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Simoni and Frigo are awesome again, Belli is thrown out of the Giro

The day after climbing four first-category passes, the riders hit two more, and the results were once again devastating for some top riders. The top two on GC, however, showed that they can recover overnight from a brutal stage, and once again, Simoni was the strongest climber and Frigo was almost as good. Carlos Contreras (Selle Italia-Pacific) won the 166km stage in a sprint from five others, just barely beating Wladimir Belli. Unai Osa (iBanesto.com) followed in third ahead of Simoni, Frigo and Contreras’s teammate Hernan Buenahora. But Fassa Bortolo’s co-captain Belli was thrown out of

Perez shines; Simoni takes the pink jersey; Garzelli, Di Luca and Pantani explode

After coming as close yesterday as one could without actually getting the maglia rosa, Gilberto Simoni took it from Dario Frigo by 48 seconds on a tough day in the Dolomites under sunny skies. And Mexican Julio Perez, already the sentimental hero of this Giro, finally broke through with the stage win he has shown himself so deserving of. Simoni finished with him, while Frigo placed third, 45 seconds back. The 225km stage climbed four first-category passes and totally shook up the overall standings. While at the start in Montebelluna there were a couple dozen names clustered within two

Frigo survives another close call at the Giro; Fassa Bortolo comes away with a double victory

Gilberto Simoni once again showed attentiveness, sharp wits, courage and great descending skills to turn a sudden rainstorm to his advantage on final descent of the May 31 stage. The Lampre-Daikin team captain came up one second short of taking Frigo’s shirt from him, but he is poised ideally to take it tomorrow on the tough, long stage tomorrow in the high Dolomites. The 139km 12th stage was won by Frigo’s teammate Matteo Tosatto in a three-up sprint from Slovenian Zoran Klemencic and Simoni. The stage was animated by the other Verbrugghe, Ief, who made two long solo breakaways today, the

Lastras wins Giro d’Italia 11th stage

Pablo Lastras escaped a 10-man breakaway group with four kilometers to go and held a solo advantage of a handful of seconds to win this 187km stage that crossed the Slovenian-Italian border seven times. Giovanni Lombardi won the sprint from Uros Murn and the rest of the nine pursuers. The stage rolled east through hilly and beautiful forested country along the Austrian border north of Slovenia’s Triglavski national park and crossed into Italy before heading south up a large first-category climb of the Passo del Predil at 63km. At the top of the pass, it crossed back into Slovenia and

Skip the driving

You may have thought that Il Diablo, a.k.a. Didi Senft, is the craziest guy that follows the major European bike races. But that’s only because you see him waving his pitchfork on TV and you haven’t seen some of the unique race groupies who don’t get on TV. My current choice for most way-out is Skippy, an Australian who rides every single stage on his bike ahead of the peloton. He starts on the course a couple of hours before the race starts and finishes each stage just before the peloton. The publicity caravan that precedes the racers has around a hundred cars in it, each with a giant

Zanette scores sunny stage win, Giro GC largely unchanged

With 7km left in the 212km stage, Denis Zanette of Liquigas-PATA attacked eight breakaway companions he had been with for 123km and rolled in alone through the streets of the Lubljana, the capitol of Slovenia. He crossed the line, arms upraised, throwing kisses to the huge crowd that was happily welcoming the Giro on this warm, sunny day. Mario Manzoni (Alexia) outsprinted Isidro Nozal (ONCE-Eroski) three seconds later, and the rest of the breakaways finished at 15 seconds – 10 minutes up on the main pack. The top rankings didn't change, with a dozen riders wedged within a minute of overall

Giro: Number 32 for Mario

It couldn’t have been easier for Mario Cipollini. Instead of having to duke it out in another physical sprint like other flat stages have ended in, the Lion King was able to roll to an easy sprint win because of a crash behind him in the last corner. While most of Italy is as up and down as a crumpled rug, over the millennia the mighty Po River has ground down every bit of topography in a crosswise swath where the country widens at the top of the boot. Consequently, stage nine, which ran northeast for 142km in the Po valley and crossed the river once, was flat as a pancake and certain to

Giro: A near miss in Reggio Emilia

Once again, Julio Perez was the animator of a pivotal stage and came agonizingly close to winning it. The pack had not even left the vacation spa town of Montecatini Terme when the Mexican Panaria rider attacked with five others just two kilometers into this difficult 185km stage. Among those with him was Pietro Chaucchioli, who rolled into Reggio Emilia alone 183km later. Behind, in a small chase group finishing a minute behind the 26-year-old Alessio winner was ONCE’s José Azevedo, who came within a whisker of taking over the maglia rosa. After 9km, a group of 11 took off after Perez’s

Giro: Mapei shines in Montevarchi

Stefano Zanini outsprinted a group of 49 riders to win the longest stage of the Giro, beating Gabriele Missaglia and Jan Ullrich after a great leadout from Stefano Garzelli. For the first time in the race, the Olympic road champion was feeling well enough again to come over the top of a big climb with the front group and even to mix it up in the sprint. The 239km stage started in Rieti in the province of Lazio, headed north through the entire length of Umbria and finished in Montevarchi in Tuscany. It started slowly, winding along picturesque roads in hilly country along lakes and past

The Lion King Roars in Rieti

With another tremendous burst of power, Mario Cipollini has become the second-winningest rider in Giro history. With extremely aggressive riding once again, the big Saeco rider turned a seemingly hopeless position with 500 meters to go into a perfect one with 200 meters to go. And when he stood up to finish it, he blew the doors off Danilo Hondo and Massimo Strazzer, grinning the entire way to the line. The going in the sprint was a bit easier by virtue of a long climb with 27km to go that caused Ivan Quaranta to lose contact. Yesterday’s sprint winner showed once again that he is the