|Golden Hams of the Day|
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Gilberto "Mountain Monster" Simoni and Damiano "The Omen" Cunego (Saeco). Today the red train was awesome, chasing down the breaks and leading out the climb to set up their big guns. And boy, did their big guns deliver. Yesterday's winner Cunego went first, driving it alone up the road. Then, with his rivals tiring from the chase of Cunego, Simoni pounced and rode away quite easily on the steepest part of the climb. The Mountain Monster promised a good showing near the headquarters of his sponsor; his victory and Cunego's 2nd on the stage will certainly keep the bosses happy. The honchos will also be thrilled by the duo's 1-2 placing on GC, where Simoni leads Cunego by 13" and Popovytch by 21". And did I mention that Cunego stretched his lead in the points competition to 19 points over Petacchi? OH, and I almost forgot: Simoni now holds the Green Jersey for king of the mountains as well, a few points ahead of… Cunego. Yeah, it was a good day for the defending champs.
- Renzo Mazzoleni (Tenax). His solo breakaway for over 130km was impressive. He ran out of gas on the final climb, but his grimaces were mixed with smiles as he rode along, knowing that his was a valiant effort doomed from the start. He almost won the mountains jersey, but Saeco's assault wiped that away as well. He finished the stage in 159th, 19' 46" behind Simoni, even though he had a 6' lead heading into the final climb. All that Mazzoleni was left with by the end of the day was leg cramps, the respect of his fellow riders, and the adulation of the fans.
- Franco "Goldilocks" Pellozotti (Alessio-Bianchi), Giuliano Figueras (Ceramiche Paneria-Margres), and Yaroslav "Jiffy Pop" Popovytch (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago). These three fought hard on the final climb to finish only 17" adrift of Simoni, with Pellozotti coming across in 3rd, Figueras 4th, and Popovytch 5th. They worked well together in the chase, and limited what could have been much more significant time losses. In the GC, Popovytch stands in 3rd at 21", Pellizotti is 4th at 29", and Figueras is 6th at 45". With so many climbs in this Giro and with men like Garzelli struggling today, these climbers have a great shot at rounding out the podium in Milan. And with Popovytch's time-trialing skills, Simoni had better watch his back.
- Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola-Nobili). He only lost 34" to Simoni on the climb, but he didn't look like a man who will challenge for overall victory. He labored on the steepest section of the climb, unable to hold the wheels of the men chasing Simoni, let alone Simoni himself. This is only the first test in the mountains, but Simoni and the others will take note of Garzelli's performance today and put the wood to him every chance that they get. With the 20" bonus Simoni picked up for the win, Garzelli now finds himself sitting in a 1' 05" hole on GC that will be hard to make up.
- Davide "Ardennes Master" Rebellin (Gerolsteiner). Many of us thought that the in-form Rebellin would challenge for the stage victory and perhaps take the Pink Jersey today. However, the 14% grade proved too much for the man with so much power on the shorter climbs. He is still a strong candidate to win a stage or two, but his dreams of Pink are over for another year.
- "Mad" Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com). He fought like crazy, staying with the leaders well up the final climb. Ultimately, however, he had to drop off the vicious pace set by the Saeco boys, and he ended the stage in 42nd at 2' 21" behind Simoni. While he surrendered the Pink Jersey again, McGee has shown immense talent and class over the last few days. He smoked everyone in the prologue, and he rode like a madman yesterday to reclaim the Pink Jersey from Pollack (Gerolsteiner). He's sure to make a bit more noise over the next few days and in the next time trial. And he's sure to make a lot of noise in July at the Tour.
Crazy Jane's Prosciutto Squisito
People, you know I was only waiting for a good excuse to say those two magic words: GILBERTO SIMONI. Yes, it's true that this time last year, we at the Crazy Jane's copy desk were firmly in the Stephano Garzelli camp, admiring Garzelli's shining pate and sculpted eyebrows, which arch stylishly over show stopping blue eyes and lashes straight out of a covergirl commercial. Garzelli, it must be said, knows how to work it, baby. Still, Garzelli's bald beauty aside, my dears, we're singing a new tune this year.
I'm going to go ahead and declare, without equivocation, that today's poster boy is also Crazy Jane's Official Giro Favorite™.
Gilberto Simoni: King of the Mountain
Photo courtesy of Team Saeco
How did Saeco's mountain man earn this distinction? Well, this reporter was lucky enough to spend some quality time with that little Italian dynamo at the end of last season, and it is my unalloyed pleasure to let all of you know that from the top of his fancy, spotted head, to the tip of his pointy-toed little boots, Gilberto Simoni is 100% charming; and, have you seen how much ass he kicks on a bike? Gibo looked cool as a cucumber today, and as if he was barely breaking a sweat while he rode away from the usual suspects, putting valuable seconds into his rivals. He now leads Popovich by 21 seconds, and arch-rival Garzelli by 1:05. Ouch. Simoni showed 'em what he's got in the tank today, and it's looking pretty good.
But girls, lets not stop there. How about the entire Saeco team? Were those guys driving it today, or was I just imagining some kind of crazy red freight train powered by smooth, muscular legs, drilling it up Corno alle Scale? Like all you race fans, I'm pretty impressed with young Damiano Cunego, who now sits in second place overall. Andrea Tonti was doing yeoman's work and looking good while he was at it. Personally, my favorite is Paolo Fornaciari. Sure, he's a bit of an old warhorse, but if you ask me, that's the best kind, really.
There's plenty of prosciutto squsito on the Saeco team, but that's not the main show: it's a beautiful thing to see a whole team of guys rise to the occasion of supporting a champion who proves himself worthy. Cunego is turning a lot of heads lately with a string of break out performances this season, but he has pledged his allegiance to Simoni for the duration of this Giro, and there's no part of the sport of cycling that touches the old heart more than the self-sacrifice of the gregario - especially when he'd got his own engine to rev.
Damiano Cunego, victorious (and cute!) on stage 2
Photo courtesy of Team Saeco