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Photo ©: Swift

Latest News for May 23, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

86th Giro d'Italia news

Garzelli feels good

Garzelli and Pantani
Photo: © Sirotti
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After yesterday, Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) still feels as though he is in a position to win the Giro, even though he's not had much racing this year. "It was a really tough stage and I feel like I did well on it," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "As I was going up it was really great to hear the people cheering for me and Pantani together. That was an experienced I enjoyed."

"Yesterday I had a great collaboration with Marco. We helped each other without talking. There was so much enthusiasm for people to see Marco coming back. It was really great."

Casagrande comes back

Casagrande and Pantani
Photo: © Sirotti
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Francesco Casagrande (Lampre) is back in the picture again after finishing third in yesterday's Zoncolan stage. "I think it's a big return for me after I didn't ride so well on the Terminillo," he said to La Gazzetta. "It was a really tough climb. I even had to put it in a 39x30 at one point. But I did a good ride yesterday. I'm sure of that."

"To tell the truth I was trying to win yesterday, but Simoni was too strong. And Pantani was good too. I'm happy for him."

Popovych fourth

Photo: © Sirotti
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Yaroslav Popovych (Colnago Landbouwkrediet) was also happy with his performance yesterday, finishing fourth, just behind Casagrande. "I feel stronger than last year," he was quoted in La Gazzetta. "I've lost a couple of kilos (down to 61 now) so I'm going better on the hills."

"This is a really great Giro. It's much more intense than last year. I'm really looking forward to continuing to do well. I thought I would have to use a 39x30 but I didn't need it. It was the hardest climb of my life."

Cipollini congratulates Pantani

Although he abandoned the Giro before the start of stage 12, World Champion Mario Cipollini saw the stage and was impressed at the way Marco Pantani rode to finish in fifth place. "We can welcome back Pantani," he said in an interview on RAI TV. "I think that this is the beginning of a comeback of a man, who this sport needs to set it on fire and make the public happy. Cycling is getting back some of what it has lost in the past."

Cipollini was also asked to comment on his crash in stage 11. "I was really afraid. I was lucky that nothing worse happened."

As for the Tour selection, "On Friday there will be a meeting between Preatoni (Domina Vacanze owner) and Leblanc (Tour director). I believe it will be the last chance. I think that this meeting will have some results and everyone will get together and they will change their minds."

On Simoni's ride yesterday, Cipollini commented "It's likely that he didn't create the gap he wanted to, even though he showed himself to be the strongest in the mountains. This uncertainty makes this Giro even more involving."

Aitor González getting better

Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo) had one of his better days in the Giro in stage 12, finishing 9th on the Zoncolan, 1'30 behind Simoni. "I felt good for the whole day," said the Vuelta winner to AS. "The best thing is that I'm no longer suffering like I have been since the fiasco of the Terminillo. My back doesn't hurt and I'm beginning to breathe normally."

"What's important is that I remained in my place all day with the favourites, and only lost a bit in the final on the ramps of a climb that is not as hard as they make out...If I keep going like this I'm convinced I'll have a good end of Giro."

Adolfo Garcia Quesada satisfied

Although his brother Carlos was forced to abandon the Giro yesterday due to a crash, Adolfo Garcia Quesada (Kelme-Costa Blanca) fared much better on the stage to Zoncolan. He was part of the early breakaway that gained a small advantage on the maglia rosa by the final climb, and eventually came in to finish 26th on the stage.

"I have completed my mission which was to be attentive and to try and get in the breaks," he told AS. "I succeeded but there was no luck, because they didn't let us gain time on the favourites for the GC, as was the case for Belli."

Garcia Quesada added that "The day was very fast and complicated, especially the first really steep climb and the narrow roads, but the Zoncolan itself was not as hard as they said. For me, nothing is more inhuman than the Angliru."

Angliru vs Zoncolan

Out of those riders in the Giro who have done both climbs, most rated the Angliru in Spain as harder than the Zoncolan yesterday. In pure numbers, the Angliru is 12.9 km long and rises 1238 metres for an average gradient of 9.6% (maximum of 23.6%). The Zoncolan is 13.3 km long and rises 1196 metres for an average of 9% (maximum of 22%). Both are similar in terms of gradient, although the Angliru has some flatter spots occasionally.

Pavel Tonkov (CCC-Polsat) finished second in the 1999 Angliru stage in the Vuelta, and 22nd yesterday in the Giro. His opinion was that "the start of the Zoncolan is faster and a bigger group is formed, while the Spanish climb is more selective from the bottom. The Angliru and the Mortirolo are harder than this mountain, which only has the three last kilometres."

Other riders had similar comments: the top of the Zoncolan was hard, but it was relatively shorter than the Angliru. Also there were more corners on the Angliru which made it tougher.

