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Pearl Izumi

85th Giro d'Italia (GT)

Italy, May 11-June 2, 2002

News for May 28, 2002

Edited by Jeff Jones

The Middle Game: Stages 5-14

By Jeff Jones

In more ways that one, the 85th Giro d'Italia has just completed its longest period since the first rest day on May 16. 10 straight days of variable weather, doping scandals, hard racing, uphill finishes, tough sprints capped off with a challenging 30 km test against the clock has seen the contenders in this year's Giro rise to the top, but with no obvious winner emerging.

Garzelli's triumph
Photo: © Sirotti
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The riders transferred to Italy after the "Euro-Giro" for the fifth stage from Fossano to Limone Piemonte, the first serious uphill finish. Race leader Stefano Garzelli (Mapei) showed confirmed his favouritism for the Giro by winning the tough stage from Kelme's Santi Perez, Saeco's Gilberto Simoni and Fassa Bortolo's Francesco Casagrande. It seemed that Garzelli was definitely the man to beat in this Giro.

Jens Heppner
Photo: © Sirotti
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On the morning of the sixth stage however, a big scandal broke. It became public that Garzelli had tested 'non-negative' for the banned diuretic, Probenecid, after being tested in the second to Liege. Due to a conflict with UCI rules and the pact agreed to by the teams and the Sporting Groups Association, Garzelli was allowed to remain in the giro until his B sample was confirmed positive. But it blunted his and the Mapei team's morale, as Telekom's Jens Heppner made the most of a rainy day and a lacklustre peloton to gain 5 minutes on the field as part of a breakaway and take the maglia rosa in the process.

That lead was enough for Heppner to keep the jersey right up until now, although he looks set to lose it in Wednesday's tough mountain stage. The 37 year old from Gera showed strength and tenacity to hang tough when the racing got hard, and certainly defended the jersey with honour with the help of a committed team.

Rik Verbrugghe
Photo: © Sirotti
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Stage 7 was held on the picturesque "Circuito della Versilia", and had enough in it to allow an eight man break to get clear. An enterprising Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto) made up for his prologue near miss by attacking on the final climb and soloing to the stage win.

Stage 8 from Capannori to Orvieto was the longest stage of the Giro at 237 km, and finished with a gradual uphill. Kelme's Aitor Gonzalez timed his run to perfection, attacking with 1 km to go to win the stage from Casagrande and Simoni.

Winning sequence
Photo: © Sirotti
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Stage 9 from Tivoli to Caserta was a long hot day in the saddle, ending with a vintage Mario Cipollini victory. The Acqua e Sapone train powered him home for his third stage win in the Giro this year, and his 37th in total. The stage was also Garzelli's last, as afterwards it was revealed that his counter-analysis was positive for probenecid. The downcast Mapei top man was pulled out of the race while lying in second position overall, saying he was going to take a holiday while this matter is resolved and being unsure about whether he would come back to cycling.

The fun didn't stop there, as it was revealed before stage 10 that another of the race's main contenders, Gilberto Simoni, had tested 'non-negative' for cocaine, in a test carried out before the Giro del Trentino on April 24. After Garzelli's exclusion, this was another massive blow for the Giro and the atmosphere amongst the riders was anything but good. Stage 10 was won by Australian champion Robbie McEwen (Lotto) who demonstrated his impressive strength on the uphill, cobbled finish in Varazze to bag his second stage win. McEwen retired from the race after that, citing his newbown child Ewan and his preparation for the Tour de France as the reasons he wanted to go home to Belgium.

Gilberto Simoni
Photo: © Sirotti
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Simoni wasn't finished in the Giro yet, as he took the 11th stage from Benevento to Campitello Matese. The Saeco man powered away from the field with 3 km to go with only Francesco Casagrande on his wheel. Casagrande wouldn't do a turn but was intent on winning the stage. Simoni would have none of it and outsmarted him to win the two man sprint.

