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Giro d'Italia: The Prosciutto Report - Stage 20
 
By Locutus
Date: 5/31/2004
Giro d'Italia: The Prosciutto Report - Stage 20
 
Golden Hams of the Giro
  • Damiano "The Omen" Cunego, Gilberto "G-Man" Simoni, and the Saeco train. The Saecos dominated the mountain stages from the 3rd stage on. They won five stages, and they held the Pink Jersey for 15 stages. Cunego was clearly the strongest man in the race, as he was able to ride off to victory four different times en route to claiming the Pink Jersey in Milano. His climbing prowess was impressive, and it will be interesting to see if he will continue to focus on the Giro in the future, or instead gear his season around that race in France. Whatever he decides to do, he looks like he'll be around winning races for a long time. Of course Cunego couldn't have done it without men like Eddy Mazzoleni, Andrea Tonti, Leornardo Bertagnolli, and the rest of the Saeco train. As for Gilberto Simoni, who took 3rd on GC and won a stage, the future is somewhat uncertain. Saeco is probably Cunego's team now, and I wouldn't be surprised if those rumors about Simoni moving back to Lampre turned out to be true. Simoni is a great champion, and he will likely be a dangerous man in this year's Tour de France as well as next year's Giro.
  • Alessandro "Italian Stallion" Petacchi, Dario "Choo-Choo" Chioni, and the Fassa Bortolo train. As a key component of the Fassa train, "Choo-Choo" Cioni was supposed to be in the race to help with the leadouts on the flats for Petacchi. He did that brilliantly, but then he also found the legs to prove a menace in the mountains and take 4th on GC. Cioni's performance will have Fassa Bortolo re-evaluating his status in the team, as the 30 year-old proved he is worthy of team leader status in a grand tour. With the new Pro Tour coming on line next year, Cioni will likely find himself a protected rider instead of a worker with the freedom to ride for himself in the mountains. As for Petacchi: I can't believe he actually made it to Milano! He made it quite easily, and won nine stages along the way to run off and hide from his competition in the race for the Ciclamino Jersey. It will likely be quite a while before we see another sprint performance this dominating. The down side for Petacchi is that this could sap his legs a bit for the Tour, where all of his big rivals will be waiting for him in peak condition. Somehow, I think Petacchi will still be able to handle them.
  • Raffaele Illiano (Colombia Selle Italia). He was off the front constantly, attacking every chance he got. His breaks never succeeded, but he didn't go home empty-handed: his final attack won him the Blue Jersey for the Intergiro competition. This was a well-deserved reward for the man who livened up the race which at times seemed a bit too predictable, especially on the flat stages.
  • Fabian "Turn Me Loose" Wegmann (Gerolsteiner). The amazing 23 year-old (he turns 24 in June) made a big impression in his first Giro, attacking whenever there were mountain points on offer. Wegmann showed some tactical savvy on several occasions, the most obvious being when he helped Cunego drive the break on Stage 16. It was clear that Wegmann wouldn't be around to contest the finale in that stage, and Cunego was his biggest rival in the chase for Green. Some questioned at the time what Wegmann could be thinking. However, by helping Cunego in his quest the gain the Pink Jersey, Wegmann won Cunego's good will and helped ensure that his biggest rival had bigger fish to fry. With Cunego focused on Pink, Wegmann snuck in and took enough points in the last mountain stage to walk home with the Green Jersey. This was a great performance for another young star who will be winning races for years to come.
  • "Mad" Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com). He won the Prologue, came in the top five a few times, and took the Pink Jersey twice. But the biggest achievement of this Giro was McGee's ability to hang in the mountains and come home with an 8th in the final GC. He was also competitive in the long time trial, showing that he is extending his range in that discipline. All in all, the 28 year-old Aussie is developing into a darned scary rider as he is entering his prime years in the sport. I wouldn't be surprised if McGee took confidence from this Giro and turned up next year on the final podium of some very big races.
  • Serhiy Honchar (De Nardi). The time trial specialist had the race of his life, hanging with the leaders in the mountains and smoking the big time trial. He barely held off Simoni by 3" for the 2nd spot on the final podium, but if there had been another time trial, he probably would have ended up in Pink. As it is, Honchar and his De Nardi men are celebrating a brilliant Giro that will have their sponsors smiling for a long, long time.
  • Emanuele Sella (Ceramiche Paneria Margres). His solo ride to victory on Stage 11 was extremely impressive. What was more impressive, however, was the fact that the 23 year-old newbie finished the Giro in 12th on GC. He was at the front with the big boys in the last few mountain stages, and even attacked the Pink Jersey group on a couple of occasions. Along with Cunego, Wegmann, and last year's revelation Popovych, Sella helped put on display the rich crop of talent that is now emerging in the sport. With a bit more experience and some work on the time trials, Sella could prove to be a serious GC threat in the grand tours for quite a while.


See you all in France this July!
 
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