|Golden Hams of the Day|
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Freddy "Flash" Rodriguez (Acqua & Sapone). Yesterday, I commented that Fred "has shown that he can win the battle for position with some of the nastiest elbow-throwers in the world. Now he just needs to have a good day." Well, today was that good day, the day the Californian tamed the Italian Stallion and sent Napoleon to Elba. He came out of the final corner in 4th wheel, just behind McEwen (3rd wheel) and Petacchi (2nd wheel). When the last Fassa leadout man pulled off, Fred jumped on the left, accelerated around McEwen, and came even with Petacchi. Then he pulled in front of Petacchi. The big Italian sat on Fred's wheel for a moment, then tried to come around him on the right. But he couldn't. Fred held off the fastest finisher in the world by a wheel as they both threw their bikes at the line. McEwen and the rest were left to struggle in his wake. So today Rodriguez was able to do what few have done over the last two years, and what nobody had been able to do in this Giro: he beat Petacchi in a straight-up, all out, clean-cut dash for the line. This will give Fred and his team a huge burst of confidence for the stages to come, and for the upcoming U.S. Pro Championships. In the meantime, well, there's all that champagne they've got to drink.
- Angelo Furlan (Alessio-Bianchi). Well Furlan finally seems to have found his legs. At the beginning of the Giro, he was a favorite to be in contention for stage wins on the flat stages, but this was the first day where he really showed what he's capable of in a sprint as he came across the line in 3rd. With a couple of more sprint finishes to come this week, look for Furlan to continue to challenge the likes of Petacchi and McEwen in the last 200 meters.
Grazed Hams of the Day
- Alessandro "Italian Stallion" Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). It's a sign of how great a sprinter Petacchi is that he's getting this award for coming 2nd by a wheel. He's won four stages, and today he increased his lead in the Ciclamino Jersey to 45 points over McEwen. As Petacchi himself said, it is impossible to win them all. But you can be sure that he'll try to win the rest of the bunch sprints between now and Milan, and succeed most of the time.
- Robbie "Napoleon" McEwen (Lotto-Domo). The Little Emperor came in 4th today, and his consistency in the sprints so far speaks to the fact that his form is coming along perfectly for the Tour. He has a few more days to try to take another victory, and then it's off to France to try to win the Green Jersey once again.
Crazy Jane's Proscuitto Squisito:
- Massimo Strazzer (Saunier Duval-Prodir). He took 3rd in the Intergiro sprint to retain his lead in that competition, but the crash later on really had him in pain. Helped by a teammate, he came across the line 9' 29" behind the winner, and he was unable to take the podium to be presented with his Blue Jersey. He struggled hard to finish, and the pain was plain on his face. Here's hoping that his injuries are relatively minor, and that the rest day is enough to get this fine sprinter back in form for the Intergiros to come.
The EXTRA SPECIAL Fast Freddie Rodriguez RULES Edition!
People, you might be wondering why today, at the precise moment when Fast Freddie Rodriguez won the sprint for the 9th stage of the 2004 Giro d'Italia, Italian television lost the feed, and I can answer that question for you right here: they lost the feed because live action picture of F-Rod taking Petacchi in a straight-up drag race for the line would have been TOO HOT FOR MY TV TO HANDLE. If they had shown us that moment live, there could have been an explosion, and my house might have burned down. As it was, I saw the replay, leapt to my feet to celebrate, kicked the edge of my coffee table, and stubbed the hell out of my toe. Thank you very much, Italian TV people.
My dear readers, what can I tell you? I have been WAITING for this moment, and it is il pił squisito! As I mentioned on the very first stage of this race, Freddie Rodriguez has been right on the verge for a very long time. He hasn't had the same kind of team support Petacchi has, but he does have the speed, guts and heart to win. Freddie has worked long and hard for this, and it's really a great victory. Quite frankly, the staff of the Daily Peloton's Prosciutto Awards knew he had it in him, and we could not be more thrilled to see him on the podium, where he belongs.
Freddie is our posterboy today, and if you want my opinion, he's the best one:
F-Rod throws his bike over the line!
Looks triumphant on the podium...
...And accepts his well-earned kisses!
photos courtesy of the Giro d'Italia
Here's what was good about this sprint: Freddie took a big gamble. He launched early, and he got the jump on Petacchi. Both men had a straight shot for the line, and for Freddie, it would come down to simply holding the speed to keep the world's best sprinter (along with a veritable who's who of cycling's scariest speedsters) at bay. Finding himself in position to make it happen, he put his head down and drilled it with everything he had, threw his bike over the line, and relegated Alessandro Petacchi to second place. It's an oft repeated refrain in the sport of cycling that you have to "risk losing to win." Freddie himself told me that, the first time I ever met him. He told me that he was most likely to win when he "let down his guard," and opened himself up to the possibility of failing. Watching him accept his flowers and kisses on the podium today, fluffing up his tailfeathers in that delightful way he does, I was reminded of one of the most beautiful aspects of the sport of cycling, and that's the way it separates the men from the boys.
Charging for a finish line in a pack of over 100 adrenalized professional bike racers, some of whom would take any risk, no matter how dangerously foolhardy, wearing nothing but a plastic and styrofoam helmet and lycra skivvies takes a lot of nerve, but it's only the tip of the iceberg. For a guy like Fred, who has the athletic talent, ambition, and drive to make it to this level; who has labored for years, blazing his own trail on European teams, working constantly to maintain the strength to believe in himself, day after day, as he faces what I can only imagine must often feel like the labors of Sisyphus, this has got to be a great day, not only because of all the work and striving that has paid off, but also because if Freddie had lost a straight-up drag race for the line to Petacchi, here's what he would have learned: Petacchi is just faster, stronger, and better. Instead, he proved that he most certainly does have what it takes to win.
Bike racers who start the day hoping to win, and who say to the press "I can win," open themselves up to failure every day. Earlier this season, Freddie Rodriguez told the Daily Peloton that he knew he could challenge Petacchi, and some of you race fans out there scoffed, but here's the bottom line: in having the courage to talk the talk, believing in himself enough to know that he belongs at the sharp end of a sprint finish against the best in the business, and by having the courage to give everything when he's there, Fred Rodriguez has also had the courage to let himself be tested. Win or lose, that's a beautiful thing.
Of course, when it ends with flowers, champagne, and pretty girls on a podium in beautiful Italia, that's a really beautiful thing.