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Giro d'Italia: The Prosciutto Report - Stage 18
 
By Locutus
Date: 5/28/2004
Giro d'Italia: The Prosciutto Report - Stage 18
 
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Damiano "Boy Wonder" Cunego and Gilberto "G-Man" Simoni (Saeco). Once again the Dynamic Duo unleashed their 1-2 punch, with Simoni attacking and Cunego getting to sit on and watch their rivals try to respond. Simoni obviously doesn't have the form of previous years, but his attack was enough to splinter the Pink Jersey group and get him a 4th on the stage, which moved him up into 3rd on GC at 3' 07". It also set up Cunego's vicious attack in the final kilometer that led to yet another stage win for the Boy Wonder. Cunego now looks pretty secure in that Pink Jersey, and Simoni looks pretty likely to finish on the podium. While there is still one more mountain stage tomorrow, today was the big test for the Saeco boys. And while this Giro will likely finish with a new champion, the dominance of the Saeco squad looks like it will continue for quite a while.
  • Dario Cioni (Fassa Bortolo) and Serhiy "Honcho" Honchar (De Nardi). Cioni has been solid and consistent throughout the race, and he seems to have saved his best for the high mountains. He led the charge to chase back Simoni on that final climb, and rolled across the line in 2nd only 5" behind Cunego. More importantly, he moved up to 5th on GC at 4' 44", and looks likely to make this Giro an all-around success for the Fassa men come Milano. As for Honchar, he once again showed impressive power to hold onto (and at times, lead) the Pink Jersey group as he finished 3rd on the stage at 5". He is only one stage away from a podium finish, and if Cunego falters, it looks like Honchar is ready to close that 1' 31" gap that separates him from the Pink Jersey. That doesn't appear likely, however, and you can bet that Cunego is thanking the Giro organizers for not including another time trial near the end of the race. If there were another time trial, Honchar would most likely go home the overall winner. As it is, this is the best race of his life, and you can bet his De Nardi sponsor is ecstatic that their man has kept their colors at the front for this entire race.
  • Juan Manuel Garate and Wladimir "Punchy" Belli (Lampre). The men in pink and blue had another good day in the mountains, with Garate coming across in 7th at 35" and Belli finishing the stage in 9th at 41". Respectively, this improved their GC positions to 9th at 6' 56" and 6th at 5' 21". Two men in the final top ten will definitely make the sponsors happy, and with more mountains in store tomorrow, these men could climb even higher and perhaps even snake a stage win.
  • Stefano "Avant Garde" Garzelli (Vini Caldirola-Nobili). He finally attacked today, risking everything as he charged alone towards the Gavia Pass. He dropped all of his rivals, but the headwinds and the uncooperative men who joined him on the descent proved too much to overcome. Saeco chased him down, but this was a brave move worthy of a former Giro champion. He finished the stage in 15th, 2' 03" behind Cunego, and he now holds down 8th on GC at 6' 45". He has shown that he still has fight left in him, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him off the front again tomorrow.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Franco "Goldilocks" Pellizotti (Alessio-Bianchi). Another bad day in the mountains pretty much put an end to Pellizotti's GC hopes. He crossed the line in 18th, 3' 08" adrift, and fell to 13th in GC at 8' 59". He could still recover tomorrow to challenge for the stage win, but he will be very disappointed that he hasn't been able to maintain his strong start in this Giro.
  • Yaroslav "Jiffy Pop" Popovych (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago). His hopes for another podium finish took a beating today. He fought like mad to stay in contact with the Pink Jersey group up the final climb, but he just didn't have the power to match the hard charge of the Saecos. He crossed the line in a respectable 8th at only 41", but this was enough to allow Simoni to jump over him on GC. He now sits in 4th on GC at 3' 23" behind Cunego and 16" behind Simoni. With more mountains on tap tomorrow, it seems unlikely that Popovych will be able to turn the tables on the defending champion. But you never know.
  • "Mad" Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com). McGee continues to impress in the mountains, as he came across in 11th at 1' behind Cunego. While he slipped a couple of positions on GC, McGee still holds a strong position of 7th at 5' 24". He actually put time into Garzelli, the man who is behind him in 8th. However, McGee is likely still fuming about that 20" time penalty from a couple of stages ago… without it, he would be in 6th, 17" ahead of Belli. With only one more mountain stage, and Bradley still looking strong, his unlikely GC challenge looks to be on course to finish as one of the biggest surprises of this Giro.
 
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