Simoni's happiness turned to anger and frustration as he was prevented from starting stage 12 by his team manager Claudio Corti. Corti acquiesced to the other teams' demands and the race organisation who wished to respect the 'pact' that if a rider tested non-negative in the first instance, he should be taken out of whatever race he is in. Clearly there is a discrepancy between this and the UCI rules that has to be resolved. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Simoni and Corti exchanged fiery words before the start and nearly came to blows, which doesn't bode well for Simoni and Saeco in future.

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Lunghi celebrates
Photo: © Sirotti

The 12th stage from Campobasso to Chieti saw another six man breakaway succeed, with young Italian climber Denis Lunghi making the most of the wet conditions to win solo. The peloton finished nearly 8 minutes behind, refusing to race perhaps due to the weather and recent events in the Giro.

Stage 13 showed that there was light at the end of the tunnel, after a very dark week for the Giro. The hilltop finish to San Giacomo saw an interesting tactical battle take place on the final two climbs. Tyler Hamilton ordered his CSC-Tiscali boys to ride hard tempo on the uphill, succeeding in shredding the peloton and tiring out the climbers for the finish of the stage. In the end, Mexican Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio (Panaria) and Cadel Evans (Mapei) jumped away from the leading group with 3 km to go to finish 1st and 2nd in the stage, with Perez Cuapio dedicating his win to the team's sponsors, who have shown a lot of support in the wake of the Panaria doping scandal.

Tyler Hamilton
Photo: © Sirotti
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The middle game of the Giro finished with the 14th stage time trial in Numana, held over a tough, windy 30.3 kilometre parcours. The winning ride of the day was by CSC's Tyler Hamilton, a well known specialist against the clock who finally seems to be putting his crash/injury troubles behind him (with the exception of a pulled foot with 200m to go) and has moved into contention for the overall. Add that to Cadel Evans' fine third place behind Hamilton and Gontchar to move him into second overall, and the end game in the final week looks to be very interesting.

Full results and reports index
Photos stages 11-14
Photos stages 1-10
News index
Cadel Evans diary

Wide open Giro finale faces Dolomiti and Saturday time test

By Tim Maloney, European editor

With the prologue and 14 stages complete, there are now 6 stages to go until Sunday's final promenade. Wednesday and Thursday are key mountain stages and Saturday has the crucial final time trial. After the turmoil of the first two weeks, the so-called Euro-Giro seems to have found its rhythm after Sunday's Stage 14 time trial. Jens Heppner (Telekom) has been a noble wearer of the Maglia Rosa, but it's time for him to give it up. The big question is to whom.

Italians seem to be finding it tough this year at their national tour. Currently in fourth on GC, Francesco Casagrande (Fassa Bortolo) may have been a big favourite last week, but the Tuscan sourpuss seems to have lots of excuses to make up for his less than great legs. Dario Frigo (Tacconi Sport-Emmegi) has been less than brilliant and currently in 5th, he'll have to find an extra gear to arrive in pink in Milano.

Indeed, the real battle for the final bouquet in the 2002 Giro seems to be shaping up between experienced 30 year old American Tyler Hamilton (CSC-Tiscali) and emerging 25 year old Australian Cadel Evans (Mapei-Quick Step). Hamilton won the weekend TT in decisive fashion, moving up to 3rd on GC, while Evans, in his first Grand Tour, had a brilliant test and is now in 2nd and poised to take over the Maglia Rosa on Wednesday in Corvara in Badia.

But once he gets it, Evans and Mapei-Quick Step will have to defend it and hopefully key team-mates Nardello, Cioni and Noè are up to the task. Hamilton can count on a CSC-Tiscali team at full strength with climbers like Sastre, Garcia and Rasmussen for support.

At this point, with the top 10 on GC with less than 2'00 between them, the final phase of the Giro promises to be combative and wide open. Partly cloudy skies and highs in the mid-70's are predicted for mid-week, but with the changeable late spring weather in the Dolomiti, all bets on the weather are off.

Tuesday's 15th stage from Terme Euganee to Conegliano will be Jens Heppner's last day of glory; with the mountains approaching, the tough 37 year old Telekom man seems ready to pass on his pink tunic. Cipo must be the favourite for the final with three circuits in the Conegliano town centre.

