Navigators’ Postcard: Settimana Coppi & Bartali – Stage 2 & 3
Reported Team Navigators
Day two began again under sunny skies and seasonably warm temperatures as Coppi e Bartali’s stage 2 departed Riccione. This is where the similarity to Wednesday morning stage ends. The race left Riccione on a northern route along the coast before turning inland at 40km. Table flat terrain and a tailwind massaged the riders for the next 60 km, but in typical Italian racing style, the peloton refused to raise the 32km/hr pace for the first 100 km. The 245km run ending in Faenza would present plenty of challenges later on. Entering Faenza, the group would complete a short 26km circuit followed by two 53 km loops. The day’s first break hit as the riders approached Faenza the initial time. 9 riders were clear including Polstat’s Pavel Tonkov, and Lampre’s Rumsas and Piccoli. Saeco quickly took the front in an effort to keep things in check. As the gap grew to 2 minutes, Saeco amped the speed. The charged field sped into the day’s first climb at over 70km/hr things were heating up. Saeco kept the pressure on, but as the group hit the days 2nd major climb, things were coming apart at the front.
Climbing 450 meters before plunging down a serpentine decent, and then re-ascending 250 meters, the course was designed to inflict carnage. Saeco was disintegrating, and only GC threats Celestino and DiLuca were in the lead bunch. As the gap began to rise, Marco Pantani’s Mercatone Uno team took the lead. By the end of the 1st large circuit, the 2’40” gap had closed to just over a minute, and Saeco’s DiLuca seemed to say “uncle” as he pulled up and called it a day. Only Celestino was left for Saeco, and Pantani and Casagrande still had a full legion of loyal soldiers. Navigators still had Baldwin, Wherry, and Louder in the main group that was down to about 55 riders. With the gap coming down fast, the Mercatone Uno boy’s seemed to find added strength from the mere presence of their “pirate” leader, and the pace intensified as the climb pitched. You could almost here the “POP” in the cars as the field EXPLODED!
Small groups were spread over the mountain as what was left of the break was absorbed, and counter attacks began immediately. Louder was the first of the Navigators in difficulty as Wherry and Baldwin struggled to hang on.
The speed and grade took their toll, and the two Chris’ settled into a pursuit group that later turned into a survival group. Domina Vacanze’s Alex Kolobnev poached Celestino at the line, moving the later into the leaders jersey. Casagrande moved into into 2nd ,4 seconds back with Kolobnev in third at 8 seconds. Navigators have Wherry in 53rd and Baldwin 54th, with plenty more hills to come.
Pool table flat was stage three’s answer to the nightmare of the previous day. Two laps of a 10km circuit, followed by a 53km loop, and then 8 rounds of the opening giro. Everyone knew how this was going to play out, and the Navigators were excited to have another shot at the field sprint. A slow opening pace left plenty of speed in the bunch, and with 40 km to go, the pace continued to accelerate to the finish. No team could gain control of the final kilometers as the swirling field kept the front rushing forward.Saeco’s Ivan Quadrant got the hole shot and held to the line in front of Lamprey’s Lotto and Forage Pinole’s Murn. Navigators Grichkin and Power were 5th and 6th, and GC remained unchanged.