By Lennard Zinn
Mario Cipollini won a sprint spread across the full width of the road to take the final stage and his fourth win of the 2001 Giro d’Italia and the 34th of his career. Once again, Danilo Hondo was right alongside him but lacked that little bit of extra speed and forcefulness.
And eight years after he won the amateur Giro d’Italia, Gilberto Simoni has won the professional Giro by 7:31 over Abraham Olano, the largest margin since 1973, when Eddy Merckx beat Johan De Muynck by 7:42. Stage 21 traversed a flat, straight trajectory from Arona along Lago Maggiore and southeast to Milano, where 10 circuits of a 6.2km circuit comprised over half of the stage’s 121km. There was a festive atmosphere in the pack, and many riders stopped to greet friends and family, some even bringing trays of food back with them into the pack and passing out goodies. One Lampre rider faked a flat tire to make the team mechanic jump out of the car and run up to him, only to receive a backslap and a rub on his pink hair.
Simoni rode a pink Fondriest bike with pink tires, wheels, shoes and sunglasses. His sideburns and beard were painted pink and his hair was painted blue, like the rest of his team and support people. And in his home town of Palú di Giovo, the pastor painted the church bells pink, as he had promised, and the town got carried away and painted the main street of town pink as well. After celebrating here, Simoni plans on going to the bar of the “Simoni Hooligans” in his hometown — the men who were so apparent running along with him in their orange shirts during the mountain stages.
Little Thomas Voeckler, the only remaining Bonjour rider, who had to pedal a Shimano neutral support spare bike because all of the Bonjour bikes had been stolen a couple of nights ago, broke away at kilometer 37. The 21-year-old looks so youthful, he could easily have been mistaken for a kid riding on the course in front of the race who got to raise his hands in victory at the Intergiro sprint in Legnano before being caught.
Once the riders hit the finishing laps around the park at the Sforzesca castle in the center of Milan, the pace got ever higher, thanks to repeated unsuccessful attacks. The teams of the sprinters stayed at the front and kept the pace high, and Jan Ullrich appeared frequently at the front of the group. The course included a section that went along one side of the medians in a large divided street, made a 180-degree hairpin just 500 meters from the finish, and came back along the opposite side of the median. The hairpin required so much braking, that anyone wanting a chance in the sprint had to be near the front, while those in the back got compressed and stretched like a giant accordion.
After the final time around the hairpin, Lombardi was leading out the sprint beautifully for Hondo, who was in third position with Cipollini on his wheel. Suddenly Lampre’s Mario Piccoli shot by on the left with a string of riders behind. Lombardi was now in the way as he pulled off between the two lines, and Hondo swerved left to catch the draft from Piccoli’s faster-moving line. Cipollini found himself boxed in, squeezed between Hondo and Quaranta and other riders coming up on the right. But he did not back off a single pedal stroke, forced the others to move over for him rather than vice versa, and got himself free to win on pure speed.
Massimo Strazzer (Mobilvetta), after three weeks of sprinting for every intermediate sprint and a lot of finishes, won both the blue Intergiro jersey and the purple points jersey, while Fredy Gonzalez (Selle Italia) left with the green King of the Mountains jersey he has worn for over two weeks.
Afterwards, with the pink and blue cleaned off of his head, Simoni said, “Even though I have won the Giro, Mario Cipollini is still the greatest cyclist in Italy. He just keeps winning and winning, year after year, and today, too.”
But “Gilbo” has big plans for more victories this season, including in France. “I have a month to recover for the Tour, and I think that is plenty. I like the course this year, since there is so much climbing, and I have a strong team,” he remarked with a twinkle in his eye.
Cipollini said, “The pedaling part of the Giro ended today. But the Giro in terms of the lessons we are all learning will go on for some time.”
84th GIRO D’ITALIA, Stage 21, Arona to Milano, June 10.
1. Mario Cipollini (I), Saeco, 125km in 3:05:01 (40.536kph); 2. Danilo Hondo (G), Deutsche Telekom; 3. Marco Zanotti (I), Liquigas-PATA; 4. Mauro Gerosa (I), Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola; 5. Ivan Quaranta (I), Alexia; 6. Stefano Casagranda (I), Alessio; 7. Andrej Hauptman (Slo), Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola; 8. Stefano Zanini (I), Mapei-Quick Step; 9. Guido Trenti (USA), Cantina Tollo-Acqua&Sapone; 10. Paolo Bossoni (I), Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola; 11. Massimo Strazzer (I), Mobilvetta-Formaggi Trentini, all s.t.
Final Overall; 1. Simoni, 3364km in 89:02:58 (37.775kph); 2. Olano, at 7:31; 3. Osa, at 8:37; 4. Gontchar, at 9:25; 5. Azevedo, at 9:44; 6. Noé, at 10:50; 7. Gotti, at 10:54; 8. Contreras, at 11:44; 9. Caucchioli, at 13:34; 10. Figueras, at 14:08; 11. Velo, at 14:34; 12. Luttenberger, at 15:36; 14. Savoldelli, at 18:42; 45. Perez, at 1:22:22; 52. Ullrich, at 1:31:22; 114. Livingston, at 2:30:48.
Points (purple jersey); 1. Strazzer, 177 pts.; 2. Hondo, 158; 3. Cipollini, 136.
Mountains (green jersey); 1. Gonzalez (Col), Selle Italia-Pacific, 73 points; 2. Simoni, 42; 3. Fortunato Baliani (I), Selle Italia-Pacific, 33.
Intergiro (blue jersey); 1. Strazzer, 51:27:14; 2. Zanini, at 2:49; 3. Moreno Di Biase (I), Mobilvetta-Formaggi Trentini, s.t.
Combativeness; 1. Strazzer, 63 pts; 2. Hondo, 44; 3. Simoni, 43.
Grand Combination (sum of final placings in G.C., Intergiro, Points, and KOM); 1. Simoni, 13; 2. Caucchioli, 35; 3. Osa, 38.
Team Points; 1. Fassa Bortolo, 370 pts.; 2. Tacconi Sport-Vini Caldirola, 356; 3. Liquigas-PATA, 322.
Team General Classification; 1. Alessio, 267:13:45; 2. IBanesto.com, at 9:51; 3. Selle Italia-Pacific, at 13:42.