Wednesday's Stage 16 will be full of woe for many. It departs Conegliano, the so-called pearl of the Veneto for a 163 km uphill ride up into the rugged Dolomite Mountains to finish at Corvara in Badia. Stage 16 is the 'tappone'; the most difficult stage of the 2002 Giro, with four tough ascents, commencing with the 1773m Forcella Staulanza (12.9 km long/6.5% avg), then the steep, always daunting Passo di Fedaia (2057m/13.7 km long/7.7% avg) with sections up to 15% in the second half, Fedaia should show who can win the Giro. Look for Casagrande to make his move here.

Then after a 10km descent from Fedaia, it's the legendary Passo Pordoi (2239m/12.1km long/6.4% avg), the highest point of this year's Giro after 142km, with the esteemed title (and prize) of Cima Coppi. Pordoi, the Giro's most famous ascent, has a middle section that is brutal; after the turning for Passo Sella, the climb just goes straight up for 3 km at 12%. Once over Pordoi, the last ascent is Passo di Campolongo (1875m/4km long/4.0% avg) with the summit at 6.5 km to go, then the descent to the mountain town just below the remarkable Gruppo di Sella rock formation.

Thursday's 222 km Stage 17 from Corvara in Badia to Folgaria will be another tough test for the Giro contenders. A long mountain stage begins with the climbs of Passo Gardena (2121m/ 9.5km long/5.9% avg.) and Passo Sella (2213m/5.3km long/8.1% avg) in quick succession, followed by a gradual descent until km 163 when the climbing starts anew. Monte Bondone (1650m/19.5km long/7.5% avg), Santa Barbara (1165m/13km long/8.3% avg) are followed by the long finishing climb to Folgaria (1340m/14.8km long/7.8% avg), the last mountain top finish in the Giro. Stage 17 will be won by the rider with the most 'fondo'; the greatest strength to hang on over long distances.

Friday's Stage 18 is a classic transition stage; Rovereto-Brescia 143km, with 3 laps of a finishing circuit in Brescia. Saturday's penultimate TT Stage 19 will decided the outcome of the Giro d'Italia. A 42.9 km test from Cambiago to Monticello Brianza, the TT starts right in front of Colnago's World HQ. Once out in the open countryside of Brianza north of Milano, the parcours is wide open and fast, with a possible sidewind in the middle section and headwind at the end. The last 10km are slightly uphill, making this the perfect power rider's course.

Sunday is the final stage of the Giro; Stage 20 is a 141 km romp from Cantu' in Brianza to the centre city of Milano and 12 laps of the 6.3km Corso Sempione circuit.

An explanation of the classifications

There are a total of 10 classifications in the Giro d'Italia that are scored cumulatively. Some are standard:

The individual general classification (maglia rosa/pink jersey) is calculated by summing a rider's time for each stage, taking into account any bonus seconds (12, 8, 4 for the stage finish; 6, 4, 2 for the Intergiro sprint)

The points classification (maglia ciclamino/purple jersey) is calculated by adding the points scored for stage finishes as well as intermediate sprints

The mountains classification (maglia verde/green jersey) is calculated by summing the points scored for crossing the summit of certain categorised climbs, which vary depending on the toughness of the climbs

The teams classification (Trofeo Fast Team) is calculated by adding the times of the team's top three riders on each stage, and adding that to the team's cumulative total.

The other classifications in the Giro are not quite as self explanatory.

The Intergiro (maglia azzurra/blue jersey) is probably the most confusing of the sub classifications, as it looks like a timed classification when in fact it more closely resembles a points classification.

Riders are awarded Intergiro bonus seconds (30, 24, 18, 14, 9, 4) when they cross the designated Intergiro point during the stage. It doesn't matter how far the actual time gaps are between the riders - at the end of the stage, all riders are given the same Intergiro time with the top 6 getting bonus seconds. Therefore, the competition is scored solely on bonus seconds, which means it's like an intermediate sprint competition.

To make matters slightly more confusing, there are additional 6, 4, and 2 second bonuses for the top three riders at the Intergiro, which are subtracted from their GC time. That helped Mario Cipollini take the maglia rosa after stage 1.

The Intergiro is scored differently during a time trial, when the top 6 riders' actual time splits are used, but these only go towards their overall Intergiro time.

