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88th Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Awards Stage 7
 
By Locutus
Date: 5/14/2005
88th Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Awards Stage 7
 
Golden Hams of the Day
  • "Hot" Koldo Gil (Liberty Seguros). His long attack a couple of days ago came to naught, but today he really drove it home with some very impressive climbing and tactical savvy. After countering the attack of Steve Zampieri (Phonak), Gil waiting until that final climb really got steep to give everyone the heave-ho. Once he went, nobody in the break was going to catch him. Over the top he took maximum points, enough to take the lead in the Green Jersey competition. What was more impressive, however, was the way he held off that charging pack of A-list riders to snake his first ever grand tour stage victory. It was a very well deserved prize, and we haven't seen the last of Gil yet: his battle with Rujano for the Green Jersey could shape up to be one of the highlights of the entire Giro. It certainly was the highlight of today's stage, at least for me.
  • Danilo "Nuke" Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi). His attack started the fireworks on that last climb, and when Simoni and Cunego countered, he was able to follow them with little difficulty. The same could not be said of his teammates Garzelli and Cioni, who were dropped off the back and lost time. The long mountain stages to come will suit Garzelli and Cioni much better than Di Luca, but with Garzelli's crash and Cioni's struggles today, you have to ask if "Nuke" is really the big danger man for a podium finish in Milano. As it was, he took 3rd on the stage at 20" and moved back into the GC lead with a 26" gap on Cunego. Many questions will be answered tomorrow, and one will be about the hierarchy in the Liquigas camp: if Di Luca is able to hold the Pink Jersey and put in a better time than his mates, his manager will have some hard thinking to do.
  • Gilberto "G-Man" Simoni and Damiano "Boy Wonder" Cunego (Lampre-Caffita). The lightweights worked perfectly together, taking over from Di Luca's initial attack and driving home the advantage over their GC rivals. Today wasn't supposed to be a big day for the GC, but "G-Man" and the "Boy Wonder" really put the wood to some of the biggest riders in the race. Garzelli, Cioni, Basso, Honchar, Scarponi, and Cauchiolli all lost valuable time today, mainly because the Lampre boys set such a furious pace. Sure, it was embarrassing when Cunego celebrated as he crossed the line: he forgot about Gil being up the road. But that 12" time bonus he picked up and his elevation to 2nd on GC at 26" is really a good thing to celebrate. For his part, Simoni progressed to 4th on GC at 54". With these two already starting to separate themselves from much of the pack, things could get downright ugly once the race hits the real mountains.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • José "Rápido" Rujano (Selle Italia-Colombia). Okay, so the kid from Venezuela came out on the short end of the Green Jersey stick today. But did see you him charge up that last climb in his attempt to catch Gil and get some mountains points? He not only set the pace in the group with Simoni and Cunego, but he actually blew them off his wheel near the top of the climb. He furiously picked his way through the remnants of the break, but he came up just a bit short. Still, it was an awesome display of climbing skills, and we will be sure to see a lot more of this kid when the mountains really hit next week.
  • Paolo "Teeny" Bettini (Quick Step). He's been attacking so much this week that it looked like his efforts finally caught up to him today. Bettini has taken the Pink Jersey three separate times in the first week, but today he finally said goodbye to the pink for good as he came in 37th at 1' 48" back. This dropped him back to 12th on GC at 1' 33". The time trial tomorrow should put Bettini further behind, and those mountains in the final week-and-a-half will be way to tough for the Italian. Still, he is a quality rider, and if he makes a concentrated effort, he could still make a run at the Points Jersey. I'm just saying…
  • Ivan "Bello" Basso (CSC). I picked Basso to win the Giro a couple of days ago, so of course that was probably the kiss of death for the poor guy. He didn't ride particularly poorly today, but he wasn't able to match the quick accelerations of Di Luca, Simoni, and Cunego on that final Cat 1 climb. He finished the day in 22nd, 50" back of Gil and 30" behind his biggest GC rivals. Still, Basso is more a man for those long, painful days that cover three or four Cat 1 or above category climbs, so don't lose hope, Basso fans. His talents are perfectly suited for the last twelve days of this race, which (if you look at the profiles) are going to be very hard indeed. Cunego and Simoni won the battle today, but tomorrow's time trial and the mountains of the final half of the race are where the war will be decided. I'm still thinking Basso is the best-suited rider in the race to challenge the Lampre armada for the top spot in Milano. That's assuming, of course, that he really is in top form.
  • Serhiy Honchar (Domina Vacanze) and Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole). These two men were big players in the GC last year, with Honchar even making the podium in 2nd place. He was a favorite to take the Pink Jersey in tomorrow's time trial, but not after his ride today: he came across the line in 45th at 1' 49", a huge gap for such a mild climbing stage. That put Honchar in 19th on GC, 2' 23 seconds behind Di Luca. Caucchioli is known for his climbing, but not today: he came in 43rd, just ahead of Honchar at 1' 49". He now sits in 32nd on GC at 2' 47". The first real attacks in the mountains can often catch a rider out, so these guys both have some time to find their climbing legs and rally next week. But today was not a good sign for what is to come.
 
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