By Andrew Hood
What a long, strange race it’s been.Starting in Holland on May 11 and ending 20 stages and 3363 km later,the 2002 Giro d’Italia ended pretty in pink Sunday in Milan.
From doping scandals to inspirational racing, there was never a dullmoment in the 85th Giro.
American Tyler Hamilton made history, scoring an historic podium finishand winning a Giro stage. Bolstered by the support of CSC-Tiscali teammanager Bjarne Riis, the 31-year-old Bostonian emerged from Lance Armstrong’sshadow.
“Bjarne and I worked so hard to get here, so it was a special momentafter yesterday’s time trial. I had to fight back the tears when Bjarnegave me a hug,” said Hamilton, second overall at 1:41 back. “Everythingwas let loose. It’s a big build up after six months of training. It wasa strange, unexpected feeling, but it was nice. It just hit me like that5 minutes after the finish.”
His top-3 finish puts Hamilton into elite company. Only five other Americanriders have finished on the podium of a three-week grand tour: Greg LeMond(3rd 1984 Tour, 3rd 1985 Giro, 2nd 1985 Tour, 1st 1986, 1989-90 Tour);Andy Hampsten (1st 1988 Giro, 3rd 1989 Giro), Bobby Julich (3rd 1998 Tour),Lance Armstrong (1st 1999-2001 Tour) and Levi Leipheimer, (3rd 2001 Vuelta).
“For me, this is bigger than winning the Dauphine or winning the Tours with Postal,” Hamilton said. “This is the greatest accomplishment of my career.”
Paolo Savoldelli was the surprise winner, shaking off two years of badluck to surprise the field in Thursday’s epic battle high in the Dolomites to snatch the race lead. Riding on the modest Alexia team, after a contract to ride with U.S. Postal Service fell through late last year, Savoldelli defended his jersey in Saturday’s time trial duel with Hamilton and confirms that his second overall at the 1999 Giro was no fluke.
“I came here to win a stage. I never dreamed about winning the Giro,” Savoldelli said. “I’ve such bad luck, injuring my back and not having goodlegs for so long. This is a dream come true.”
Mario Cipollini roared through the Giro, winning six stages, takingthe points jersey and lighting up the race with his dominant personality.One of cycling’s true superstars, Cipollini also won for the second yearin a row the “Trofeo Bonacossa” awarded annually to the Giro’s top protagonist.Fittingly, Cipollini scored his career 40th Giro stage-win in the Giro’sfinale. Alfredo Binda’s record of 41 is safe, at least until next year.Cipollini vows to come back to the Giro as long as he races his bike.
Cadel Evans was the Giro’s revelation, becoming the first Australianto wear the pink jersey and proving that mountain bikers can hang withthe big boys on the road. Expect more in the future from this Mapei ridermaking his Giro debut.“I came here to learn and I’ve certainly done that,” Evans said. “I’mvery satisfied. Sure, I would have like to have been better in the mountains,but my body’s adjusting to racing for three weeks. I’ll be back to theGiro.”Fellow Australian Robbie McEwen was the only sprinter who could challengeCipo in the sprints, taking two stage wins before packing it in with themountains looming to get ready for the Tour de France.Germany’s Jens Heppner was the quiet leader throughout the middle ofthe 85th Giro. He took the maglia rosa the day the news broke about Garzelli’spositive. But the 37-year-old former East German rider proved he deservedthe lead. He defended his jersey through two difficult mountain stagesand the first time trial and only lost it when he crashed coming down thePasso Pordoi in stage 16. He didn’t arrive to Milano, however, after injuriesforced him to withdraw before stage 18.The Giro also saw the emergence of Julio Perez Cuapio as cycling’s mostgifted natural climber since perhaps Marco Pantani. The Mexican dancedhis way to two mountain stage victories and finished with the best climber’sgreen jersey. Kelme’s Aitor Gonzalez also won two stages and had a goodchance at the podium until he cracked in the Dolomites. Still, he vowsto come back to the Giro to chase final victory and has signed a deal torace for Acqua & Sapone for next year.Rik Verbrugghe won stage 7 as a consolation to losing the opening prologueto Juan Dominguez by 1 second. Pavel Tonkov, the 1996 Giro champion, provedhe’s not finished yet when he won his first professional race in two yearsin the difficult climbing stage in the Dolomites.The race endured more high-profile doping expulsions – Stefano Garzelliand Gilberto Simoni – but many said this is the cleanest Giro in years.Riders are tired, worn out and glad to arrive in Milan in one piece.Francesco Casagrande was kicked out of the race for allegedly forcinga rider into the fences. Controversy nearly engulfed the race surroundingthe Garzelli and Simoni cases. But the Giro pushed on. Racers refused toquit andSome allege that all the bad stuff in cycling comes out of Italy. Whoeversaid that wasn’t at the 2002 Giro.
