BRUSSELS, 19/11/2001 - The 85th edition of the Giro d'Italia, from 11th May to 2nd June 2002, is dedicated to the European Union. That became clear during the presentation in Milan on Saturday. For the seventh time, the Giro will start outside the borders of Italy, this time with a prologue in Groningen (the Netherlands). After that, the Giro will pass through Germany (Munster), Belgium, Luxemburg (Esch-sur-Alzette) and France (Strasbourg) before it flies back to Italy. The Belgian passage is composed of a stage finish in Liege and starting point in Verviers, where Eddy Merckx won the prologue in 1973.
"I think that this Giro-route fits the capacities of Rik Verbrugghe more than last
year," Claude Criquielion mentioned. "Rik wants to test how well he can ride a big tour for the overall classification. This Giro seems less hard at first sight."
"With a finish in Liege, this Giro will be special for Rik. First there is the prologue in Groningen
which is less suited for him as there are more curves. Tho days later though, the stage ends in Liege, homebase for Rik. The finish with the hills of Liege-Bastogne-Liege is his daily training. I suspect that a good Verbrugghe can finish top 10 in this Giro. Of course, he needs to prepare for that very carefully. This year, five stages finished uphill,
while there are only 3 now. This is
beneficial for him."
Lotto Adecoo will go to Groningen with a team built around Rik Verbrugghe, Giro debutant Kurt Van de Wouwer and sprinter Robbie McEwen. Mario Aerts will skip the Italian adventure next year. Van de Wouwer, since yesterday back from Columbia, was happily surprised with the limited amount of km against the clock. "In the Tour de France, that amount is always much higher. I hate time trials. If I have the same form as in the Tour of Romandy last year, I can end up high in the overall classification. All those mountains are unknown to me, but uphill is uphill, we'll see."
In Italy, this
winner Gilberto Simoni didn't seem to pleased. "I expected a more difficult edition." Marco Pantani talked with the same words: "A nice Giro, but not really very hard. The Cima Coppi (the roof) on the Passo Pordoi is nice, but I keep on searching for a legendary mountain stage."