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Friday, May 28, 2004


A telling sprint... Phil insisted he was going to lead out Simoni, and it looked like that was the case, but when Cunego accelerated, nobody could follow. least of all Simoni. Cunego was strong at the end, far stronger than his teammate and well ahead of the rest of the contenders.

Damiano... the omen...

There's still a day of mountains left, so he could still crack and lose his slim lead, ut there's no reason to expect that.

OLN is reverting back to a steady stream of erectile dysfunction ads. Time to get on the bike.

[BTW, the new Nike ads with Lance are beautiful.]

Cunego in control

He's actually pulling the gruppetto home now. 2km left. Showing he's in charge, and maybe pulling Simoni up to third overall. I'll guess that he tries to set up Gibo for the stage win and 20 second bonus. Nobody looks like a serious GC threat to him now. I think Perez is still up the road a bit though. No, no check that, perez is on the back of the gruppetto. The 20 seconds are up for grabs.

Calm Cunego

Is there a way to tell whether, as Bobke says, Cunego never panicked when Garzelli or Simoni made their moves? Or whether he just didn't get around to counterattacking?

3km to go now. Nobody making waves today.

Cioni moves

Apparently Cunego has a friend at Fassa, as Cioni has dragged him back to Simoni, and taken Gontchar with them. Simoni is disappointed. So is phil.

Simoni Surviving

He just dropped Sella. Again, Cunego's not losing much, but Simoni is showing some real grit.

5km to go. Popyvich is struggling to hang on. Brad McGee has faded a bit from the testa della corsa.

Coming back

Simoni's attack isn't going to work, Dario Cioni is pulling the Maglia Rosa gruppetto up to him. He hasn't got it, so it appears. Cunego still has to survive tomorrow, but with a good finish he can just about take the GC.

Simoni is still showing pluck and moves a little further up the road. Not gonna get back 2.38 at this rate but he could win a stage.


So much for teamwork, as Simoni goes off the front right away, with 8km to go. Phil thinks he asked Cunego and Cunego was tired. But as he says it, Cunego goes off the front too. And now Emmanuel Sella catches Simoni with relative ease. But Cunego is now in a gruppetto behind the defending champ.

UPDATE Simoni has about 10 seconds, holding steady, but not looking explosive.

Bravo Garzelli

Where is it written that every climbing stage has to come down to the last hill? OK, in the annals of history. But at least Garzelli tried to make it interesting by attacking on the second to last hill. (Can you call 8000 vertical feet a hill?) If Saeco want to control the race heading into the Bormio climb, that's probably a nice, safe strategy, and we can see right now that's what they are doing. But give Garzelli credit for not playing it safe, which has gotten him a nice 4 minute deficit so far.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

UCI Pro Tour

Because the cycling calendar isn't full enough already, the UCI is bringing us tifosi the UCI Pro Tour, announced in the latest Velo News. 18 teams, 28 races, with points given to the top-placing individual and team over the course of the calendar. For individuals the races are weighted, starting with the Tour, then the other two grand boucles, then the smaller stage races and bigger classics, and so forth.

The good news is that we'll now know who the cyclist of the year was. We will also have a reason to stop caring too much about the Tour -- hell, it's only one race. And best of all, the calendar will now include 28 important races, running over six months virtually non-stop, and including such prestigious week-long races as the newly minted Tour of the BeNeLux countries, Tour of Germany, and Tour of Poland. The Vuelta will start in August, to accommodate all of this, which is cool, since all of those teams will have had some TWO WEEKS to recover from the Tour Dee Fraynce, as Bob Roll would say.

Apparently Hein Verbrugge has been kidnapped and replaced by Bud Selig. Look for spiderman ads on the Tour trophy. I'm told the French are particularly upset, since only half of the six Division One teams there were invited to the Pro Tour. This is radical, radical sheit... if all 18 teams go to all of these races, that means the Giro will only have four Italian teams next year, and all the top teams from Spain, Postal, Telekom, CSC, etc... they will all be there, or at least they'll have a spot.

