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88th Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Awards Stage 19
 
By Locutus
Date: 5/28/2005
88th Giro d'Italia: Prosciutto Awards Stage 19
 
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Gilberto "G-Man" Simoni (Lampre-Caffita). He didn't win the stage, and he's not going to win the Giro, but he gets the first Golden Ham today. The G-Man has ridden like a true champion the entire race, attacking whenever the road tilted upwards and exploding the race too many times to count. He came into today over 2' down on GC, which meant that he was going to have to attack on the penultimate climb if he was going to take the Pink Jersey. And, like everyone expected, he jumped on the early slopes of the Colle delle Finestre and left Savoldelli in his dust. With some help from Di Luca, Simoni was able to take about 2' 20" on Savoldelli by the top of the Finestre, and he was even able to hold much of that advantage headed into the final climb to Sestriere. But Savoldelli found some allies, Simoni's allies abandoned him, and the G-Man was only able to manage 2nd place on the stage at 25". By the end of the day he was only able to take 1' 42" from Savoldelli; this is an impressive amount of time, but it wasn't enough to lift Simoni from his 2nd spot on GC. He remains 28" behind Savoldelli in the overall, and will wind up with the middle step on the podium tomorrow in Milano. If you're counting, this will be Simoni's sixth podium finish at the Giro, an impressive display of consistency by any measure.
  • Paolo "Blue Falcon" Savoldelli (Discovery Channel). Talk about a fighter. Savoldelli was without teammates or allies, and he was hemorrhaging seconds and minutes on the climb up the above category Finestre. Still, he continued to grit his teeth and chase his heart out on his own. Savoldelli then pulled off a brilliant bit of strategy that may have won him the race: he bombed the descent, but wisely he did not try to drop the people he caught on the way down. When he reached bottom of the descent, he ended up with several men who wanted to work with him: Van Huffel and Mauricio Ardila (Davitamon-Lotto), Serhiy Honchar (Domina Vacanze), Juan Manuel Garate (Saunier Duval), and Tadej "Mahal" Valjavec (Phonak) all had their own GC aspirations leading them to drive the group along. Together, these men took turns and closed the gap to Di Luca, Simoni, and Rujano. This ensured that Savoldelli would keep the seconds he needed to win the race, as he came across the line in 7th at 1' 55" to hold Simoni at bay by a mere 28" on GC. This has been an amazing race for Savoldelli: it has marked his dramatic return to the top of the sport after two hard years without results, and it gave the Discovery Channel sponsorship a win in their first ever grand tour. How's that for a fast return on an investment? If Armstrong can make it seven in a row come July, the Discovery boys are going to get downright spoiled. For now, they are reveling in Savoldelli's renewed brilliance, a pleasant surprise that has Bruyneel looking once again like the smartest manager in cycling.
  • José "Rápido" Rujano (Selle Italia-Colombia). He has shown without a doubt that he is one vicious Venezuelan mountain smurf: today he started the fireworks on the Finestre that blew the peloton to bits. In this Giro he's given the field such a butt-kicking in the race for the Green Jersey this that it seems like the numbers are a type-o: he finished with 143 points, which was 86 points ahead of his teammate Ivan Parra. The supreme alpinista finished off his attacking today by dropping Simoni on the road up Sestriere, riding away to a brilliant solo victory. This was his first stage win in a grand tour, and you get the impression that it won't be his last. He also gave his small team it's third stage win in this Giro, a major accomplishment for a squad that is facing the big-budget ProTour bullies. Rujano didn't take enough time to move up a place on GC, but he's still in third at 45", and nobody would have thought he'd end up on the podium before this race started.
  • Danilo "Nuke" Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi). He was trying to take a handful of seconds from Rujano to climb back onto the podium, and he actually contributed a lot of work to the attack up the Finestre. In fact, he went to the front when the road turned into a gravel goat path and put Simoni and Rujano under pressure, all while driving open a huge gap to the Pink Jersey group. Along with Simoni and Rujano, it looked for a while like Di Luca was going to take three or four minutes on the rest of the field and wind up taking a podium spot by leaping over Savoldelli. But his legs cramped up at the bottom of the final climb, and though he recovered quickly, he wasn't able to regain the wheel of Simoni or Rujano. Di Luca clenched his teeth and held on for 3rd on the stage at 1' 32", but he'll end up in 4th on GC at 2' 42" after tomorrow. Still, in this Giro he picked up some Pink Jerseys and added to his stage win trophy case, all why proving that he is the man on the Liquigas-Bianchi squad. He also proved that he deserves that White Jersey of the ProTour leader, and that he has finally become a major grand tour threat. Di Luca didn't accomplish his goals today, but he went down swinging, and his aggressive riding has lifted him to a higher level than he's ever reached before.
  • Wim Van Huffel (Davitamon-Lotto). He started the day in 15th on GC at 13' 49", and was looking to climb higher by a good performance. When Savoldelli looked in trouble, he found an ally in Van Huffel as the two joined up to chase back the men off the front. Van Huffel finished the stage in 5th at 1' 55", but this was good enough to lift him four spots into 11th on GC. This is a great ride by the young Belgian, who will take a lot of confidence away from this race as he proved to his team that he can hang with the big boys when the hammer comes down.
  • Paolo "Teeny" Bettini and Stefano "Not So Teeny" Zanini (Quick Step). They rode well at the intermediate sprint to increase their leads: Bettini picked up a couple of more points towards the Ciclamino Jersey, and simply needs a finish in the top ten places tomorrow to walk home the winner in the points competition. Zanini has been a steady rider throughout this Giro, and he now seems to have a firm grip on the Blue Jersey in the Intergiro competition. Quick Step doesn't really have a GC threat in this race, but these two men have kept their sponsor's name on the podium throughout the race. Not bad for a couple of flatlanders.
Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Nobody. Come on… there's no way I could give out ham-gazer awards on such an epic stage. Those guys threw everything at one another today, and left it all on the road.
 
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