Stage 19: Busto Arsizio – Alpe di Mera A real victory
The penultimate stage of the 2001 Giro, from Busto Arsizio to Arona, took place on 9 June. That year, the race was tarred by the doping scandal. Three days earlier, on the night between 6 and 7 June, on the eve of the stage that would run from Imperia to the Sanctuary of S. Anna di Vinadio, the anti-fraud squad of the Carabinieri (NAS) burst in the teams’ hotels to conduct a surprise search. Dario Frigo, second in the general classification, paid the price. In his room, the squad found substances of concern, and the rider was disqualified. The following day, the entire peloton refused to race the stage. After Cipollini’s sprint win in the Alba-Busto Arsizio, the Giro would be decided by a double ascent of the Mottarone, the mountain between Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta that has been a favoured destination for adventurers and skiers since the early 1900s. Gilberto Simoni was in the leader’s jersey. As the NAS had gotten his most dangerous opponent (who was trailing a mere 15” behind him) off his tail, the Spaniard Olano was his closest chaser, 4’12” down on him. But Gibo wanted to prove that his victory would be a real one – more powerful than any nighttime raid by the Carabinieri, than any notice of investigation.