Giro d’Italia: Final Exam

As PEZ has done in the two Rest Days before, we’ll take a look back at the final five stages of the 2005 Giro d’Italia, as we begin the long rest until next year’s Giro. If next year’s Giro can amount to half of the drama of the 2005 edition, we can consider ourselves lucky.

Stage 16: Lissone-Varazze, 210 km
After the second Rest Day in Lissone, a successful break was expected. It took a while for the elastic to break, as Fassa Bortolo tried to deter the inevitable by trying to keep the group together, and perhaps set Ale-Jet up for a sprint. It was not to be though, and after 80 km, the winning move of 22 went up the road, and the rest of the field settled down to what was arguably the most glorious piano session of the Giro (not counting the final stage).

The break was whittled down to a select group of six on the lengthy, but not too difficult climb of Bric Berton. After a series of attacks in the finale, it was Christophe Le Mevel, a 24 year old Frenchman, who went with 2 km to go and stayed away to enjoy his first professional victory, and France’s first stage in the Giro in years.

Stage 17: Varazze-Limone Piemonte, 194 km
After losing 42 minutes just a few days earlier on the stage that climbed the Stelvio and finished in Livigno, Ivan Basso’s Giro looked pretty much over. It wasn’t sure whether he would continue in the following stages due to his vicious stomach bug, but fortunately, Basso continued, and came back in a big way on Stage 17 to take the Giro’s second mountaintop finish in fine solo fashion.

In the GC battle that unfolded behind Basso, it was little Rujano and Gilberto Simoni 1.06 in arrears – both putting 42 seconds into Savoldelli before time bonuses. Savoldelli once again rode his own race and did his best to limit the damage up the road – a recurring theme with Il Falco that turned out to be not only clever, but the strategy that would win the Giro for Savoldelli.

Stage 18: Chieri-Torino TT, 34 km
It was Basso’s second win in two days, as the out of contention CSC rider thundered to an impressive victory in Torino after averaging 45.2 km/h – including the 7 km climb of the Passo delle Superga midway through the race. Vladimir Karpets showed that riding the Giro purely for training was already beginning to pay off, as he took second behind Basso, only nine seconds back. David Zabriskie took an impressive third place – not bad in the two long TT’s – first and third.

Again, behind Basso, the GC race was being sorted, but this time in favor of Savoldelli. Savoldelli put precious time into his nearest rivals – just how precious, would not be apparent until the next day. Savoldelli put 1.11 into Simoni and 1.36 into Rujano. Savoldelli would start the monster penultimate stage featuring the Sestriere and the Finestre with a 2.09 cushion on Simoni and 3.00 on Rujano.

Stage 19: Savigliano-Sestriere, 190 km
Stage 19 will most likely go down as one of the greatest battles in Giro history – and that’s speaking modestly of it. Only time will tell just how incredible this stage was, but preliminary reports are proving that this was a stage to remember and one that will make the purchase of the 2005 Giro worth every penny.

When the race hit the second climb of the day, the mighty Colle delle Finestre, eruption was the operative terms. Basso forced the pace in wicked fashion, and then promptly detonated. Not to be outdone, it was the trio of Di Luca, Simoni, and Rujano who took the race by the balls and set about trying to wrest Savoldelli’s Pink Tunic. Simoni and Di Luca rode a ferocious pace up the Finestre, leaving Savoldelli far in arrears. Savoldelli was isolated, but stayed strong, and once again rode his own race. At the top of the Finestre, Savoldelli had lost the jersey on the road to Simoni.

Of course Savoldelli pulled back a few crucial seconds on the descent, but it was what was happening up the road which saved his Giro. First, Di Luca cramped on the valley road heading to the final ascent of Sestriere. Just as Di Luca cramped and lost contact, Simoni began to experience the oh so woeful twinges as well. The fact was not lost on Rujano who attacked Simoni with about 5km to go. Simoni labored on behind, but could not bring the tiny Venezuelan back.

If Simoni had been able to stay with Rujano and won the sprint (which would have been the outcome), Simoni would have won the Giro d’Italia, but instead, he lost 26 seconds to Rujano and ultimately finished 28 seconds behind Savoldelli in the final GC. Savoldelli, for his part, rode the race of his life to keep Simoni, Rujano, and Di Luca within reason. The threesome set an unbelievable pace up the Finestre, and as was predicted, it would have taken the ride of their lives to take the jersey, and for Simoni, he came agonizingly close.

Stage 20: Albese con Cassano-Milano, 119 km
The final stage into Milano was, as expected and demanded of by the field, a glorious procession until the final 50 km of circuits in Milano.

