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Giro di PEZ: Rainy Day Delights

Roadside St.15: The digs worried us a little bit, last night. They looked deserted to us, but bit by bit it came together and by breakfast time we were part of the family – and the wi-fi was just fine. Ed and Dave take you inside the barriers of the Giro for one final day before heading home…

But even in this relaxed part of the world, there are reminders, that within living memory, terrible things happened here.

Right across the road from our breakfast room was a memorial to Italian partisans executed by the Fascists during World War Two.

Let’s lighten the mood; are you’re ready for some Sunday stats?

Amador’s home country of Costa Rica is the first Central American country to win a stage; albeit Mexico to the north and Venezuela, Colombia and Argentina to the south have all won stages.

Costa Rica is the 31st nation to win a Giro stage, of those nine are outside of Europe.

The US has won 11 stages, Ireland 4 and GB 14, ten of those courtesy of Cav – with the first falling to big, strong Vin Denson.

Italians have won 1,219 stages – Belgium is a distant second on 153.

Those come from the Gazzetta, it goes without saying – but the trouble is, they’ll be out of date by this evening.

Amador gets 9/10 for his brave win, Hesjedal is on a justified 8.5 and Cavendish on 8 for enduring ‘Gruppetto Hell.’

As it’s our last day, and we won’t be able to amble the ‘parking squadra’ for another year, we decided we’d start with a wander among the buses, bikes, riders and fans.

Over at QuickStep, we had a look at the sprockets for today’s jousts with gravity.

Francesco Chicchi is no ‘frail climber’ and his ‘gruppetto gear’ was at least a 27.

We know it’s bad manners to listen in on other folks conversations, but we couldn’t help but hear Johan Bruyneel say; ‘I’m OK, the equipment is OK – it’s the riders that are not so good !’

He doesn’t need to worry, we won’t repeat it.

Over at Katusha, they have the national champions’ Canyons neatly colour coded.

Red white and blue for Russian champion Pavel Brutt and red white and green for Belorussian champion, Aleksandr Kuschynski.

Rodriguez’s bike still sports pink, maybe they haven’t told him – or maybe he has big plans for today ?

But over at Garmin, pink is back in vogue.

Pippo looks great on the back of the Farnese Vini bus, it’s just a pity he’s at home – but as Scott Sunderland once said to me; ‘he’s such a girl, sometimes !’

There’s the usual throng around the Liquigas bus; Basso is very popular.

He looked a little stretched and lonely to us at the finish, yesterday – it’s not a good sign if Szmyd isn’t there.

Over at BMC, the guys were checking their bikes out before the start.

Up at the Lotto bus, we discovered how Lars Bak won the other day – it’s that lucky 7 on his seat post.

On the way back down, past the Garmin bus, we caught up with DS and ex-Liquigas and Lotto Pro Tour rider, Charly Wegelius.

We put it to him that he looked relaxed; ‘it’s a lot less stressful when you don’t have to ride the bike !’

As a former team mate of Basso’s we asked about the Liquigas man’s less than cool demeanour at the Cervinia finish; ‘he doesn’t like the rain – and Capecchi had a bad day.’

And will Garmin defend the maglia rosa, today ? ‘It’s not our race to win, the others can do the work !’

A man who’s looking scarily fit to us, has a stage win to his credit and is currently third on GC, is Paolo Tiralongo.

We predict a podium place.

Just as we jump in the car to go ‘avanti’ of the race,, the heavens open – ideal for the twisting, turning, technical early percorso.

We’ve decided to drive the stage, it’ll be our last one for a year – so we’re compelled to see as much as we can.

Despite the rain, the Lombards are out in force as we head north, toward the Lakes.

The real climbs don’t start until Lecco, but it’s pretty bumpy out by Como – and miserable, too boot.

Pusiano, lakeside, beautiful – pity about the rain and mist.

The first climb is to Valico di Valcava, a cat 1, climbing 1340 metres, beginning soon after 70 kilometres and ending after 85.5 K.

It’s an evil thing, narrow, twisting, steep and with horrible 18% hairpins.

An email arrives from ‘The Shack’ – Frank Schleck is out.

It’s no surprise, that team just doesn’t seem to have gelled, somehow.

The gruppetto will form up here – this is one serious ascent, with a horrible surface.

Chicchi will be in that 27, for sure.

Matt Conn texts, ‘Visconti is out’ – we saw him this morning, but Italian TV says he ‘stepped off’ due to a crash.

There are clouds at the top, no pictures of vistas, today – and probably no helicopter pictures.

The visibility is down to a few metres at the top and it’s very cold, the Lotto soigneur stands patiently with musettes full of wet weather gear.

And the photogs wrap chamois round their Nikons.

The descent is initially lethal, with zero visibility; the cloud does clear as we descend, but not the rain.

The valley floor is a long time in coming.

The next, un categorised climb is to Berbenno – up, down, not savage, but not easy.

The Forcella di Bura, cat 3, 884 m after 124.6 K – the rain has eased but it’s chilly.

It’s not as savage as the first ascent of the day – but it’s relentless.

The views are starting to open up as we get up into the last few K.

There are very few spectators at the top as we go under the 45 K to go banner and gravity takes over.

None of the descents are fast, they’re all technical – and very wet.

At some of the more dangerous bends there are mountain rescue guys on duty, in case anyone goes over the edge.

There’s no respite before the Culmine di San Pietro cat 2 climb, 1254 m after 143 K.

The road drops to a bridge then climbs immediately.

It’s steep, but the surface isn’t bad and the hairpins aren’t too tight.

The cloud has all but gone and the views are spectacular.

There’s a little respite half way up as the road dips for a kilometre or so.

At 30 K to go, the road rears and it’s back skywards, narrower now.

The main feature for us is the hot cheese sandwich van at the top.

The descent is mad; narrow, steep, badly surfaced, hair pinned and very dangerous.

The climb to the finish begins in Ballabio.

The communique says;

‘Pian dei Resinelli has an average gradient of 7.8% with a maximum gradient of 12% early on.

The road includes 15 hairpins on well-surfaced but narrow roads.

The finish straight is 50 meters long and six metres wide on a slightly descending road.’

Unfortunately, our chums the carabiniere won’t let us get any further than a K into the ascent.

Matt updates us: ‘Rabottini up road, still.

Four or so mins back to Cunego group (he’s virtual maglia rosa).

Pirazzi is off front of chase group & has 30 secs up on Cunego.

28.2 to go…

Fog patches all over. Garmin & Liquigas on front on descent of main bunch.’

Grazie. Matteo !

We settle down to wait, Al updates us that Cunego is coming back but Rabottini is still alone and strong.

Lights, flags, horns – Rabottini.

The pictures aren’t the best, too many motorbikes and wandering amateur fans – and too little light.

The Cunego group look like men on borrowed time.

The inevitable Sylvester Szmyd leads the chase.

Then it’s the most fragmented race we’ve ever seen – ones, twos, threes.

Rabottini is across the line and being interviewed before the gruppetto is even in sight.

Jack Bauer; ‘give us a push, Dave !’

Team mates huddle for moral support.

Ferrari downs an energy bar, to get him up that last hill.

Some groups are bigger than others.

Alex Rasmussen manages a smile for us.

The gruppetto slogs past, it’s nearly over for them for the day.

And it’s over for us for the 2012 Giro – we hope you enjoyed our efforts.

Keep it PEZ’d for the best coverage of the Giro’s decisive final week.

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