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83rd Giro d'Italia - GT

Italy, May 13 - June 4, 2000

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Stage 21 - June 4: Turin to Milan, 198 km

Piccoli takes the final honours in Milan

By Gabriella Ekström, correspondent

Mariano Piccoli
Photo: © AFP
Lampre's team car closes up to Mariano Piccoli. He has some kind of problem with his rear gears. They are in Milan, and three short laps in the city is what remains of this year's Giro d'Italia. A group of thirteen or so riders have broken away from the peloton, which is controlled by Polti and of course, Mercatone Uno. All the yellow Mercatone team has to do is to cruise along the streets to the finish with their leader Stefano Garzelli, and to arrive there safe and in one piece, they stay close to the front. Francesco Casagrande follows right behind Garzelli. He is wearing the green mountains jersey, but he looks hard at the pink one in front of him. Even if he did not finish the Giro in it, Francesco Casagrande has still ridden like a true champion.

The riders in the break are Oscar Pozzi and Pietro Caucchioli from Amica Chips, Gianluca Bortolami from Vini Caldirola, Mirko Gualdi from Mobilvetta, Daniele Contrini from Liquigas, Nicholas Vogondy from FDJ, Guiseppe Calcaterra from Saeco, Victor Hugo Pena from Vitalicio Seguros, Andrea Peron from Fassa Bortolo, David McKenzie from Linda McCartney, Gianpaolo Mondini from Cantina Tollo and Mariano Piccoli from Lampre, hopefully I didn't forget anyone.

The peloton are just 18 seconds behind, so close that they have eye-contact with the riders up front as they pass the finish with two laps to go. Oscar Pozzi tries to break away from the front group, he is a good sprinter and has to be taken into consideration. Mariano Piccoli chases after him. This group is too big to stay united. They have to split it up. The question is, mais alors, who will be left behind? The peloton behind is streched far out, and Polti are chasing hard, aware that this is the last chance Jeroen Blijlevens will get.

Really big paving stones surprise the riders here and there, again a street where you're supposed to pass by slowly in a car not on a bumpy bike. Contrini and Calcaterrra are chasing after Piccoli, who in his turn is chasing Pozzi. They will form a new front group. Pozzi tries to dodge away from the work by placing himself last in the group, behind Piccoli. Piccoli sighs and sits up, a gap grows and Pozzi will be the one to bring it back. Pozzi starts over. Mirko Gualdi joins up with them, he bridged across on his own. This group is more like it, and everyone's working. They really have to cause the peloton is very close.

They have passed the finishing line another time and are now on the final lap. Calcaterra rides at the front, and Pozzi slips back again. Oops, just checking something. Calcaterra drops behind Pozzi and tells him a few words of truth, Pozzi isn't speechless either. Back in the second group, Macca and Bortolami have broken away in an attempt to catch the five guys up front. Nicholas Vogondy has some problems with following the group. Calcaterra leans over to Piccoli, God knows what he is telling him.

They have just rounded a corner, and only seconds after heading out on the straight, the peloton appears in a blur of colours and noise. The red flag is right there in front of them. There is no time for hesitation, but that's just what they do. Contrini slows down, moves to the side, no-one follows. Pozzi tries to get away, but has to slow down in front of a curve, and the others are right behind him.

Contrini moves from side to side, and Pozzi tries again. He starts the sprint early, but it might be the best thing to do. Behind them, the peloton has just caught the second group. Pozzi has got a big gap, but Piccoli is starting to close in on him. Piccoli is the better sprinter, he will pass Pozzi. He has Calcaterra on his wheel, but the Saeco rider doesn't have the speed to pass Piccoli. Mariano Piccoli passes the line as the winner of this final Giro d'Italia stage.

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