Gilberto Simoni's time up the Zoncolan was 41'20 (according to Davide Cassani of RAI TV). That's an average speed of 19.2 km/h, which for a 9 percent climb is quick. However Cyclingnews reader François Siohan estimates that had Marco Pantani been in his 1994 and 1997 Alpe d'Huez form, he would have beaten Simoni by 2 minutes on the Zoncolan.

Stage 12 full results and report
Live report

Doping tests negative

The UCI has announced that all anti-doping tests carried out during the Giro d'Italia up until stage five have been negative. In a statement, the UCI said that the tests included analysis for both EPO and NESP, in addition to the standard drugs. Also, in both hematocrit controls carried out on May 8 and 19, all riders were declared fit to race.

The UCI also stated that in the coming weeks, its anti-doping commission would examine all the justifications for the therapeutic use of medicines that have been submitted by riders and team doctors.

In three out of the last four years, the Giro has been badly affected by drug scandals involving the top riders. In 1999, Marco Pantani failed a hematocrit test while leading the race, and was thrown out. In 2001, police carried out a large scale raid on every team, uncovering some illegal drugs. That led to the exclusion of Dario Frigo, who was lying in second position overall at the time. Finally last year both Gilberto Simoni and Stefano Garzelli were expelled after testing positive for cocaine and probenecid respectively.

Simoni was later cleared by the Italian federation after arguing that he had inadvertently consumed cocaine in the form of Peruvian candies given to him by his aunt. Garzelli was not cleared, although there were some strange circumstances surrounding the positive test, which was for a non-performance enhancing drug.

Stage 13 preview: Pordenone-Marostica 149km

It will be another fast transitional stage across the Veneto region to Marostica, famous for its tasty cherries and the bi-annual Partita di Scacchi (human chess match). With three final circuits up the Rosina climb, look for an opportunist rider to make a late move, while "I Big" like Simoni and Garzelli will undoubtedly be waiting for Saturday's long, difficult stage to Alpe di Pampeago.

Look for live coverage on Cyclingnews starting at 14:30 CEST.

Axel Merckx shines in leader's jersey

"I didn't curse when the fast Jans Koerts joined me after I attacked. On the contrary, I was happy," Axel Merckx told the VUM newspapers after taking the leader's jersey in the Tour of Belgium yesterday. "I wasn't going to make it on my own. Jans was very strong, I was happy that I could sit on his wheel."

"Of course I realized I could forget about the stage victory, but I did know that Koerts didn't finish in the first group on Wednesday and that I had the leader's jersey within reach. It is nice for the sponsors but I myself am very happy with it too."

"I feel good and then it is easy to ride in the front. After Henninger Turm, where I was strong, just like in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, I didn't touch the bike for four days and then started working again. When you are at your peak and you have a bit of a rest, you quickly regain that level afterwards."

"I want to win every race, so also this one is on the list," Merckx grins. "The team will work hard to defend the jersey. Hopefully I can hold onto it. The last stage is my cup of tea" (That last stage is a mini-version of Liege-Bastogne-Liege).

Speaking of L-B-L, Merckx also debunked any ideas that there was bad blood between him and Lance Armstrong, after Armstrong chased him down during the race. "A week after La Doyenne, Lance called me," said Merckx. "I'm not angry at him like was printed in the press. Things got blown up there. I was happy he rang me, to hear my opinion on it. We didn't go on about it, he just wanted to win badly that day. We have always gotten along really well, and it will stay that way."

Brioches-La Boulangère preselection for Tour

The team director of the Brioches-La Boulangère team, Jean-René Bernaudeau, has made a preliminary selection of 10 riders for the Tour de France. Brioches-La Boulangère is the only pure French team in the race, and gained one of the four wild cards when they were handed out by the Société du Tour de France last Monday.

The selection: Walter Beneteau, Sylvain Chavanel, Anthony Geslin, Emmanuel Magnien, Damien Nazon, Jerome Pineau, Franck Rénier, Didier Rous, Fabrice Salanson and Thomas Voeckler.

Shorter first Vuelta time trial

The first individual time trial stage of the Vuelta España (Stage 6 in Zaragoza) has been confirmed as being 37.2 kilometres in length, three kilometres shorter than the distance proposed at the launch last year. The stage will take place entirely through the streets of Zaragoza, and should create the first important selection in the general classification in the Spanish stage race. The Vuelta will start on September 6 in Gijon with a 30 km team time trial.

Nas arrest 10

Carabinieri from the Nas (Italian drug squad) have arrested ten people associated with a criminal organisation devoted to the sale of illegal drugs for cycling and rugby, according to a report by ANSA. The arrests were carried out in the provinces of Bologna, Ravenna, Vicenza, Treviso and Padova. Two cyclists and one other person have been jailed, while the other seven are under house arrest. The charges range from complicity to commit a crime, receiving, unlawful practice of medicine, administration of dangerous drugs and violation of the anti-doping law.

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