauskas (Saeco-Longoni Sport). Colombians Hernán Buenahora and Félix Cárdenas, both riding for Cage Maglierie-Olmo, were slightly behind them, but the former soon caught and passed the sextet, which subsequently was joined by other riders and splintered.
Casagrande took the KOM prime ahead of Figueras and Garzelli, while Buenahora got there 38" behind, and 6" ahead of Cardenas, Ruggero Borghi & Renzo Mazzoleni (Ita - Tacconi Sport-Emmegi), Uros Murn (Slo - Mobilvetta-Formaggi Trentini), Gerhard Trampusch (Aut - Saeco-Longoni Sport), neoprofessionals Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus - Acqua & Sapone-Cantina Tollo), and Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita - Saeco), along with no less than Gilberto Simoni.
But all their chasing work proved useless, as the agreement inside the leading trio was simply perfect: the break worked well together and easily made it to the finishing line, as easily as Garzelli edged out favorite Figueras.
"I was feeling as strong as in LBL" Garzelli said afterward "Sure that I feared Figueras, but everything went perfect. Now I feel much better than one year ago before the Giro, and I was really expecting a victory of mine to come and seal this good moment. I used a 41x16 gear while climbing San Baronto, and still I felt my pedalling was quite easy".
RESULTS - TOP 20 PLACES:
1. Stefano Garzelli (Ita - Mapei-Quick Step) 5h14'02" (38,212 km/h;
2. Giuliano Figueras (Ita - Panaria-Fiordo) - st
3. Francesco Casagrande (Ita - Fassa-Bortolo) - at 5";
4. Fabio Sacchi (Ita - Saeco-Longoni Sport) - at 23";
5. Simone Masciarelli (Ita - Acqua & Sapone-Cantina Tollo) - st
6. Luca Mazzanti (Ita - Mercatone Uno) - st
7. Uros Murn (Slo - Mobilvetta-Formaggi Trentini) - st
8. Devis Miorin (Ita - De Nardi-Pasta Montegrappa) - st
9. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus - Acqua & Sapone-Cantina Tollo) - st
10. Tadei Valjavec (Slo - Fassa-Bortolo) - st
11. Ruggero Marzoli (Ita - Formaggi Trentini) - st
12. Daniele Righi (Ita - Index-Alexia) - st
13. Gerhard Trampusch (Aut - Mapei-Quick Step) - st
14. Cristiano Frattini (Ita - Cage Maglierie-Olmo) - st
15. Leonardo Giordani (Ita - Colpack-Astro) - st
16. Renzo Mazzoleni (Ita - Colpack-Astro) - st
17. Thomas Grönquist (Swe - Amore & Vita-Beretta) - st
18. Faat Zakirov (Rus - Panaria-Fiordo) - st
19. Ruggero Borghi (Ita - Tacconi Sport-Emmegi) - st
20. Hernan Buenahora Gutierrez (Col - Cage Maglierie-Olmo) - st
The "Tuscan weekend" continues tomorrow with the "Giro della Toscana", whose details and results will be delivered to you by the "Daily Peloton" as usual.
Just don't miss them !!!