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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

News for December 1, 2002

Edited by Chris Henry

86th Giro D'Italia: Difficult & Wide Open 2003 Giro d'Italia

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Milano

The 86th Giro d'Italia that will begin next May 10 in Lecce, Italy at the heel of the Italian boot is first Grand Tour of the '03 season and although conventional wisdom may expect an Italian winner by default at the bitter end three weeks later in Milano, it's far more likely be a wide open contest next year.

With over 1.3 million Euro up for grabs in prize money, two flat, fast time trials totaling 82km, eightmountain & climbing stages including 5 mountaintop finishes (17,300 total meters of climbing) and perhaps the most balanced Giro parcours in several years, next season's Giro winner will be hard to predict. Year 2002 Giro victor Paolo Savoldelli told Cyclingnews, "it's a very good Giro, open for all-comers. As always, the Giro will be decided in the last week. Everything will be in suspense until the final time trial."

World Champion Mario Cipollini also likes what he sees in next year's Giro. "Looks like there are a lot of opportunities for sprinters. There is a little bit of everything for all kinds of riders and the usual riders will be ready to make the race." Cipollini is seeking the all time stage win record in the Giro d'Italia; the Tuscan World Champ is currently sitting at 40 Giro stage victories, one behind the first Italian campionissimo Alfredo Binda. Cipo will need two wins to surpass the 70 year old record.

Cipo's main rival for the sprints in '03 will certainly be Australian Robbie McEwen. In the last Giro, the feisty and fast Lotto rider battled Cipo and even won a few sprints from him, but left the Giro to return home for the birth of his son. At next seasons Giro, McEwen will certainly be looking to make Cipo's life difficult in the last 50 meters to avenge his Zolder World's defeat. And should Ivan Quaranta find a new lease on life at Saeco-Longoni, this exciting sprinter from Cremona will be looking to show both Cipo and McEwen how to pull a victory salute at 70km/hr.

Marco Pantani couldn't make it back from a training vacation in Greece for the 86th Giro presentation, but "Il Falco" Paolo Savoldelli, surprise Giro winner last season, did make it. While Savoldelli may have signed a big-euro contract with Telekom, the boyish looking pro from Bergamo probably won't start as favorite. In fact, next year's Giro looks better for Gilberto Simoni (Saeco-Longoni Sport), winner of the '01 Giro. Simoni was a major Giro contender last season until he retired from the Giro due to some ambiguous drug testing issues, both out and in competiton. Simoni was later exonerated of any positive drug tests and the difficult '03 Giro course really suits the tough 31 year old Trentino climber, out to avenge his disappointing forced exit from the '02 Giro.

Simoni's Saeco-Longoni Sport teammate and Cyclingnews diarist Danilo Di Luca told Cyclingnews that "it's a Giro that looks very good for me in the first week, with three uphill finshing stages like Terme Luigiane, Vibo Valentia and Faenza. I'll be looking for stage wins for sure, but also to help Gibo (Simoni) win."

Simoni's key rival last Giro was Stefano Garzelli, who rode brilliantly into the Maglia Rosa until the former Mapei man was sidelined by a weird, unexpected positive test for probenicid, an obsolete steroid masking agent. Garzelli retired in shame halfway through the Giro and was later suspended for nine months by the Swiss federation. He won't return to competition until late April, putting his race readiness somewhat in doubt. "This looks like a hard Giro, with unknown climbs and long, hard stages," Garzelli said. "It's for a strong climber who's also a good time trialist. I still have no idea where I will be, but to be in top form at the start will be very important." Garzelli will also change teams to the small Tacconi Sport squad, certainly providing less support than his previous home at Mapei.

Were it not for a few topsy-turvy crashes and one defaillance on the climb to Folgaria in last season's Giro, American Tyler Hamilton might have worn the Maglia Rosa home to Milano, but the heroic Man from Marblehead still finished second, less than two minutes behind Savoldelli. This parcours looks good for Hamilton as well; with a season under his belt at CSC and the lessons of last season's Giro hopefully learned, Hamilton must be considered a candidate for victory in the 86th Giro d'Italia.

Lampre will likely field an impressive squad at the 86th Giro d'Italia. Last year, Basque rider Juan Manuel Garate was an excellent 4th on GC. The 25 year old Basque rider is a solid climber and decent time tester who Lampre d.s. Pietro Algeri has groomed well for possible stardom. Garate's new Lampre teammate Francesco Casagrande will likely ride support for Garate at next year's Giro but the sourpuss Tuscan may also engage in a 3 round pre-race bare-knuckle bout in the hospitality village with his ex-teammate Waldimir Belli.

Verona's Pietro Caucchioli (Alessio) was third in last season's Giro, a testament to his all-around talents. But Caucchioli was cautious after seeing the route of next year's Giro d'Italia. "I have to improve my climbing since this will be a hard Giro." The occasionally gravity challenged Caucchioli scoffed at his descending errors."Before anything, I have to climb better and go faster in the time trials," said the 26 year old bottle blond. "I'm working hard to improve in both areas."

