GIRO Stg 19: Simoni Sings The Blues, Cunego Confirms!
It’s all over barring Alessandro Petacchi’s virtually inevitable 9th stage win in Milano tomorrow. Gilberto Simoni’s wretched attempt to win a 3rd Giro was finally ended as Damiano Cunego did enough to secure the Maglia Rosa.
Simoni’s anguish was completed in Presolana this afternoon when he was easily outsprinted by Stefano Garzelli for the final mountain stage. The defending champ gave it his best shot by escaping with Garzelli and the impressive Tadej Valjavec about a third of the way through the day. It wasn’t a pretty outcome for Gibi, and it wasn’t a particularly pretty day for our Giro survivors as they faced some obscene climbing, including the (in)famous Mortirolo pass.
Simoni was riding on venom today after a post-finish confrontation yesterday with young Damiano and a major sulk last evening. All is definitely not 100% happy on the good ship Saeco, but the managers and sponsors will probably be more than ecstatic to hail Italy’s new campione on the podium in Milan tomorrow.
It was a pretty short, sharp 122 kms today, but by the time Garzelli launched an attack on the Mortirolo, a leading group was already in bits ahead of him. And that was after only 40 kms or so.
Among those reeled in by Garzelli, with Simoni right on his wheel and Valjavec following, were serial escapees Fabian Wegmann and Rafaele Illiano.
Garzelli and Simoni sliced through them and were soon out in front in their own little world. Cunego did amazingly well to stay cool and use the efforts of the other top GC guys (Gontchar, Cioni, Popovych) to stay in touch – keeping his head on a day like this is a sign that the kid really does have it all. It would have been easy to panic watching Simoni ride away, and seeing the possible loss of the pink jersey.
There were huge crowds doing their best to cheer and help the riders, although most of the time it was like Alpe d’ Huez with all the flag-wavers getting in the way! Terrific atmosphere for the race, but it probably didn’t do much for Gibi’s mood. Garzelli was on a major mission today, and it never looked like anyone would stop him winning.
He and Simoni dropped Valjavec at the top of the Presolana climb, 3 kms from the finish, and hammered down the final descent. Garzelli took the sprint easily.
Gontchar just hung onto his 2nd place overall with a gutsy ride over the final climb – he had good early support from Charly Wegelius and Igor Pugaci. Dario Cioni moved up on GC, and Brad McGee had another pretty satisfactory trip through the mountains.
But the Giro is done and dusted for 2004. The fat lady is getting her vocal chords ready for tomorrow, and the songs are all going to be for Damiano Cunego.
Giro d’ Italia Stage 19 Unofficial Results
Bormio to Presolana 122 km
1 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola 3hrs 52′ 16″
2 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco + 2″
3 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Phonak + 23”
4 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Fassa Bortolo + 52”
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco same
6 Eddy Mazzolini (Ita) Saeco + 1′ 23″
7 Pavel Tonkov (Rus) Vini Caldirola same
8 Serhiy Hontchar (Ukr) De Nardi same
9 Brad McGee (Aus) fdjeux.com + 1′ 43″
10 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Alessio same
Giro d’ Italia GC after Stage 19
1 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Saeco 84hrs 32′ 42″
2 Serhiy Hontchar (Ukr) De Nardi + 2′ 02″
3 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco + 2′ 05″
4 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Fassa Bortolo + 4’44”
5 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Landbouwkrediet + 5′ 05″
6 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola + 5′ 31″
7 Wladimir Belli (Ita) Lampre + 6′ 12″
8 Brad McGee (Aus) fdjeux.com + 6′ 15″
9 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Phonak + 6′ 34″
10 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Lampre + 7′ 47″