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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for May 29, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones

Stage 21 wrap-up: Basso parties into Milan, as Förster finally triumphs

A sweet win for Robert Förster
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

It was all CSC, all the time as the Giro d'Italia finished with its traditional criterium in Milano. After riding in from the Museo del Ghisallo, the squad of race leader Ivan Basso kept control of the peloton until just 3 km to go, when Milram tried to surprise with a late move by Alberto Ongarato. But Gerolsteiner got its act together and led out Robert Förster for his first stage win in the Giro this year. Max Richeze (Panaria) was second ahead of Olaf Pollack (T-Mobile), while Paolo Bettini boxed himself in and finished fourth, winning the points jersey as a good consolation prize.

The final stage was remarkable in that there was only one real attack all day. After Bettini won the 110 Gazzetta sprint in Cambiago, Gabriele Missaglia (Selle Italia) attacked and got a 3'10 gap. But the peloton (not only CSC) chased him down before the entrance to the finishing circuits in Milano, and it was gruppo compatto for the 11 x 4.8 km laps. CSC just kept getting faster and faster as it led home Ivan Basso to an impressive first Giro win, and no-one could challenge them. Paolo Bettini finished in the points jersey, while his teammate Juan Manuel Garate took the mountains, Bettini the 110 Gazzetta, and Paolo Savoldelli the gran combinata.

See also: Stage 21 full results, report & photos and Live report.

Basso credits his team

Ivan Basso kisses the spoils
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Giro winner Ivan Basso paid tribute to his eight CSC teammates after the race. All members of the CSC squad finished the Giro, and in addition to Basso's three individual stage wins, the team also won the team time trial and finished second in four stages (Basso three times, Jens Voigt once).

"This wonderful achievement in my own native country would have been impossible without the skilled support of my dedicated teammates," said Basso. "They repeatedly sacrificed their chances for individual glory to help me keep the lead in ways that were vital to victory – a victory shared by all nine of us. It is my hope that this win sets the stage for our performance at the Tour de France.

"Each stage of the race was its own little drama as members of my team chased down breakaways, rode tempo at the front of the main bunch and controlled the flow of the race. I was both humbled and energized by their support."

"Riding in support of a man like Ivan is rewarding," said Bobby Julich. "Not only because he achieves consistently strong results, like this Giro win, but he also has so much class. Our respect for Basso, and each other, is what drives this team and makes us push to be the best each day."

Basso's team manager and mentor Bjarne Riis has always valued teamwork. "Basso's win proved he was the strongest rider in the race and that he had maximum support from the strongest team at the Giro," he said. "Teamwork is always at the core of our values, which we put into practice every day, and look forward to applying at the Tour de France.

"Our German attacker Jens Voigt dominated the early stages of the Giro for the team and could have very well won a stage or two, as could have Carlos Sastre who was second in the 2005 Vuelta a Espańa.

"Giovanni Lombardi was a key rider acting as Basso's "bodyguard" throughout the race, helping to steer Ivan through the chaotic and sometimes dangerous bunch sprints at the finish. Ivan could often be found glued right on Lombardi's wheel in these situations, protected from other riders in the tightly grouped peloton or from the sometimes harsh elements."

I.B., The Extra Terrestrial?

Basso and Simoni
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Such was the description used to denote the performance of the maglia rosa over the past three weeks by Gilberto Simoni. But 2006 Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso says the only thing he's got in common with that stranded alien creature, three million light years away, is his desire to phone home. Anthony Tan reports from Milan, Italy.

Yesterday, a magnificent mountain stage was soured by the comments of Gilberto Simoni, who described the performance of Ivan Basso over the past three weeks as out of this world - defining it 'extra-terrestrial'.

"I've never seen anyone dominate [like Basso], never seen any one that strong! He seems like an extra-terrestrial," Simoni said post-stage, his face and words minced with bitterness.

Whether the Trentino scalatore was implying Basso was 'assisted' in some way is up for speculation, but Basso wasn't happy when he heard this: "I don't like to be called an extra-terrestrial or a phenomenon," he said.

"I've been on the podium in the Tour de France twice and was the only rider who could stay with Armstrong on the climbs. My ride today is another demonstration of how I've been riding during this Giro. And I don't think I stole anything from anyone. I've already shown my character at this year's Giro."

Click here for the full feature

Bad Vibes between Basso and Simoni mar Giro finale

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

More polemics happened on Sunday morning between maglia rosa Basso and Gibo Simoni. At the sign-in at the Museo di Ghisallo in Magreglio, Simoni commented to the media about Basso, "I don't want to take anything away from (Basso). He won because he was the strongest and if I had won (in Aprica) it would have been a gift. But when we were descending (the Mortirolo), he asked me not to drop him on the descent. Then 5km from Aprica, (Basso) asked me for money to let me win the stage. I'm not used to asking for charity and I said no."

Just as Simoni finished his accusations, Basso showed up at the sign-in and resplendent in his pink tunic, tried to work things out with the bitter, biting Simoni by extending his hand to shake with Simoni, but the Saunier Duval man spit out to Basso, "I don't accept your excuses."

The surprised Basso turned to the media and explained, "It's true that I asked (Simoni) to stay with me on the descent, but the rest is all false." But Simoni wasn't backing off his allegations that Basso tried to sell him the stage, saying to Basso with his trademark cold smile "Do you want me to say how much you asked for?", and then turned his back on Basso and moved away.