The Giro d'Italia will have an attractive new look next year, thanks to Biella artist Ugo Nespoli. His futurist-inspired painting "Il rosa della maglia" that was commissioned by the Giro d'Italia organizers will also have its design replicated in tone on tone on the Maglia Rosa & the other race category tunics. But despite the fashion statement, the winner of the 86th Giro d'Italia will have to battle hard from the bottom of the boot to the top of the Italian peninsula to have the honor of wearing the final Maglia Rosa in Milano.

The stages:

Stage 1 - May 10: Lecce, 192 km
Stage 2 - May 11: Copernico-Matera, 174 km
Stage 3 - May 12: Policoro-Terme Liugiane, 145 km
Stage 4 - May 13: Terme Luigiane-Vibo Valentia, 175 km
Stage 5 - May 14: Messine-Catane, 169 km
Rest day - May 15
Stage 6 - May 16: Maddaloni-Avezzano, 218 km
Stage 7 - May 17: Avezzano-Terminillo, 146 km
Stage 8 - May 18: Rieti-Arezzo, 217 km
Stage 9 - May 19: Arezzo-Montecatini, 160 km
Stage 10 - May 20: Montecatini-Faenza, 200 km
Stage 11 - May 21: Faenza-San Dona, 199 km
Stage 12 - May 22: Dan Dona-Monte Zoncolan, 185 km
Stage 13 - May 23: Pordenone-Marostica, 155 km
Stage 14 - May 24: Marostica-Alpe Pampeago, 162 km
Stage 15 - May 25: Merano-Bolzano, ITT, 42 km
Stage 16 - May 26: Arco Trento-Pavia, 207 km
Rest day - May 27
Stage 17 - May 28: Salice Terme-Asti, 130 km
Stage 18 - May 29: Santuorio Vico-Chianale, 175 km
Stage 19 - May 30: Canelli-Cascata Toce, 236 km
Stage 20 - May 31: Canobio-Cantu, 122 km
Stage 21 - June 1: Idsroscalo-Milan, ITT, 40 km

Total: 3,449 kilometers

Check back with Cyclingnews for continued Giro 2003 coverage, including riders' reactions to the route and more in-depth analysis of the stages.

Botero signs with Telekom

After much talk and speculation, Colombian Santiago Botero has signed a two year contract with Team Telekom. Botero had for some time expressed his desire to leave the Kelme team, particularly following his World TT Championships victory in Zolder and his subsequent increase in market value. Botero joins other new recruits Paolo Savoldelli, Mario Aerts, Cadel Evans, and Daniele Nardello in an overhauled Team Telekom.

"Botero is a complete rider, a man who can rival Lance Armstrong," said Telekom manager Walter Godefoot. Team spokesman Olaf Ludwig echoed Godefroot's sentiments. "With (Botero) the team has come together, able to compete in both the grand tours and the classics."

While the exact sum is not clear, it is expected that Botero will be expected to pay approximately 200,000 Euros of the buyout fee for his contract with Kelme, with whom he had a contract through the 2003 season.

Paola Pezzo becomes a mom

Italian mountain bike star and two time Olympic gold medalist Paola Pezzo gave birth to a baby boy Saturday evening at 9pm in Verona hospital. Young Kevin has some brown hair and weighs in at 3.60kg. Paola Pezzo and her companion Paolo Rosola are both happy and doing fine.

Pezzo is looking forward to coming back and riding Gran Fondo circuit, and she hasn't ruled out possibility of going for third consecutive Olympic women's cross country mountain bike title at the 2004 games in Athens. However for the moment the Italian is just looking forward to riding. No doubt Pezzo will be hooking a baby seat to her Gary Fisher mountain bike. Cyclingnews will have more to follow from the happy parents in the coming days.

Daikin to sponsor Landbouwkrediet-Colnago

Landbouwkrediet-Colnago has found a new sponsor in Daikin, former sponsor of the Lampre team. Daikin joins Alken-Maes as a co-sponsor for 2003. The new arrangement does not come as a great surprise, as there has always been a strong connection between Daikin and Gérard Bulens, Landbouwkrediet manager. During the Belgian National Championships, Ludo Dierckxens and Johan Verstrepen, two Belgians on Lampre, were supported by Landbouwkrediet because they didn't have their own director in the race.

Courtesy of Fred Borgers

Marlux finds cosponsor

Belgian Division II team Marlux has found a new cosponsor as well. Computer/IT firm Nixdorf will join as a cosponsor for 2003, as reported by TV1. The infusion of sponsorship money should allow for additional recruitment, possibly former world champion Romans Vainsteins.


Four Days of Dunkerque returns to Belgium

The Four Days of Dunkerque will once again touch Belgian soil in 2003, according to Belgian TV1. The race will be run from May 7-11, and it is expected that one stage will finish in Middelkerke, Belgium.


Petacchi honored by fans

Alessandro Petacchi will be honored by his fans on December 1. The event is to take place in Castelnuovo Magra, beginning at 1:00pm. The Fassa Bortolo rider's fan club, run by Claudio Gatti, will celebrate the past season, as well as look ahead to 2003.


(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2002)