Petacchi Wins Final Stage of Giro; Cunego Wins Overall
Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) has won the 20th and final stage of the 2004 Giro.
Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) has won the 20th and final stage of the 2004 Giro. The Italian speedster bested Marco Zanotti (Vini Caldirola) and Aart Vierhouten (Lotto) to win the downhill, 149-km run from Ciusone to Milan in 4:07:01. As expected, Damiano Cunego (Saeco) was crowned Giro champion after the stage.
If there is such a thing as an uneventful ride in a stage race, Stage 20 was it. The run was less a competition than a coronation for Petacchi and Cunego. Only Dean Podornik (Tenax) attempted to escape, and he did not get far. Fassa Bortolo took over in the closing km and delivered Petacchi to the finish line well clear of Zanotti and Vierhouten.
Cunego was the revelation of the 2004 Giro and perhaps of the 2004 season. The 1999 junior world champion was projected to be a Giro champion, but not in 2004. His stage wins at this year's Giro del Trentino raised eyebrows, but Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) entered the Giro d'Italia as the team captain and favorite. Cunego was the apprentice who would learn at his master's elbow.
Cunego matured faster than expected, however. He won four stages, and despite attempting to be loyal to his captain, seized the team leadership and the Giro championship from him. Two riders with GC ambitions frequently find the same team to be too small for both of them, and there is talk that Simoni will attempt to buy out the last year of his Saeco contract.
Cunego was not the only surprise, however. Petacchi was no revelation, but his nine stage wins set a post-World War II Giro record. No one could have predicted that. Brad McGee (La Francaise des Jeux.com), who has been a flatlander throughout his career, hung on in many of the mountain stages to eighth overall. Does McGee's performance augur a future as a GC racer? Only time will tell!
What happens next for the Giro riders? Some, such as Simoni and Petacchi, will ride the Tour de France next month. Others will prepare themselves for the battles of the mid- to late-summer and fall, such as the World Cup, the Olympic Games, and the Vuelta a Espana. How will these and other riders fare? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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