How Hamilton fared in the key stages
Hamilton’s 2002 Giro d’Italia is one for the history books. He wona stage (the first by an American since Andy Hampsten in 1988) and finishedon the podium (the third by an American at the Giro: Hampsten, 1st in 1988,3rd in 1989; Greg Lemond, 3rd in 1985). Here’s how he fared in the keystages:• Opening prologue: Hamilton crashed into the fences, but recoveredto finish 100th at 34 seconds back.
• Stage 2 to Liege: This hard course finished after aclimb up St. Nicholas featured on the Liege-Bastogne-Liege course. Hamiltonrode strong to finish 5th with the same time as stage winner Stefano Garzelliand moved to 19th overall at 0:52 behind Garzelli.
• Stage 5 to Limone Piemonte: Hamilton’s Giro almost ended.He flew over the handlebars and landed hard on his left shoulder afterthe pawls broke on his rear cassette. Luckily, teammate Carlos Sastre wasnearby and the pair switched bikes. Hamilton fought back to finish 9that 0:09 behind stage-winner Garzelli and climbed to 8th at 1:13 back overall.
• Stage 11 to Campitello Matese: Hamilton struggled late againststrong winds and stomach cramps on the summit finish, finishing 23rd at0:42 behind stage-winner Gilberto Simoni. He was in 14th overall at 4:26behind race leader Jens Heppner.
• Stage 13 to San Giacomo: Hamilton lost contact late on thesummit to finish 16th at 0:41 behind stage-winner Julio Perez Cuapio. Hemoved to 11th overall at 3:38 back.
• Stage 14: Hamilton won the Numana time trial and moved intothird overall at 1:06 back.
• Stage 16 to Corvara: Hamilton rode strong in the first stageof the Dolomites, crossing the line at 0:58 behind Cuapio and remainedin third overall at 0:18 behind race leader Cadel Evans.
• Stage 17 to Folgaria: Hamilton “bonked” on the Giro’s lastclimb. He finished 9th at 4:01 behind stage-winner Pavel Tonkov and remainedin third overall at 1:28 but lost time to new race leader Paolo Savoldelli.
• Stage 19: Hamilton admitted he didn’t have the legs in thefinal time trial, but rode strong enough to take 4th at 1:31 behind stage-winnerAitor Gonzalez and moved into second overall.
• Stage 20: Hamilton finished second on the podium in Milan.The Giro’s Good, Bad and Ugly
The good: Tyler Hamilton, Cadel Evans and Paolo SavoldelliHamilton’s podium and stage-win put him into elite company. Only threeother Americans had won Giro stages – Ron Keifel, Andy Hampsten and GregLemond – and only two Americans have finished on the podium – Hampsten(winner ‘88 and third ’89) and Lemond (third ’85).Evans made his own piece of history, earning Australia’s first pinkjersey. The revelation of this year’s Giro, expect big things in the futurefrom the former mountain biker.Savoldelli came to the Giro with the hopes of winning a stage and walkedaway with the biggest prize of his career. He’s no baby face anymore.The bad: Stefano Garzelli, Gilberto Simoni and Hamilton’scrashesGarzelli tested positive for probenecid, a masking agent from back incycling’s past. His Mapei team cried foul play, but the rules are the rulesand Garzelli, like it or not, was out of the race.Simoni tested positive not once, but twice for cocaine; once in an out-of-competiontest in April and then again during the Giro itself. The resultsdefied logic because cocaine, a banned substance, typically gives a veryshort boost and is not an effective performance enhancer in a stage race.Maybe Simoni had a lot of toothaches.Hamilton crashed in the opening prologue and again in stages 5 and 6.His crash in stage 5 was horrific, but the tough Boston boy brushed itoff and finished the stage. How do you like them apples?The ugly: Marco Pantani and Francesco CasagrandePantani was an enigmatic presence, garnering large cheers but finishingin the gruppetto. Suffering from bronchitis and facing the disciplinarypanel from the Italian Cycling Federation in June, Pantani is a rider whose best days are behind him.Casagrande supposedly ran a no-name Colombian into the fences on a no-namecategory-three climb and got the boot. Just plain dumb.HOW IT ENDS
Stage 20, Cantu to Milan, 141 km
Stage winner: Mario Cipollini (I), Acqua & Sapone, won hiscareer 40th stage, beating Alessandro Petacchi (I, Fassa Bortolo) in abunch sprint.
