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88th Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Awards Rest Day #2
By Locutus
Date: 5/24/2005
88th Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Awards Rest Day #2
Golden Hams of the Past Two Days
  • José "Rápido" Rujano and Ivan Parra (Selle Italia-Colombia). These two alpinistas are starting to look scary. I mean, the big GC men were actually trying to chase them down on stage 14, but they couldn't catch 'em… the Selle Italia boys just rode away from everybody up the climbs. Rujano and Parra worked together perfectly to dominate the hardest weekend of the Giro: Parra took two consecutive stage wins over some insanely hard climbs, a landmark achievement that will be talked about for decades. For his part, Rujano ran off and hid in the race for the Green Jersey: he now has 107 points, more than five times as many as anybody not wearing a Selle Italia jersey. If Rujano should have bad luck and not get to the finish line in Milano, Parra is now in 2nd with 55 points, which is still 34 points ahead of the next guy. Rujano's 3rd place at 1' 50" in stage 14 moved him up into 5th on GC at 2' 18". And there are still some mountains to come. As Simoni and Di Luca demonstrated, Rujano is now considered a threat to win the race, and the GC men will try to keep him on a very short leash. However, Rujano has ridden away from them so many times on the climbs, you have to wonder if he might actually be able to win this race in the mountains like that great Italian mountain smurf, Marco Pantani. A podium spot is more realistic, but with uphill finishes on stages 17 and 19, Rujano might well be able to overcome the losses he sustains in the stage 18 time trial and pull off the biggest surprise in any grand tour in quite a long time.
  • Juan Manuel Garate (Saunier Duval-Prodir). Some names sound so cool rolling off the tongue that they don't need a nickname. Garate is a solid climber who rode himself back into this race over the weekend. In stage 14, he was able to follow the attack of Simoni and Di Luca to come across the line in 7th at 3' 15" behind Parra. That moved him up into 4th on GC at 2' 11". His skills are a close match to Simoni's, and these two could well be dueling for that final spot on the podium until the final day. That is, if one of the guys ahead of them doesn't get sick and plummet from the top of the standings like the unfortunate Basso. Garate has been a consistent force in the mountains of this race for years, and it's a treat to see him rising into contention in this, the toughest Giro in recent memory.
  • Gilberto "G-Man" Simoni (Lampre-Caffita) and Danilo "Nuke" Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi). These two can't help themselves… they are just attack-o-matics. I can just picture it in my head: if they don’t attack at least once during a difficult stage, they probably lay in bed insulting the ceiling for hours before falling asleep. Both are dynamic personalities and talented climbers who pack a nasty acceleration, and that has made them a joy to watch over the years. On stage 14, these two went on the attack again, dropping Savoldelli on a climb that wasn't even categorized. Di Luca came across the line in 5th and Simoni 6th at 3' 15" behind Parra. That allowed them to take 28" out of Savoldelli, putting Di Luca in 2nd at a mere 25" and Simoni in 3rd at 1' 48". This also gave Di Luca a temporary lead in the points competition, which he is still a threat to win with so many mountains left in the race. This weekend was supposed to sort out the GC, but instead the race seems tighter than ever: the big guns kept firing at each other, and everybody seemed to score a hit at one point or another. Now it looks like the podium won't be clear until the final day in Milano. How cool is that?
  • Alessandro "Italian Stallion" Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). Well the Australian Sprint Mafia packed it up and went home to get ready for that race in France, leaving Petacchi the clear favorite for all the remaining sprints. He didn't disappoint in stage 15, holding off a resurgent "Big E-Z," Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) to take the victory. This brings his total to three, which only seems disappointing in the context of his nine victories in last year's Giro. Petacchi is now up to 2nd in the strangest points competition for years. Petacchi trails Bettini by 13 points and leads Di Luca by 6 points, which means that every intermediate sprint and finish line between here and Milano will be contested by these three Italian superstars. Who would have thought that these three men would be fighting over the Ciclamino Jersey heading into the final few days of racing? Again, this Giro has turned out to be very cool.
  • Paolo "Teeny" Bettini (Quick Step). The mighty mite was up there again in Stage 15, taking points at the intermediate sprint and actually coming in 3rd in the final sprint to the line. Bettini's teammate and stellar sprinter Stefano Zanini has been brilliant with his leadouts in this race, and he was at it again in Stage 15 as he flew past the Fassa train to set up Bettini in the final kilometer. Bettini now holds the Ciclamino Jersey, but for how long? Stage 16 suits him, but the rest of the stages he'll be on terrain that is dominated by Di Luca or Petacchi. Still, this attacking wonder has shown his ingenuity for nailing down points all over the place, so he's the favorite to hold the jersey until Milano. And if he hadn't run Cooke into the barriers in stage 4, he'd probably have this competition sown up by now.
Ham-Gazers of the Past Two Days
  • Paolo "Blue Falcon" Savoldelli (Discovery Channel). Savoldelli has ridden a brilliant race so far. In Stage 14, when Simoni and Di Luca attacked, Savoldelli just stayed within himself and minimized his losses. Sure, he dropped 28", but he still holds the Pink Jersey headed into the final stages of the race. He will be put under serious pressure in the two mountain stages to come, but his climbing and descending skills have proven a match for the attacks so far. Plus, he is going to smoke his GC rivals in that final time trial on stage 18. Now the question is simply this: can he gain enough time in that time trial to counteract any losses he might suffer on the climbs to come? I think he can: despite the fact the Bruyneel and Savoldelli himself are picking Di Luca and Simoni as the favorites, I think Savoldelli has what it takes to edge Di Luca by a few seconds in Milano. But it will be close.
  • Serhiy "Honcho" Honchar (Domina Vacanze). You know, Honcho has actually been riding a pretty decent race so far. He was 2nd last year, so the expectations were high coming into this Giro. He is a time trial master, but he didn't do so well in that first time trial. And he was losing time in the mountains. In stage 14, he gave up another 28" to Di Luca, Simoni, and Garate as he came across the line in the group with Savoldelli. But at the end of the day, Honcho was up into 7th on GC at 4' 05". He seems to be finding his legs at just the right time, and you can bet in that final time trial he will take some big time out of all those little climbers in front of him. If he continues to slowly improve like he has all race, then look for Honchar to win that final time trial and crack the top five by the time he rolls into Milano.
  • Julio "Lucky" Perez (Panaria-Navigare). He looked great coming into this Giro, and this weekend was supposed to suit his hard-climbing, attacking style. However, in stage 14 he crossed the line in 154th at 42' 59". There are still some mountains to come, and Perez might still show some of that old magic that made him a household name in Italy a few years back. But he'll have to be freed up from team responsibilities and find his legs in a hurry if that's going to happen.
Glazed Hams of the Past Two Days
  • Ivan "Bellisimo" Basso (CSC) . Poor Ivan. His stomach ailment really took the stuffing out of him, as he finished over 42 minutes back of Parra on Stage 14. Still, it was a brave ride: most big GC men would pull out of the race if faced with such a strong illness (or even just really bad form). Basso has stuck it out, trying to ride through the difficulty so that he can redeem himself in the mountains to come. That is a true sign of character in such a big-name rider, and though Basso has fallen off the GC radar in his national race, he has won over new fans with his refusal to quit. Here's hoping this rest day gets him over the hump and allows him the time to heal and refind his legs. What would be more glorious than to see Basso once again riding up the mountains to victory at the end of the week?
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