Inside Milano, it was Discovery first pushing the pace and then the Silver Train of Fassa Bortolo. Fassa drilled the field into submission and even with some late bids to derail the train, it was all Fassa with 800 meters to go, and as is the norm when Petacchi is delivered to the line with a clear view of the Arrivo banner, well, a victory was the result. Petacchi had a solid bike length on Zabel and about 5 years to third place finisher, Robert Forster of Gerolsteiner.

That’s 13 wins in two years for the 31 year old Petacchi, and 19 overall. That’s a lot of wins, but it puts Cipo’s incredible feat of 42 into perspective – good luck on getting that record Ale-Jet.

Petacchi was not able to get the Ciclamino Jersey from Bettini even with his final stage win, in fact, Petacchi just passed Di Luca to move into second in the Points Classification.

Closing Remarks
Paolo Savoldelli has returned to the top echelon of the sport, even if he doesn’t consider himself a true champion. Whatever he is, he’s a LOT better off than he was a couple years ago, injured on a ruthless T-Mobile team that didn’t give him the time of day. Just notice how two recent T-Mobile departees have fared of late: Savoldelli wins the Giro and Botero wins the Tour de Romandie.

Selle-Italia’s little climbers are headed for the big time, and unfortunately, there’s nothing that the Continental team will be able to do to hold onto the likes of Ivan Parra and Jose Rujano.

Speaking of Rujano – the fact that he didn’t win the Giro goes down to filthy luck during the first TT, when he lost over 4 minutes due to having to make THREE bike changes. A big what if there.

Simoni will not be too pleased with the final result, but it was not for lack of trying, both he and Di Luca put it all on the line for the win, true, he came up agonizingly short, and perhaps Cunego wasn’t there to help him when he perhaps should have been – whatever the excuses, Simoni still put in a very impressive ride at this year’s Giro. Stage 19 was crucial, but it was the two previous time trials that were the true deciders for the climber from Trentino. Like Rujano, the TT’s killed Simoni. Simoni’s advancing age, does not seem to be hindering him though, so look for him to make at least one more solid bid for the Giro.

Di Luca was the revelation of this year’s Giro. Rujano was amazing, Basso was excellent, as was Parra, but Di Luca just opened his account in an entirely new realm of cycling. Before this Giro, Di Luca was purely a one day racer and a contender in the smaller Tours. He might have missed out on a podium spot, but Di Luca was all over this Giro from start to finish. Will Di Luca shift his focus to the Grand Tours now? Improvement in the time trials will be a must, but the foundation for a future viable contender is definitely there.

The Tour de France Hopefuls of Cunego, Basso, and Karpets should be pleased, Basso above all. Basso might not have won the Giro, but there’s not much that can be done about a stomach virus in two of the toughest stages of this year’s Giro. Basso showed that his time trialling has continued to improve, but we won’t know just how much until he goes toe to toe with the likes of Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich. Basso definitely has the climbing down, and even said that his climbing was better than in last year’s Tour. If this is the case, Basso could be capable of the really big time in the 2005 Tour. Cunego rode an exceptionally quiet Giro, but claims to have his sights and form on the Tour. A top 10 will be possible for Cunego, but better? Tough to say, especially since he’ll most likely lose a good 5 minutes or more to the big time triallers in the TT’s. Karpets, last year’s Best Young Rider at the Tour, rode the Giro solely as training and gradually came into form over the course of the race, finishing with an excellent 2nd in the final TT. It will be interesting to see whether Karpets can actually contend at the Tour.

For a three-part look back at this year’s Giro, check out the two Rest Day Reviews: Rest Day Review #1 and Rest Day Review #2. If you’re looking for some more detail give the PEZ daily reports a perusal.

Final General Classification
1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 91.25.51 (37.855 km/h)
2 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 0.28
3 Jose’ Rujano Guillen (Ven) Selle Italia-Colombia 0.45
4 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 2.42
5 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 3.11
6 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) Domina Vacanze 4.22
7 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears 11.15
8 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole 11.38
9 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 11.40
10 Emanuele Sella (Ita) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare 12.33
11 Wim Van Huffel (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 13.49
12 Markus Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner 14.42
13 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 15.26
14 Daniel Atienza Urendez (Spa) Cofidis-Le Credit Par Telephone 15.52
15 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems 19.22
16 Unai Osa Eizaguirre (Spa) Illes Balears 20.46
17 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 21.55
18 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 24.05
19 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Liberty Seguros-Wurth Team 24.29
20 Ivan Parra (Col) Selle Italia-Colombia 25.37

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