Spain's Aitor González Jiménez surprised many as he stormed to victory in the last, 43.9-km. long ITT of the 2002 Giro, beating favorites Honchar and Hamilton. The Kelme-Costa Blanca's leader was his country's best representant in this Giro, and no doubts that the managers of the white-and-green veteran squad won't regret their decsuion to come to Italy, after the great results this 27-year-old got. And things could have gone even better, hadn't he suffered from a big crisis during Thursday's gryuelling leg, where he lost several minutes and all of his podium chances.
Interviewed on Italy's RAI TV after the stage end, the man said that "It's a pity that I had a sucha critical day in the last Mountain stage; I paid a high price for that, but my Giro experience has been a good one anyway. I finished a GT for the first time, and both taking two stages and ranking sixth overall are very positive things".
Saturday's stage winner was particukarly, and pleasantly, impressed by the support he received from the crowd all through the stage: "I'm in love with Italy and the "Tifosi". They were unbelievable, both along the road and at the stage finish. This whole experience has been wonderful, and I think I'll be back again next year ... likely with an Italian team" (He didn't say which one, but most cycling fans already know that the Basque will almost certainly move to Mario Cipollini's Acqua e Sapone.
Later interviewed by Spanish medias too, González labellad his stage victory as "a magnificent moral boost for the future", and thanked team manager Vicente Belda (click on the link at the bottom of the page for a pre-Giro interview with Mr. Belda) for both apponting him as team leader and giving him the chance to show he can compete with the best riders in Grand Tours".
As for today's stage, he added that "I didn't know the route, but as I saw the stage profile, i realized it was appropriate for me. I really wanted to make something good as I wished to make up for the reults of the last mountain leg, which disappointed me. And I won, also because the last Time-Trials in Grand Tours are not for TT specialists. I think it's one of the most important victories odf my carerr, although I have not yet gotten a complete perception of what I did".