What's Cool In Road Cycling

Giro di PEZ: Crossing Sardegna

Robbie McEwen stock was raised to a new level in your correspondent’s eyes today; after driving the entire course and seeing the severity of the climbs in the last quarter of the race I was convinced that there would be major splits. Sardegna is full of surprises – from the tough parcours to the beauty this island presents at every turn…

The little man from Adelaide proved me wrong as he brushed-off ‘Ale-Jet’ and the Milram train to take the second stage of the 2007 Giro d’Italia in great style as riders fell like skittles behind him in a nasty finish straight crash.

World champion, Paulo Bettini (QuickStep) showed his form is returning with second place but Petacchi could no better than third. The last 50 kilometres contained some savage terrain and for a while it looked as if, at least some of a long six man break might survive, but it was not to be.

Russian Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff) was the last survivor of the long adventure, but he was caught on the tough 10 kilometre finishing circuit. It was Spaniard, Pablo Lastras (Caisse D’Epargne) who bridged up and past the Russian but even his suicidal drop off the 2.5 kilometre climb which came half-way around the finish circuit couldn’t keep a rampant bunch at bay.

Today’s second stage from Tempio Pausania – Bosa (km 205) threw up a lot more climbing than expected.

It looked as if Milram had it all under control as five riders lined-out in front of their star fast-man, but McEwen was hovering, like a pesky gnat and had way too-much buzz to spare in the short finishing straight. I had him down to win tomorrow, but the Australian is just full of surprises.

Today’s destination – the town of Bosa in north west Sardegna.

Brutt’s labours under a hot Sardinian sun weren’t all in vain as he grabbed the lead in the Gran Premio Della Montagna. Meanwhile, Danilo Di Luca’s face is much straighter today after he braved the finish straight melee and wrested the maglia rosa from the shoulders of Liquigas team mate Gasparotto due to a superior points score.

The Pez day started much earlier, though:
Kilometre zero, the crowds are out already; it’s 9.50 am in Tempio Pausania, stage two of the 2007 Giro d’Italia, 205 kilometres to Bosa. It’s neutralised at the start as it drops out of town but there’s a climb virtually right away, the hill village of Aggius, the sky is blue and the sun is hot already, this is a tough way to start a stage – there’s the 200 kilometres to go banner, just to cheer you up.

After the village it levels off across a plateau through boulder fields and lush green pastures; the wind turbines sit dormant on the near-by hills, no breezes today. There’s a long descent through a steep valley at 20 k which reminds us of home, back in Scotland.

”Solo cinque euros!” – gotta have your very own souvenir Giro t-shirt.

At 36 k we have a coffee in sleepy Viddalba, the Giro tee-shirt guy is doing OK though. The terrain is ‘softer’ here, not so many rocky outcrops but it’s still tough country to race through with very little flat. There’s a heat haze on the Med as we drop to Castelsardo at 47 k; hairpins through the town, then beaches and headlands with azure sea straight from the brochures.

It flattens and straightens though, along past the beach-lovers cars which line the verges. Porto Torres, new building everywhere, not very pretty, but the parcours is still flat and fast.

Here’s the life – a small ‘casa’, satellite tv, some dirt to grow your own grapes… what else do you need?

Dual carriageway now, the only one major road in Sardinia, the 131, which runs all the way to Cagliari; we’re on the coastal plains here, there are palm trees and poplars beside the road as we close-on Sassari. Sassari is ‘any town’ Europe, industrial estates, shopping plazas, new build and petrol stations.
The police are on an economy-drive here and drive Fiat Pandas, it’s a good job, Dave crashes three sets of lights in succession; the ‘centro historico’ may be nice, but we’re glad to leave Sassari behind.

Here’s today’s gratuitous baby shot….

There’s a feed zone just outside town and the team cars are there already.
There are long rolling straights all the way to Alghero, you know you are getting close – the McDonalds signs give plenty warning.

Like fans everywhere, the tifosi want a clean sport.

Pan-flat roads pass vineyards which stand in rich brown soil, then Alghero, it’s quiet, except for the beach, where sun-worshippers baste on the beach.

Sardinia; the Basso affair, the fact that we are far from the cycling heartland or island-dwellers reserve, who knows, but if this was Le Tour those roads would be lined already.

The road starts to climb from Alghero and the political graffiti guys have been at work as we see the sign, ’18 kilometres, Gran Premio della Montagna’. It doesn’t mess about; straight into the hairpins, there will be casualties here for sure.

There are a few fans up here but only a sprinkling, it’s hard to take-in because this is great race-watching terrain. It dips and rears again, I can’t see McEwen and Petacchi getting-over this –it’s a Di Luca or Bettini day, for sure (I got that wrong!)

This isn’t the Galibier, but it’s tough nonetheless, a bad day today could cost a lot of time as it dips then heads skywards again for the last 3 k.

Not a bad view from the top of the GPM spot.

There’s no life at the GPM sign as the tarmac drops immediately to Villanova Monteleone where the streets are like canyons – no sidewalks, doors open straight onto the street.

There’s no immediate descent, rather a sinuous road across a high plateau.
The descent starts eventually, long, tricky and an opportunity to make time, the surface is good, that’s one saving-grace.

At Montresta another climb, only a few kilometres, but tough just the same; finally we find a big picnic and some decent party atmosphere. At 20 kilometres you can see the sea as it drops again, long and technical on sun-baked tarmac, there’s Bosa over on the right at the river mouth, but it’s not that simple.

As soon as the race arrives in Bosa it is routed back out for a 10 kilometre loop which includes a nasty railway crossing on a descent and a stiff 2.5 k climb.

There are people on the circuit but not in strength.

The finale is on a flat beautiful coast road, ideal for a sprint train, there’s a big sweeping left, a bridge across the river and there’s the finish; flat and fast.

Then it was time for the permanence – and a surprise from Robbie!

Like PEZ? Why not subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive updates and reminders on what's cool in road cycling?

Comments are closed.