You know all about Jan Ullrich's slow, grinding comeback... Robbie McEwen's flashes of glory... and of course the clash of titans Paolo Savoldelli and Ivan Basso. But there are another 200-odd riders out on the roads of Italy today, and not all of them are window dressing. To wit:
- Jose Rujano was a pre-race favorite, and the mighty-mite climber could still wipe away his current 5:32 deficit in one heroic escape. But after dropping close to two minutes on yesterday's first big test, it's hard to expect he will.
- Patrice Halgand of Credit Agricole lies just in front of Rujano at 5:10, in 18th place... making him the leader in this year's bleu-blanc-rouge jersey competition for the race's top Frenchman.
- One step below Rujano is Jose I. Gutierrez, who is apparently not the same person as Jose E. Gutierrez, currently second overall. Finally, I know why Spaniards often have an extra surname.
- Some notes from last year's GC: Emanuele Sella is 21st (at 5:34); Juan Manuel Garate is 24th (at 5:53) (did I mention Quick Step are having a bad race?); Marzio Bruseghin, 33rd overall (at 9:27). You know about DiLuca, Simoni, Gonchar, etc. Vlad Karpets is in Catalunya.
- Some guys we wonder about: Mick Rogers (at 9:30); Wim Van Huffel (at 12:39); Julio Perez Cuapio (blast from the past!) (at 32:12); Mauricio Ardila (at 40:21); The Chicken (at 42:46); and Ivan Mayoz, hiding poorly behind an assumed name (at 47:10). At least we can say, the Chicken has other goals. Dunno what excuse the rest of them use.
- Other jerseys of distinction: Axel Merckx in the black jersey as the top-ranked Belgian (at 12:23), Theo Eltink in Orange (top Dutchman) (at 15:41). But hey, it's still early, there's plenty of time to catch the top Pole, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Colombian, and Swiss, all of whom are further up.