After a gut-wrenching break from it, the riders got back to business today, and if anything is business as usual at the Giro, it is Mario Cipollini crossing the line with his arms upraised after a beautifully executed sprint. Marco Zanotti and Danilo Hondo followed the Lion King in after the 163km stage to Busto Arsizio.
Marco Pantani had gone home the night before complaining of the flu, and Rik Verbrugghe also did not show up at sign-in. Otherwise, the setting was normal, but at the start in Alba the subject of every conversation among riders, fans, journalists and officials was the same,
In the first mountaintop finish of the Giro, Rik Verbrugghe lost almost five minutes and Dario Frigo overcame a crash just before the base of the 17km climb to the Santuario di Montevergine to take the pink jersey. Danilo DiLuca won the sprint finish to the stage after Mexican Julio Perez (Panaria), who had broken away at the beginning of the climb, broke his chain with only four kilometers to go while holding an 18-second lead.
Coming through Avellino with 20km to go, riders encountered a long stretch of rough and wet cobblestones. The pavé was rough and uneven to just drive over, and,
Hernan Buonahora (Col), Selle Italia-Pacific, 34This Colombian veteran likes long, hard, hilly races. He hasn't won many races in Europe, but his sixth place overall at the 2000 Giro is testimony to his endurance.
Giuseppe Di Grande (I), Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola, 27When Di Grande had four victories in 1997, including a stage win at the Giro, his Mapei team expected much more. But it didn't happen, and in 2000 he had another mediocre season with Festina. It's time for things to pick up again. Danilo Di Luca (I), Cantina Tollo-Acqua & Sapone, 25Di Luca showed promise in his Giro debut as a
Besides overall contenders Casagrande, Garzelli. Gotti, Pantani and Simoni, these are the climbers who could win a stage or shoot for the best climber's jersey.
Wladimir Belli (I), Fassa Bortolo, 30After a year with Festina, Belli returned to an Italian squad last year, and posted his best Giro finish, seventh overall. His main task will be to keep team leader Casagrande at the front in the high mountains, and to mark other race contenders -- work that could also enable Belli to win a stage.
"Chepe" Gonzalez (Col), Mobilvetta-Trentini, 32Two King of the Mountain titles and two mountain
Jeroen Blijlevens (Nl), Lotto-Adecco, 29On his day, Blijlevens is one of the fastest sprinters in the peloton -- and also one of the most unpredictable. With Lotto having no true G.C. candidates, the Dutchman could get the support he needs for a stage win. Mario Cipollini (I), Saeco, 34The flamboyant Cipollini has been around the pro ranks since 1989, but he really caught fire in the late 1990s. In1999, he captured a staggering five Giro and four Tour de France stage wins. A drop-off in production last year
Francesco Casagrande (I), Fassa Bortolo, 30 By most standards, Francesco Casagrande's 2000 season was a hit. He won the prestigious Flèche Wallonne classic, finished the season ranked No. 1 in the world, and took second in the Giro But when your main objective of the season is to win the Giro and that goal slips through your figers on the second-to-last day, it can only be called a disappointment. Pain from a sciatic nerve in the stage-20 time trial cost Casagrande the race in 2000; but with climbers like Belli and Frigo to back him up this year, he'll be out for redemption.