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Giro d'Italia: The Prosciutto Report - Stage 16
By Locutus
Date: 5/25/2004
Giro d'Italia: The Prosciutto Report - Stage 16
Golden Hams of the Day
  • The Dynamic Duo: Gilberto "G-Man" Simoni and Damiano "Boy Wonder" Cunego (Saeco). The Saeco team pulled out the old one-two punch again today, as they unleashed the climbing might of G-Man and The Boy Wonder on their mighty foes. Cunego jumped away on the penultimate climb, which forced their GC rivals to chase and really put the pressure on Popovych. Cunego joined up with Eddy Mazzoleni and Andrea Tonti, who had been off the front with the early break, and they drove it until Damiano attacked the final climb. Cunego blew away the remnants of the break and stormed into the Pink Jersey once again. Behind, Simoni got to sit on and watch his rivals blow themselves to pieces. Then he countered a move by Figueras on the final climb, sat in, and cruised across the line in 14th while taking time on most of the other GC contenders. Cunego now sits atop the GC with a 1' 14" cushion over Honchar, and Simoni sits in 4th at 2' 38". And the next time the road goes up, you can bet the tactics will be the same, except next time Cunego will sit in while Simoni goes on the attack. It's not clear who will win the Giro yet, but it's looking increasingly likely that the two top spots on the podium will belong to Saeco's Dynamic Duo.
  • Serhiy "Honcho" Honchar (De Nardi). He was supposed to get dropped today, but while climbers like Garzelli and Pellizotti suffered, Honchar hung tough with the Simoni group the whole day. He was riding defensively to be sure, but what else can you do against these Saeco climbers? His defensive riding got him across the line at the front of the Simoni group in 12th at 2' 39". He also held onto his 2nd place on GC at 1' 14" behind Cunego. This is without a doubt the best race of Honcho's life so far. While I still don't think he can win it, after today I'm starting to believe that he can finally make the podium in Milan.
  • Julio "Smiley" Perez and "Fighting" Giuliano Figueras (Ceramiche Paneria – Margres). Finally, "Smiley" Perez showed some good legs today. He was in that massive group that attacked early on, and was one of the few to stay near the front the entire day. He finished the day in 6th at 1' 38", but hopefully this will be the first of many attacks in the days to come for the amazing Mexican. Meanwhile, his teammate Figueras attacked the Simoni group on the final climb. This attack blew the Pink Jersey group to pieces, as Simoni and Honchar countered and dropped the likes of Popovych, Garzelli, and Pellizotti. Figueras has been one of the few GC contenders who has shown the willingness and ability to attack the Saecos in the mountains, and by the end of the day he had taken back 10" on Simoni as he crossed the line in 10th at 2' 29". His ride today moved him from 7th to 5th on GC at 3' 31" behind Cunego. It also made him look like one of the few remaining threats to the mastery of Saeco's Dynamic Duo.
  • Fabian "Turn Me Loose" Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) and Alexandre "Bullwinkle" Moos (Phonak). They both found their way into the break today, and their dual for the Green Jersey really livened up the front of the race until they were overtaken by the GC battle. Wegmann increased his lead in the mountains competition to 7 points over Cunego, though he eventually faded before the final climb of the day. Moos gained a lot of points as well, and now sits in 3rd at 18 points behind Wegmann. Moos also showed more staying power than his younger rival, as he finished the stage in 3rd at 1' 38" behind Cunego. While the Green Jersey may eventually get swallowed up by the Saecos as well, these two men look ready to take this fight all the way to Milan.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Yaroslav "Jiffy Pop" Popovych (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago). It was a sad sight to see such a great rider surrounded by rivals with no teammates to be found so early in a stage. Popovych was on his own in trying to fight off Cunego, Simoni, Honchar, Figueras, and all the rest. He did the Pink Jersey proud, setting the tempo in the Simoni group until the final climb, but he eventually had no response to the attacks that his rivals rained on him. Still, all is not lost: he finished the day in 22nd at 3' 50" behind Cunego, and he held onto 3rd place in GC at 2' 22". Without the pressure of the Pink Jersey, Popovych will now have a chance to recover and try to take back some time on the climbs to come.
  • Stefano "Avante Garde" Garzelli (Vini Caldirola-Nobili). Once again, Garzelli was yo-yoing off the back of the Pink Jersey group whenever the slopes got steep today. The former champ crossed the line in 20th at 3' 23" behind Cunego, and while he held onto his 8th spot on GC (at 4' 26"), he failed to show the form that made him a favorite for the win in Milan. He still looks good for a top ten finish, but he might switch his tactics now and try for a stage win in the mountains.
  • Franco "Goldilocks" Pellizotti (Alessio-Bianchi). Pellizotti has ridden an outstanding Giro. Unfortunately, he had a bad day, and like Garzelli he was dropped by his rivals on the big climbs. He finished the stage in 29th, 5' 27" behind the winner, and fell from 5th to 10th on GC at 5' 31". There is still time for him to recover and climb over some of the men in front of him, but like Garzelli, he might be better off at this point focusing on a stage win.

