Few doubts that the main discussion topic concerning the next Giro d'Italia is about the overall winner: will Gilberto Simoni prove able to make the double ? Will Stefano Garzelli show his 2000 victory was not by chance? Will Dario Frigo make up for the dramatic end of last year's edition ? Or maybe time for Francesco Casagrande to show naysayers he's a natural-born winner, and wear the so long coveted "Maglia rosa" in the Milan podium ? But besides all this stuff, and the usual "Cipo vs. rest of the world" sprint-related thing, there are other interesting subjects.
One for instance: who may be this year's Giro revelation, which rider might look like the best GT perspective for the coming years ? In many of its editions the Tour of Italy has helped to make future champions known to a broader audience. Last year a young Mexican, Panaria's Julio Alberto Pérez Cuapio, got to the startline as an average, less-known rider, and finished as a "celebrity" (thanks to both his performances as a climber and legendary misfortune though) such that he apparently succeded even in the hardest of tasks: finding a girlfriend.
And who could take the thin Mexican's place in 2002 (as a rider at least, if not a playboy ....) ? Many suspect the man might be Alessio's Franco Pellizzotti. The young rider from the Veneto region is not absolutely unkown of course, many hardcore fans are perfectly aware of his performances both in last year's Vuelta (when he captured the medias attention by becoming the best-placed overall Italian, even better than Gilberto Simoni) and the early part of 2002, with his two first victories as a pro (stages at Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour of the Basque Country respectively).
But this year's Giro d'Italia could mean much more to the 24-year-old climber: he might give a further confirmation of the skills he has showed so far, definitively become one of the main perspectives for next year's GT podiums and, last but not least, make himself known by a broader audience (despite Italy has so many successful riders, too often "not hardcore" fans tend to "deify" the most-known and "mediatical" ones and neglect many others who would deserve more attention instead ...).
Italy's #1 sport newspaper, "Gazzetta dello Sport", was one of the quickest (along with a few fans who, in some cycling message boards, regarded him a possible podium place getter) to realize that Pellizotti could be one of the Giro's main characters. And interviewed the man some days before his Tour of Italy debut.
The fair-haired rider, a professional cyclist since early 2001, sounded quite optimist before his new adventure, but also told journalist Luigi Perna that he is aware of the pressure mounting around him. It is no longer the same as eight months ago at the Vuelta startline, where he was unkown to almost everyone: Pellizotti's good performances made the guy quite famous, and consequently now many expect more good results to come from him. In this sense, things are quite different from last year's Pèrez Cuapio, whose name said few things to most cycling fans, and whose performances really were as amazing as unexpected.
But Pellizotti said that, in spite of all the pressure and expectations, he remains quiet "I'll be at the startline hoping for a stage victory. No, I won't be going for the GC. But everything I'll do in the Giro will mainly be of help for the future. Of course things won't be the same as in last year's Tour of Spain. True that it was a very prestigious 3-week race, but not as important to us Italians as the Giro actually is. And the pressure was not the same I'll find in the coming race. In any case, I think the third week of racing will tell the truth. That's when I'll know whether my build-up was right or wrong. In the last weeks I spent up to 5-6 hours on the bike in every training session, with 40 minutes or so on the ascents. I climbed Piancavallo, Montegrappa, Pianezza. A kind of riding you are not able to do during the races".
What stage will be decisive, or at least where riders such as Pellizotti might be able to have their say ? "The two "Queen Stages" will be the 17th and 18th (finishing up to Corvara in val Badia and Folgaria respectively), but climbers goiing for the Overall can't afford not to go fast in the two Time-Trials, when they'll have to lose as little time as possible. My personal favorites are Frigo, who proved he can go fast everywhere, and Simoni that showed he can time-trial well too".
In the final part of the interview, the Alessio's mountain goat (whom I'd like to see if Team Directors would force to work for presumed captain Ivan Gotti or set him free to play his part in the race, maybe the road will decide ..) expressed all of his emotions for taking part in Italy's #1 race for the first time "Yes, making my debut at the Giro at such a young age is source of strong emotion to me. That's a dream which is about to come true. And being among the favorites, or so they say at least, makes me even happier".
Franco Pellizotti, born in Latisana (Udine) on January 15, 1978, but living near Venice, was second overall at the 2000 "Baby Giro" (behind another climber so far not that successful among the pros, Alessio's teammate Raffaele Ferrara, currently out of competition due to a cyst operation), and the best-placed overall Italian at the 2001 Tour of Spain, where he finished in 20th place, 27'58" behind race winner Angel Casero, but more than 34 minutes ahead of Gilberto Simoni.
True that, unlike "Gibo", the man was unable to clinch (and actually compete for) any stage victory, but he filled this gap by breaking ice in 2002, when he captured the sixth leg of Tirreno-Adriatico in March and repeated himself in the uphill finish of Stage 4 of "Vuelta al Pais Vasco" (Alasua - Villabona, 154 km - dropping no less than Nicki Sorensen, David Etxebarria and the in-form Fleche Wallonne future winner - in a similar uphill finish - Mario Aerts) about one month later. After a victory in March and a success in April, he needs to continue his winning streak and raise his arms in triumph in May too, and the Giro could be the place for him to score the hat-trick.
The "Daily Peloton" wishes him all the best for the coming race ...