Clearly agitated, Basso then said to the assembled media, "I'm just not going to let anything ruin my day today. I think I've shown all during this Giro that I am the strongest. As I said, I did ask Simoni to stay with me on the descent, but for the rest of his filthy words, they are absolutely false."

After the Giro d'Italia podium presentation in Milano Sunday afternoon, both Basso and Simoni appeared on the post race broadcast but the chill was arctic between both Italians. "I realize that Basso was the strongest in this Giro, but that doesn't change anything. What happened (on Stage 20) cancels out his win for me." But Basso didn't react much to Simoni; in fact, he didn't even look at the Saunier Duval rider seated to his left. "This is a great day for me", he repeated. "I'm not letting anything spoil it."

Scott Sunderland's giro diary

Long days, but good days

Stage 17 - Wednesday, May 24: Termeno/Tramin - Furkel Pass, 121 km

Ivan Basso and Gilberto Simoni
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

That was going to be one of the biggest days of the whole Giro, but in fact, the weather changed the plans. The mountain pass in the middle was cancelled, and we went around through the valley. Then the last five kilometres of Kronplatz were cancelled too. The cold temperatures made it a survival day more than anything else, without changes to the GC. From our point of view, well, Piepoli won the stage, that was OK. Ivan was second, and picked up a bit of extra time on Gutierrez and the others on the GC, so that was good too.

Stage 18 - Thursday, May 25: Sillian - Gemona Del Friuli, 210 km

This was a long day for our team. They constantly had to ride tempo - not do too much, but do enough to keep the break at a reasonable limit, and keep some of the other teams interested in chasing it down. Just more or less controlling it. On such a day, with steep climbs, it zapped the legs, probably one of the toughest days on our boys. Nicki Sorensen was sick, and couldn't do much because of a chest infection. He had been on antibiotics for three days, and suffered in silence, gritting his teeth to come through. But he was able to bite the bullet, after that he was able to do a lot of work for the team again, like today. I don't know too many people who can get sick in the third week and come through like that. I think the Viking came out in him. Both him and Michael Blaudzun have done an enormous amount of work here from day one. They were really the foot soldiers of the team.

Click here for the full entry

Tough finish for Milram

Team Milram came to the Giro d'Italia with the objective of winning at least a few stages, but suffered a huge setback when Alessandro Petacchi crashed out in stage 3. The loss of the captain saw Milram really struggle to make an impact on the results, even if they often rode like they still had a top sprinter in their team. There were, of course, several other fast men wearing the light blue colours, such as the experienced leadout man Alberto Ongarato, as well as Elia Rigotto and Mirco Lorenzetto, but none of them could quite manage to win.

In the final stage, Milram did set up a train in the final three kilometres, but by that stage had already lost Lorenzetto to a crash. He was bitterly disappointed not to finish the Giro. "From the Tour de Romandie, I thought about the sprint in Milano," said Lorenzetto. "I was convinced that my characteristics were suited perfectly to this finale. Unfortunately, this time also, the bad luck hit hard. I skidded unexpectedly and I fell on my right thigh. More than the physical pain, I have the emotional disappointment for losing a chance like this in the stupidest manner."

Plan B revolved around Alberto Ongarato, who attacked in the final kilometre with Sacchi sitting up behind him to open a gap, but he didn't manage to hold off the rest of the sprinters. "I'm sorry not to have achieved anything," said Ongarato. "Today we had decided to adopt a little bit of a different tactic, looking to surprise the gruppo in the last kilometre, and, in case of a sprint, aiming to lead out Lorenzetto, but in the end, thanks to a bit of bad luck for us and a bit of good luck for our opponents, our plan didn't come off."

Finally, team manager Gianluigi Stanga summed up the race: "It was a Giro that was logically conditioned by Petacchi's accident. We raced 19 of the 21 stages without our leader, and everyone knows that this Milram team was constructed completely for him. At any rate, we still tried to be protagonists, varying the tactics of the race and throwing in Ghisalberti (21st on GC) onto the international stage, who, being a debutante at the Giro, we can still consider a youngster and therefore one of the nicest revelations of this corsa rosa."

Unzue expresses satisfaction

Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears finished the Giro with one stage win and a swag of second places, and team manager Eusebio Unzue described himself as satisfied with the team's performance. "This Giro was a really hard one and I dare to say that the last two mountain stages were almost inhuman ones," he said. "All the riders are very tired but I am happy with what they were able to achieve. Before the Giro started, we already knew that we had no chance for the general classification. Our aim was to go with the breaks and win one or more stages. And there was indeed a team Caisse D'epargne-Illes Balears rider in all the breaks!

"My riders' fighting spirit really pleased me. The started every morning with that aim: to go and win the stage and Joan Horrach's beautiful victory in Sestri Levante was a deserved reward. Without forgetting Vladimir Efimkin and Fran Pérez's second places and Iván Gutiérrez' third one. We started with a quite inexperienced team for that kind of race considering the fact that Imanol Erviti, Vladimir Efimkin and José Luís Carrasco were starting for the first time in a three week long stage race and they too proved that they wanted to do well and that they were ready to suffer to arrive in Milan. It is a real satisfaction because I had the possibility to note that they have some great possibilities to do well in the future."

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