Crazy Jane's Prosciutto Squisito

People, sometimes a girl's schedule makes it difficult to do things like carry on about all the hot guys who are pedaling around Italy these fine days, but don't think that just because I've been quiet I've been missing the hamstravaganza. I've kept an eagle eye on the proceedings and I've even been doing a little research; so, looking back over the past few stages, I have some molto squisito little details to point out to you this afternoon.

It took me awhile to get over the sheer brilliance of Freddie Rodriguez's big drag race finish on stage 9. That was pretty much the hottest thing this reporter has seen all year, and I was spent after stage 9, so thank god I got a rest day! I was exhausted, and the foot I injured in my excitement at Prince Freddie's victory needed some recovery time, too. Oh yeah, and it's nice for the bike boys get a little rest, as well.

Anyway, Stage 10 brought a Return of the Current Sprint King, and I guess we all know by now how much I'm not complaining, as long as that involves Alessandro "hotpants" Petacchi, a podium, and a lycra costume. Still, I felt like it might be nice to go a little further afield for a stage 10 poster boy, so I checked out Mr. Second Place, Marco Zanotti, who rides for Vini Caldirola. I dug up the following photo of him from last year when he was part of the Fassa Bortolo stage winning machine while apparently working his Italian supermodel good looks pretty darned hard. I guess he had to if he was hanging out with Petacchi all the time!

Marco Zanotti, circa 2003: Ciao, Bello!
photo by Christine Grein

Stage 11 gave us a victory for charming youngster Emanuele Sella, and it's always squisito when the little ones hold on all day like that and wins big. The usual drama unfolded in the ITT, but I can't tell you if anyone rocked his skinsuit especially hard because I missed it, and believe me, I cried.

Which brings me to the Petacchi parade on stages 13 & 14, where records were broken, and the Italian Stallion mounted the podium two days in a row, but there's another incident I want to call to your attention just now - an incident that pretty much put the squisito-meter into the red - and it's this one:

Petacchi & his Princess
photo courtesy of the Giro d'Italia

Allow me to quote the scrumptious details as recounted by the official website of the Giro d'Italia:

"To celebrate his 8th victory, the flying machine took Anna Chiara with him, his guardian angel and inspiration behind the fairy-tale on wheels who, in fifteen stages of the Giro, has rewritten a chunk of its history. Alessandro Petacchi took his fiancé firmly by the hand and led her onto the podium with him in San Vendemiano, lifting her up like the sweetest of trophies. Then he kissed her, normal protocol to the wind, in front of the podium girls, an ecstatic public, the television cameras, like something out of a Peynet picture or a cycling world reality show."

Here at Crazy Jane's copy desk, we've gotta say that it doesn't get much more squisito than that (the reference to the scourge that is reality TV notwithstanding). If someone's going to have to win the race every damned day, I guess it's good we get Alessandro Petacchi; at least he's charming!

Finally, it looks like we've got a situation on our hands in Saeco-land. Will two-time and defending Giro champion, and all-around charming guy, Gilberto Simoni work for his 22 year old teammate in pink, or are there wheels within wheels on this thing? Saeco needed to crack Popovych today, and they sure did manage that. It looked to me like everyone except Gibo worked his skinny butt to the bone today. The big mountains are coming up, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I'm looking for the old switcheroo. I found it pretty hard to believe that Simoni would just sit there all day and watch the Giro ride away from him, and with all the hard climbing to come, the race is hardly as all sewn up as they're making it out to be in the latest talk. If Simoni's being a "highly marked man" was worrying anyone, Saeco has just stacked the deck. Oh yeah, baby. I love teamwork!

Meanwhile, Damiano Cunego is looking pretty in pink. Is that lipstick on his face? Cheeky monkey!

Cunego looks pretty well-chuffed with himself...
photo courtesy of the Giro d'Italia

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