Final podium: 1. Paolo Savoldelli (I), Alexia; 2. Tyler Hamilton(USA), CSC-Tiscali, at 1:41; 3. Pietro Caucchioli (I), Alessio, at 2:12
Points jersey: Mario Cipollini (I), Acqua & Sapone
Intergiro jersey: Massimo Strazzer (I), Phonak
Climber’s jersey: Julio Perez Cuapio (Mex), Panaria
Best team: Alessio
Peloton: 198 started the Giro, 140 finished.
UCI jury decisions: There were no decisions today.
Injury report: There were no injuries today. The last 20 winners of the Giro d’Italia.1983: Beppe Saronni (I)
1984: Francesco Moser (I)
1985: Bernard Hinault (F)
1986: Roberto Visentini (I)
1987: Stephen Roche (Irl)
1988: Andy Hampsten (USA)
1989: Laurent Fignon (F)
1990: Gianni Bugno (I)
1991: Franco Chioccioli (I)
1992: Miguel Indurain (Sp)
1993: Miguel Indurain (Sp)
1994: Evgueni Berzin (Rus)
1995: Tony Rominger (Swi)
1996: Pavel Tonkov (Rus)
1997: Ivan Gotti (I)
1998: Marco Pantani (I)
1999: Ivan Gotti (I)
2000: Stefano Garzelli (I)
2001: Gilberto Simoni (I)
2002: Paolo Savoldelli (I)
Preliminary results following Stage 20
1. Mario Cipollini (I), Acqua & Sapone-Cantina Tollo 3:35:28
2. Alessandro Petacchi (I), Fassa Bortolo
3. Rene’ Haselbacher (A), Gerolsteiner
4. Isaac Galvez Lopez (Sp), Kelme-Costa Blanca
5. Fabio Sacchi (I), Saeco-Longoni Sport
6. Steven De Jongh (Nl), Rabobank
7. Lars Michaelsen (Dk), Coast
8. Aart Vierhouten (Nl), Lotto-Adecco
9. Cristian Moreni (I), Alessio
10. Angelo Furlan (I), Alessio, all s.t.
1. Paolo Savoldelli (I), Index Alexia, 89:22:42
2. Tyler Hamilton (USA), CSC Tiscali, at 1:41
3. Pietro Caucchioli (I), Alessio, at 2:12
4. Juan Manuel Garate (Sp), Lampre-Daikin, at 3:14
5. Pavel Tonkov (Rus), Lampre-Daikin, at 5:34
6. Aitor Gonzalez Jimenez (Sp), Kelme-Costa Blanca, at 6:54
7. Georg Totschnig (A), Gerolsteiner, at 7:02
8. Fernando Escartin (Sp), Coast, at 7:07
9. Rik Verbrugghe (B), Lotto-Adecco, at 9:24
10. Dario Frigo (I), Tacconi Sport-Emmegi, at 11:50
11. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Sp), Phonak Hearing Systems, at 12:49
12. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Landbouwkrediet, at 14:50
13. Ivan Gotti (I), Alessio, at 15:17
14. Cadel Evans (Aus), Mapei-Quick Step, at 16:25
15. Eddy Mazzoleni (I), Tacconi Sport-Emmegi, at 17:23
16. Franco Pellizotti (I), Alessio, at 17:32
17. Michael Boogerd (Nl), Rabobank, at 19:28
18. Michele Scarponi (I), Acqua & Sapone-Cantina Tollo, at 21:52
19. Julio Perez Cuapio (Mex), Ceramiche Panaria-Fiordo, at 22:03
20. Andrea Noe’ (I), Mapei-Quick Step, at 23:54