With most of the spotlight on Simoni, Garzelli and newcomer Damiano Cunego, someone may have missed the excellent performances carried out by Giuliano Figueras and Franco Pellizotti: the former finished fourth in the stage, and the latter crossed the line even in front of him, getting a spot in the stage Top 3. Both guys are currently well-placed in the overall too: the Alessio rider is fourth, 29" down on Gibo d'Italia, while Figueras is sitting in sixth place, 45" behind Simoni.
Figueras' performance was somehow "announced" by Panaria DS Reverberi during an interview "on the road" in the late part of Tuesday stage, right before the race hit the final ascent. The team manager said that, even if Figueras lost part of his sprinting abilities, the Neapolitan has been working hard on improving his climbing skills, and succeeded. Facts proved Reverberi right. In the first uphill stage of the Giro at least.
"Gazzetta dello Sport" briefly chatted with both riders, and highlighted Giuliano Figueras' comeback to very high performances, just to have the Panariaman respond that "I'm back to high levels only. Not very high, as there's someone still going faster than me. But I'm happy anyway. I proved I can stay with the best ones -Simoni aside, as I think he's currently stronger than anyone- on a climb like that, and the fact I'm going fast since the start of the year is a further reason to be satisfied with my performance".
Tuesday Figueras finished with the likes of Damiano Cunego and Yaroslav Popovych, two riders as promising as the Neapolitan was when he turned professional after being Under 23 World Road Champ in 1996, although Figueras perhaps didn't live up to all expectations in the following years "Sure I got good results, maybe even better than they did, in younger categories. Then things have gone wrong in the last two-three seasons and, well, I wouldn't say I'm back now, but I can say I think I'm as good as they are. And I'm just 28, so I think can do well for the next 5-6 years too".
The man confessed he was at the startline with the intention to put some good riding in some stages, but despite Reverberi's words he didn't think his climbing performances could be as good as they were yesterday, and now he's hungry to know what he can do in the coming stages: apart from the Montevergine di Mercogliano uphill finish, the first half of the Giro consists of "easy" legs, that make it easy for any rider in the top places overall to maintain his position; there's no place for excessive expectations anyway: Figueras is also well aware that things will be way different once the race hits the Dolomites in the final week".
Franco Pellizzotti was "Best of the Rest" behind the unstoppable duo of Gilberto Simoni and Damiano Cunego. And despite the fairheaded Venetian showed off his talent throughout the last 2-3 years, we can't call this a "comeback" too. As the same Alessio rider explains: "It has been while since I was able to stay with the best ones. I think I was back to my "usual" positions, and that makes me happy. I just hope things may go on like that. When Simoni broke away, I couldn't remain on his wheels; later I saw the others were struggling and tried to drop them. I didn't succeed, but I'm satisfied anyway".