Cycling is a bit disorganized compared to the NFL, for example, but I'm not sure that was a problem that requires this kind of radical reorganization. As it now stands, we don't get a single champion, but it doesn't take a genius to know it has already been a monumental year for Rebellin, or that Paolo Bettini and Lance Armstrong were the two big winners last year, or that Petacchi became a star and still is one... OK, so there was no single moment when you could blare "We Are the Champions" but I don't see where cycling culture demanded that. I suspect this is about building stronger fan support, and Paul maybe you can comment on this, being closer to the ground. But excluding the 10-20 lesser-ranked teams from having ANYTHING to do with their major national races is lame. If Postal doesn't want to send its best riders to the Giro, why shouldn't Vini Caldirola get a shot, or Mercatone Uno? Now, those teams have NO big races, nothing. Maybe this will concentrate talent into 18 teams, and maybe that will be good somehow. But it just seems too crass. too commercial. Too American.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Taking Stock

So is the Giro dull or not?


* Petacchi has won a bunch of sprints
* Simoni looks like he's in control: Garzelli can barely keep his wheel, and the GC will likely be decided in a Saeco team meeting rather than on the road.
* Not much happening in the first two weeks; Saturday was supposed to be a separator climb, and still finished in a bunch sprint. No serious climbs before May 27.
* Non-Italians non-existent.

* There are actually several contenders for the big sprints, as Fast Freddy demonstrated today.
* The last week of the Giro includes non-stop climbing for several days.
* There were at least a couple tough early stages to shake things up, even if everyone raced as if they know the outcome won't be decided before the Dolomites.

The Verdict?? I'll be kind and offer a Nay.

Fast Freddy!

Nice job coming around the world's best sprinter by the plucky American. I watched it... Petacchi had it all lined up for him, no McEwan shenanigans; it was simply a matter of moving the legs. Was Petacchi tired, or did Freddy just get his sugar right today? Who cares, it's a great win. He just simply came around Petacchi, got a bike length, and Petacchi couldn't make it all the way back.

Not that anybody saw it: Italian tv coverage went blank with 20 meters to go.

Friday, May 14, 2004

It's tough seeing Cippo running headlong into the one thing a rider has no control over - aging. Yeah he can still bring it at times, but he is no longer the dominant sprinter in the peleton. That torch has been passed to Petacchi, yesterday's results not withstanding. Petacchi has a similar sprint to Zabel in that he starts wayyyyyy deep (250 meters out at times) and carries it all the way through. Super Mario had a deep sprint as well in his prime but now he needs to rely more on positioning, reading the wheels in front of him, and going full out for maybe 100 meters.

I'm sure it's a blow to his ego but time catches up with us all. If he takes into account that he can still even contest sprints at 37, he should be pretty satisfied. I'm guessing he stays in the Giro until he wins a stage then pulls out to rest up for the Tour. I definitely think this is his last year though unless the rest of his season is shut down like last year. But really, he's got nothing to prove any longer and his list of Palmares is long.

One he retires I'll switch to supporting Petacchi. Velonews had a very nice write up on him and he seems very quiet, humble, and generally nice. It's easy to root for someone like that.


Thursday, May 06, 2004


This year's Giro is already something of a two-man race. Garzelli versus Simoni, the rematch. Oy.

My guess is that the Giro is feeling the pressure of the Tour more than ever. Not showing up in Genova for the prologue are Postal, CSC, T-Mobile, or any of the big Spanish or French teams. The Giro has had more than its share of troubles in the past few seasons, but it seems like the calendar is its biggest foe now, one it can do nothing about.

Lance is another foe. Five straight tours have made him the standard for others to follow, and his formula includes not wasting energy at the Giro when you can be doing recon on Ventoux. In his eyes, the Giro requires too much energy, too close to the Tour.

Another problem is the growing stable of great Spanish climbers/GC threats. There are any number of exciting riders coming out of Spain, and exactly all of them will skip the Giro to focus on the Vuelta... cuz the calendar places the races too far apart for any cyclist to keep his form from Genova to Madrid. The increased profile of the Vuelta has drawn all the great challengers save Lance -- and why not? If France is your number one objective, you've got nothing to lose by giving the Vuelta a go two months later.

No, the story of the Giro will likely be a dull repeat of Simoni dominance on the mountain stages, and more pitched battles for the flat sprint wins between Cipo, Petacchi, and McEwen. Maybe one of another half dozen of Italian middlers like Bruseghin or Belli or Quaranta will make a serious challenge. Actually, by far the best hope is for Rebellin to make a play for the GC... but that would be a bit too much to expect.

Anyone else we should take seriously??

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