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By Andrew Hood
On Monday’s final rest day, the dust settled following Sunday’s individual time trial. The Giro went from the Euro-Giro to the Giro-Giro and now is verging toward the Gringo-Giro.
American Tyler Hamilton (CSC-Tiscali) and Mapei’s Cadel Evans (OK, he’s not a gringo, but he speaks English) sent shockwaves through the Italian peloton with their impressive performances at the 30km Numana course. The pair stands 2-3 in the overall GC and look to have legitimate shots at the podium and even final victory.
The main question mark for Hamilton is his ability to stay with the best climbers in the mountains. Hamilton’s climbing strength has been hampered by an injury to his left shoulder, which causes pain when he stands out of the saddle and cranks on the handlebars. Hamilton lost more than 1 minute in stages 11 and 13, but Hamilton said he’s feeling better each day.
“I’ve had some problems with climbing on my bike. It’s been difficult with the pain in my shoulder, but it’s getting better day by day,” Hamilton said Sunday. “I’m a contender now. It depends on how stages 16 and 17 go and if I can stay with the big boys, Cadel Evans, Dario Frigo and Francesco Casagrande.”
Hamilton’s victory Sunday gives him confidence going into the final time trial Saturday. Conventional wisdom is that if Hamilton can stay within 90 seconds of Frigo and within 2 minutes Casagrande through the Dolomites, he has a good chance of winning the overall title.
The big question for Evans is whether he can withstand a three-week race. The former mountain biker didn’t have pressure on him early in the race as he was riding in support of Stefano Garzelli. Since Garzelli’s forced departure for a failed doping test, Evans has stepped in and rode brilliantly at San Giacomo, finishing second in the climbing stage. He recovered well in Sunday’s time trial and even rode faster than Hamilton in the closing kilometers. Evans will surely attack in the Dolomites to try to open a gap to Hamilton.
Casagrande and Frigo both have their problems. Casagrande is notorious for cracking at the end of a three-week race and Frigo is having pain in his knee, which was bothering him last year before he was fired by his Fassa Bortolo team. Frigo is the better time trialist of the two and both are sure to attack Hamilton to get time.
Giro start in Lecce: The 2003 Giro d’Italia will start in the very south of Italy in Lecce, in the heel of the Italian boot. Race director Carmine Castellano announced the depart city during a press conference Monday. Details over the complete course will be revealed later this year.
Where it stands: 85th Giro d’Italia
Monday was a rest day.
Overall leader: Jens Heppner (G), Telekom
Points jersey: Massimo Strazzer (I), Phonak
Intergiro jersey: Massimo Strazzer (I), Phonak
Climber’s jersey: Francesco Casagrande (I), Fassa Bortolo
Best team: Alessio
Peloton: 158 riders in the race
Up next: Tuesday’s 156-km 15th stage from Terme Euganne to Conegliano is a flat appetizer for bigger things to come in the Dolomites Wednesday and Thursday. Watch for Telekom’s Jens Heppner to defend his jersey one last day and the sprinters to give it a run.