Frigo Wins Stage 18 of Giro; Simoni Widens Lead
Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) has taken a firm grip on the Giro.
Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) has taken a firm grip on the Giro. He did so by finishing second to Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo), who won the mountainous, 175-km ride from Santuorio Vico to Chianale, in 5:23:43. Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner) finished third at 2:38. Simoni leads the Giro by more than seven minutes.
A series of attacks made the early pace fast. At 22 km, 24 men rolled off of the front, and six others eventually joined them. At the summit of the Category 3 Montemale di Cuneo, the break led the bunch by 7:00. By the base of the Colle d'Esische, the highest point in this year's Giro at 2,366 m, the escape, which was down to 13 riders, led the field by eight minutes.
John Fredy Gonzalez (Selle Italia), Constantino Zaballa (Kelme), Paolo Lanfranchi (Panaria), Dariusz Baranowski (CCC), and Scott Sunderland (Team Fakta) led the field over the summit of the Esische. Behind, overall runner-up Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) attacked in freezing rain and hail on the Sampeyre, but Simoni caught and dropped him. Francesco Casagrande (Lampre) abandoned. Garzelli and Marco Pantani (Mercatone Uno) crashed on the descent, while Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet) attacked.
Popovych's lead over Frigo, Simoni, and Totschnig maxed out at 1:00. Totschnig was dropped, but Frigo and Simoni reeled in Popovych with 13 km remaining. Four km later, the Ukrainian was dropped, and Simoni and Frigo stayed together until the last 300 m, where the Fassa Bortolo rider sprinted away from the Saeco man.
Forty-one riders finished outside of the time limit and were eliminated from the race. Among them was points leader and six-stage winner Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo). His departure leaves the points competition wide open.
In the overall, Simoni leads Garzelli, who lost more than five minutes today, by 7:08 and Popovych by 7:19. Stage 19 will give Simoni another opportunity to buttress his lead. The 239-km ride from Canelli to Cascata del Toce will be this year's Giro's longest stage and will feature one climb, the finishing climb. Expect a battle royal during the last five km. Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ to see who wins!
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