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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition News for June 2, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Giro stage 21 wrap up: Gontchar takes finale; Simoni home in pink

Ukrainian former World TT Champion Serguei Gontchar has taken the victory in the final stage of the Giro d'Italia, a flat and fast 33 km time trial in the streets of Milan. Gontchar clocked 38'04 for the distance, averaging 52 km/h to beat Marzio Bruseghin, Aitor Gonzalez and Dario Frigo (all Fassa Bortolo). Maglia Rosa Gilberto Simoni finished 18th at 2'14, but there was no danger of him losing the overall, and he crossed the line blowing a kiss to the fans who have supported him throughout the three week race.

The other interesting battle today was between Stefano Garzelli and Yaroslav Popovych - the latter needing just 2 seconds to overtake Garzelli on GC for second place. At the 20 km point, Popovych was 1 second up on Garzelli, but Garzelli rode strongly over the final 13 km to put time into the younger Ukrainian, thus kept hold of his second place overall.

In the other main classifications, Simoni finished with the points jersey (on equal points with Garzelli), Fredy Gonzalez the mountains, and Magnus Bäckstedt the Intergiro, while Lampre won the teams classification.

Stage 21 full results and report
Live report
Scott Sunderland's diary

Simoni's reactions

Gibo's Giro
Photo: © Sirotti
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Gilberto Simoni never did acknowledge his impending Giro win prematurely, preferring to save all celebrations after the stage 21 time trial when victory was official. Following stage 21, however, in an expression of his satisfaction and even relief, Simoni offered plenty of comments on this year's race.

"I raced differently compared to 2001," Simoni said. "Then I looked for a few seconds on every stage, even where people didn't expect me to and raced by following my instinct; I won almost by chance and it was dream come true.

"This year I had a completely different mentality and different way of racing. I carefully planned every part of the race; every attack was arranged with the team. Nothing was left to chance. Even the attack to Faenza was planned. If I hadn't attacked the break would have been caught and Garzelli would have gained the 20-second time bonus. When I attacked I thought, 'I'm going to enjoy myself.' They under estimated me, making a big mistake."

Praise for the Saeco team

Simoni was quick to praise his team, which showed it could control the race on most occasions. "The team always raced following the pre-race tactics agreed with the directeur sportifs," he explained. "The only day things didn't go right was on the Zoncolan, because Mercatone Uno set a fast but steady pace which stopped the attacks that would have split the field in the last three kilometres."

Praise for [most of] his rivals

"Stefano Garzelli was my biggest rival," Simoni said of his runner up. "He was affected by the crash that cost him a last chance to win. After finishing third in 2000 I discovered that Garzelli was able to win the Giro on the last day and so was always worried about him."

Simoni also acknowledged "the surprise of the Giro," young Yaroslav Popovych. "He's got a lot of promise and he's improving a lot but he still needs to learn a lot," Simoni noted. "Coming down the Sampeyre I didn't take any risks but Popovych went hard and opened a gap but at the bottom of descent he only had a ten metre gap. He should have waited for us but he did everything he could to stay away. When we caught him we were the ones who didn't wait for him."

"Of my rivals Casagrande was the biggest disappointment," Simoni concluded. "He wasn't as good as in last few years. He had some problems that stopped him being competitive."

Next stop, the Tour

"At the Tour de France we'll try and cause problems for Armstrong," said the Giro winner. "He's always had an easy ride to Paris because he's never faced real climbers. Other riders on the podium have been Beloki, Ullrich, and Moreau, all riders who are good in time trials but much weaker than Armstrong in the mountains. If we can get him in a trap, we can make Armstrong panic."

Simoni concluded by adding that the parcours of the race is not the most important factor. "The route of the Tour doesn't seem hard but the route of the Giro didn't seem hard either and looked what happened. This proves that it's the riders who make the race hard or not."

Garzelli impressive

Second by seconds
Photo: © Sirotti
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Stefano Garzelli was satisfied with his overall performance in the Giro, particularly given his year out of competition following last year's race. "I'm happy. It was a hard Giro and I did not want to lose a place. [Popovych] was very strong too, but I gave it my all."

The Vini Caldirola rider had an up and down Giro, aggressive in the first half, including two victories, Garzelli saw his rival Simoni pull away in the high mountains. Resigned to second place overall, he rallied in the final days to defend his position against rising star Yaroslav Popovych.

Gontchar happy with stage win

Photo: © Sirotti
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"To win this time trial after three years is a great joy," Serguei Gontchar (De Nardi-Colpack) said after his stage 21 victory. "The team is very happy and my coach almost cried. We've made a lot of sacrifices."

Asked about the crash of a Cessna tourist flight which occurred nearby Linate airport, Gontchar noted that it weighed on his mind. "I only learned about the tragedy of the plane crash just before my start. It was difficult to concentrate."

Petacchi honoured in Milan

Winner of six stages in this year's Giro, Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) was on hand at the final stage of the Giro, receiving recognition of his performance despite having been eliminated from the race in the mountains. After his superb Giro, Petacchi still considers this year's Tour de France a viable prospect.

"They know that for me this was a great Giro, and the prize I've been given makes me very happy," Petacchi told Datasport after receiving an award from the organisers. "We're still discussing [within the team] the possibility of racing the Tour. I would love to be there, because a rider who can win in both the Giro and the Tour is an extraordinary rider."

Cipollini regrets early exit

Photo: © Sirotti
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Mario Cipollini, who was also on hand at the final stage to receive honours from the Giro organisers, had plenty of good words for Maglia Rosa Gilberto Simoni. "Simoni is a worthy winner," Cipollini said. "He completely dominated the race. He can go to the Tour and be competitive against Armstrong."

Cipollini remains disappointed with his premature exit from the Giro, taken out in a crash in stage 11. "For me the Giro leaves a bitter taste, since I crashed when I was just coming into form," Cipollini commented.

The subject of Cipollini's non-selection for the Tour de France remains a sore subject. Despite Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc's promise that he would consider a 23rd team, Cipollini expressed skepticism and disappointment, saying that he felt betrayed after Leblanc indicated an invitation would follow his world championship win in Zolder last October. A decision from Leblanc may come as early as Monday.

Gonzalez continues with Selle Italia

Fredy Gonzalez, the Colombian climber who this year won the mountains classification of the Giro d'Italia, has extended his contract with Colombia-Selle Italia through the 2004 season. Gonzalez finished the Giro in 35th place overall, after figuring in all of the mountain stages, even if a stage win eluded him. Gonzalez also won the green jersey of best climber in the 2001 Giro.

Ag2R in training

The Ag2R-Prévoyance team of Vincent Lavenu is in the midst of a five day training camp in preparation for the Classique des Alpes and Dauphiné Libéré. The entire Ag2R team is present at the camp, based around Chambéry, France, before splitting up at the end of the week. Ag2R will contest both the Tour of Germany and the Classique des Alpes/Dauphiné. The team will also look forward to the Tour de France, thanks to its inclusion in the four wild card selections announced on May 19.

T-Mobile to sponsor San Francisco Grand Prix

International telecom firm T-Mobile has joined as title sponsor for the San Francisco Grand Prix, organised by Tailwind Sports. The race will now be known as the T-Mobile International, presented by BMC Software, and will be held this year on September 14. The event is the final round of the Professional Cycling Tour.

Of great interest this year is the addition of a 48 mile women's pro event to compliment the immensely popular men's race, established in 2001.


(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)