Stage wins for Colnago, Farnese and Androni vindicate invites
The four wildcard teams invited to the 2012 Giro d'Italia certainly enriched the event, lighting up the race at various points over the three weeks. While Garmin-Barracuda's Ryder Hesjedal and Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez fought out an intriguing battle for the pink jersey, there was plenty to be proud of for Colnago CSF-Inox, Farnese Vini-Selle Italia, Androni-Venezuela and Team NetApp.
In the overall classification, Colnago's riders performed best. Domenico Pozzovivo secured the biggest victory of his career in front of his home fans by dancing clear to win at Lago Laceno on stage 8. He was unable to sustain his challenge for pink into the race's final week but he still dug in and managed to finish eighth overall. His teammate and countryman Gianluca Brambilla also made the top 15 (13th overall) and finished third overall in the young riders standings.
"I hope this victory, my first in the Giro, inspires other riders from the south of Italy to try to turn professional in these difficult financial times," an emotional Pozzovivo said after his triumph at Lago Laceno. "There are just two pros from my region and I would like there to be more."
Elsewhere, both Farnese and Androni won two stages apiece, delighting their fans, sponsors and the race organisers. Matteo Rabottini and Andrea Guardini won stages 15 and 18 respectively for Farnese, with the latter's duel with king of the sprinters Mark Cavendish providing one of the race's most abiding memories. Rabottini's long, solo raid to Pian dei Resinelli not only brought him stage honours, but also set him up for victory in the mountains classification and he duly reached Milan as the first winner of the new blue jersey.
Miguel Rubiano started the ball rolling for Androni by soloing to victory in stage 6, and a few days later Roberto Ferrari, who had been at the centre of a controversial crash at the end of stage 3 in Denmark, sprinted to victory in stage 11. After his victory Ferrari paid tribute to team manager Gianni Savio, who he singled out as a big factor in his improved form.
"Before now, I'd never ridden a lot, or at least not consistently through the year," Ferrari said. "But thanks to Gianni I've done a full calendar for the past two seasons."
While they didn't secure a victory of their own, Team NetApp made many friends over the course of the Giro. They operate on a fraction of the budget of their rivals in Italy but managed to secure two second places and eight top ten finishes.
"The team far exceeded our expectations," said team manager Ralph Denk. "Our goal was to come in among the top ten in at least one stage. And now we have stood on the podium twice.”