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88th Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Awards Stages 9-11
 
By Locutus
Date: 5/19/2005
88th Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Awards Stages 9-11
 
Golden Hams of the Past Few Days
  • Alessandro "Italian Stallion" Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) and Robbie "Napoleon" McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto). Well, the Aussie-Italian War continued to rage across the flatlands of Italy. In stage 9, Petacchi's Fassa train got it right and finally gave him the leadout he needed to power to an easy victory. With a point on the board, the Fassas came out the next day and did it all right once again. However, the Australian champion had just a little more pop at the line, taking the Italian Stallion by the closest possible margin to go up 3-1 in stage wins. That gave McEwen a big lead in the Points competition, a lead he still maintains. McEwen has said he would leave the Giro before the end, but with his sprinting going so well and his lead in the Points competition, McEwen rolled through today's insanely difficult mountain stage. His lead is now 4 points over Bettini (Quick Step) and 10 points on Di Luca. If Bettini and Di Luca don't pick up some points in the next few days, then McEwen might just feel compelled to take that competition all the way to Milano.
  • Ivan "Bello" Basso (CSC). I mentioned that I thought he was the guy to beat, right? Basso went on the attack and put the wood to most of his big rivals today. Basso's climbing is effortless, his stroke smooth and placid, making it look like he is just floating along when in fact he's pounding the hell out of his pedals. Basso's easy accelerations were only neutralized by Savoldelli's amazing descending skills; Basso only came in 2nd in the stage, but he took the Pink Jersey by 18" and put former Giro winners Simoni (2001 & 2003), Cunego (2004), and Garzelli (2000) comfortably in his rear view mirror. Today's battle in the mountains was epic, and with Basso only 27 years old, he's going to be around doing this for several years to come. Italy's new great champion is hitting his prime, and I doubt anyone will be able to slow him down before Milano.
  • Paolo "Blue Falcon" Savoldelli (Discovery Channel). His dual with Basso on today's final descent and final climb was one for the ages. Savoldelli's descending was legendary years ago, and if anything it's gotten even better with age. As smooth as Basso is on the climbs, Savoldelli is like butter on the descents. Today when he was dropped on the penultimate climb, the Blue Falcon fought his way back up to Basso and Simoni at the top. He then went on the attack, and when Savoldelli bombed that descent, Simoni—who is himself an amazing descender—couldn't hold the pace. The gap Savoldelli had by the final climb gave him the cushion he needed to match Basso. Once the CSC rider caught him, the two worked together to make this a two-man Giro. Savoldelli won the sprint and the stage, and in the process narrowed his deficit on GC to a mere 18". He also showed that he is probably the only man who has the skills and the form to keep Basso from waltzing to his first Giro title. When Savoldelli won the scandal-plagued 2002 Giro, many said that it was only because so many great climbers had been excluded from the race. Well Savoldelli left the best of those climbers in his wake today, and proved without a doubt that his 2002 win was no fluke.
  • Danilo "Nuke" Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi). So yeah, "Nuke" really is the big man for Liquigas. He did the Pink Jersey proud over the past few days, riding with power, determination, and class. Today he was able to respond to the accelerations up that penultimate climb, clawing his way back up to Savoldelli, Simoni, and Basso when it looked like he was done. Sure, he fell off the pace on the final climb, but he still came across the line in 4th at 1' 01". And did you see the profile today? Coming in only a minute behind Basso and Savoldelli on a stage like this is amazing, especially for a guy who is not supposed to be able to hack the long, hard grinds of the big boy mountains. Some people say that he won't be able to maintain his high level of form: he was so strong in Amstel Gold, they argue, that his form will have to diminish by the end of the Giro. However, Armstrong has ridden like a monster at Amstel Gold a few times and still had enough legs to kick people all over France in July. Di Luca is finally living up to his early career billing as a grand tour threat, and he showed today that he is the favorite to take that third spot on the podium come Milano.
  • Gilberto "G-Man" Simoni (Lampre-Caffita). Yes, Simoni. After his poor performance in the time trial, the G-Man was supposed to be a big domestique for Cunego. But his attack was what started the real racing today, and he continued to attack and counter all the way to the finish. So he got dropped by Basso and Savoldelli. So what? When he looked around after his first attack and saw that Cunego had dropped anchor, he immediately realized that he was responsible for carrying the Lampre flag for the rest of the race. And he did the pink and blue proud, mixing it at the front and riding himself to 3rd on the stage at 21". This moved him up into 4th on GC at 2' 27", well within shot of the podium. It doesn’t seem likely that Simoni will win this Giro, but he's showing that he's got the legs to win at least a stage and to remind the youngsters that old lions still have the power to teach them a lesson or two when the whip comes down.
  • José "Rapido" Rujano (Selle Italia-Colombia). The kid was in there with the big fish when it mattered today, as he stormed up the climbs to take as many mountain points as he could muster. He faded to 10th on the stage at 2' 19", but that won't matter: he took command of the Green Jersey again with a 10 point lead over Gil (Liberty Seguros) and a 13 point lead on Basso. The Rapid One knows how to climb, and now he just needs a stage victory to round out what is a stunning performance so far.
Ham-Gazers of the Past Few Days
  • Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Caffita). Today was an unwanted lesson in character and humility for the talented defending champ. It was apparent immediately that he had problems today, and he ended up in 27th at 6' 02". This buried his GC hopes (now 16th at 7' 20"), and clarified the hierarchy in his team once and for all. The bright side? Cunego could still recover to blister the mountains and take a stage. And next year, he'll be back.
  • Stefano Garzelli and Dario Cioni (Liquigas-Bianchi). The two men who were supposed to be the GC captains for Liquigas were off the back again today. Cioni came in 17 at 3' 55", and Garzelli was a distant 32nd at 6' 02". They will now have to go on the attack for stage glory and devote themselves to Di Luca. Last year, Garzelli struggled early in the mountains and still rallied for a stage win, so it can happen.
 
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