The Most Combative classification is not like its counterpart in the Tour de France for example, where riders are awarded points for breaking away and being aggressive during the stage (that doesn't mean hitting people). Instead, it's more like a combination classification, where riders score points for stage finishes, Intergiro sprints, and climbs. Intergiro leader Massimo Strazzer leads the most combative classification, as he has also performed consistently in stage finishes.

The Trofeo Fuga Piaggio is more like the traditional Most Combative prize. Riders score points by getting in breakaways (minimum distance: 5 kilometres, maximum size of the group: 10 men). The longer the breakaway, the more points are scored. Mariano Piccoli (Lampre) has been involved in two long breaks, and currently leads this classification.

The Azzurri d'Italia classification is similar to the points classification, except that it only awards points for the top three stage finishers (4, 2 and 1 point). With three stage wins and one second place, Mario Cipollini is the clear leader in this one.

The Trofeo Super Team is a little different to the timed team classification, in that it awards points to teams for placing a rider in the top 20 in the stage: 20 for first, 19 for second...down to 1 point for 20th. Alessio has scored the most points in this classification, as well as leading the timed team classification. Incredibly, Mercatone Uno hasn't scored a point.

Finally, there is the Fair Play classification for teams. This is one where the more points the team has, the lower they are on the classification. It is scored using six criteria: A warning earns 0.50 points; a fine is worth 1 point for every 10 Swiss francs; a time penalty is worth 2 points per second; a declassification is worth 100 points; a disqualification/explusion is worth 1000 points; and a positive doping control is worth 2000 points.

At the moment, the 'fairest' teams in the race are Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, Phonak Hearing Systems, Team Telekom, and Colombia-Selle Italia, while the 'unfairest' are Mapei-Quick Step, Acqua&Sapone-Cantina Tollo, Team Colpack-Astro and Fassa Bortolo.

All of the classifications carry prize money, with the Individual GC being worth the most (158,000 euros for the winner), and the various points GC's worth a lot less (6,600 to 18,000 euros). Interestingly, the Fair Play classification is worth 10,000 euros, which is more than the Super Team (8,000) and less than the Fast Team (13,000).

Riders in favour of expulsion after first positive

A large group of riders (around 50) in the Giro d'Italia, representing 19 of the 22 teams have voted in support of excluding riders from a race if their first analysis is found to be 'non-negative' in an anti-doping control. The meeting organised by the International Association of Riders (CPA) was held on Monday during the Giro's second rest day, and was chaired by president Francesco Moser.

The CPA declared that "The professional riders want to apply an immediate preventive self-suspension in the case of a non-negative in an anti-doping control."

They also called for a reduction in the time period between the results of A and B samples, as this can take several weeks; tougher criteria for amateur riders who wish to turn pro, including not allowing any amateur who has tested positive; and the removal of riders from the CPA member's list who are facing court cases.

The riders group will meet again during the Tour de Suisse in June in order to discuss it with the other teams. Phonak, Lotto and Selle Italia did not take part in this meeting.

Garzelli's stage 5 sample negative

Stefano Garzelli (Mapei-Quick Step) has tested negative for doping after the fifth stage to Limone Piemonte, which he won. The result was announced by his team, who are still wondering why he tested positive for probenecid in stage 2. The Garzelli case will be heard in Lugano, Switzerland on June 3 by the president of the Swiss disciplinary committee, as Garzelli holds a Swiss licence.

Chesini freed

One of the cyclists involved in the Brescia doping affair, Nicola Chesini, has been released after questioning. Chesini was arrested on May 17 after the fifth stage of the Giro, being accused of selling doping substances. He was implicated by his Panaria teammate Antonio Varriale, who was arrested prior to Chesini and claimed that he had sold him drugs.

However, the investigating judge in charge of the preliminary inquiry, Roberto Spanò, has found that there was no connection between Chesini and Armando Marzano, the suspended Neapolitan policeman who is considered the main supplier of doping substances. Also, Spanò found that there was no connection between Chesini and the Neapolitan underworld, which is believed to have a part in this affair. That means there are no grounds to hold Chesini and he has been released from custody.