What's Cool In Road Cycling

Giro Di PEZ: The Journey South

Roadside St.8: “Sprinters’ stage” words to strike fear into the bravest commentator’s heart. This one wasn’t your typical sprinters’ stage though – down the gorgeous Tyrrhenian Coast to a decidedly atypical finish to a day listed as one for the fastmen…

Sapri to Tropea, along the beautiful coast of Campania – well, some of it’s beautiful.

Let’s see what the Rough Guide to Italy says about Sapri; ‘not much of a place in itself’ – that’s a good start !

But the stage is dedicated to Carlo Pisacane, hero of the Italian Risorgimento, who landed in Sapri in 1857 with a 300-Army for an unsuccessful expedition that was immortalised in the poem “La Spigolatrice di Sapri” by Luigi Mercantini.

And there’s no way I copied that from a press release.

We stayed in Salerno last night, which meant a two hour drive before today’s start.

The percorso initially clings to the coastline, following every nook and cranny in the base of the tree clad mountains, just before they plunge into the Golfo di Policastro.

It wouldn’t be hard to be a picture post card photographer in these parts, wherever you point your camera there’s a beautiful view.

The coastline goes a little less scenic for a spell, in fact it’s ‘not bonnie’ as we say in Scotland; it’s Gazzetta time, I think.

The Italian sports daily confirms the horror of today’s stage – one star, difficulty; yesterday there were three stars.

There are still six 3* two 4* and three 5* days to come.

True to form, in that the Gazzetta doesn’t get excited about foreign winners, the headline over the tiny picture is about Scarponi losing rather than De Clerq winning.

I phoned Viktor – my Belgian cycling expert buddie back in Scotland – last night to get the lowdown on young Bart.

‘He’s a first year pro, rather in the Gilbert mould, not a lot of wins but Lotto could see the potential and snapped him up.’

De Clerccq dedicated his win to Wouter Weylandt, which was nice, and Scarponi said he wished the corsa had been a metre longer.

Scarponi was 22 seconds faster than the Belgian over the last four kilometres; and climbed a better average rate than Di Luca did when he won on Montevergine four years ago.

GC-wise it’s still Weening in pink with the favourites all grouped within 40 seconds of each other – Scarponi is 5th @ 14 seconds; Nibali is 7th @ 24 seconds; Contador is 9th @ 30 seconds, Kreuziger is 14th @ 44 seconds and Menchov is 16th @ 55 seconds.

To quote former Eurosport commentator, David Duffield; ‘they’re keeping their powder dry !’

Their minds are on all those starry stages I was mentioning a minute ago.

At the other end of the classifica there are some interesting names; stone last in 194th place @ 1:11:51 is Aussie sprinter, Graeme Brown; English fast man Adam Blythe @ 1:05:19 is one place above; then comes Robbie McEwen @ 1:02:02 – Cav and Alex Rasmussen are @ 50 minutes.

But they still have to ride the same percorso, including all those hills.

The race route is flat, featureless, modern housing on the right, heavily built up wooded hills to the left – when the stage started we were worried that it might be like driving the Amalfi Coast where you could stop every 500 metres to take a picture, it’s so beautiful.

But here’s the feeding station; ‘hi chaps, what does the pink jersey have for lunch ?’ says Ed, cheerily to the Rabobank helpers.

‘Your car is dangerously parked !’ comes the reply.

‘It’s not that bad and there are 50 minutes ’til the race,’ says me – bearing in mind that there are T-shirt vans parked at jaunty angles all over the road.

‘Yes, but it is best you move it, now.’

Note to Rabo PR – that money you spent on ‘media coaching,’ it was wasted.

But the local cops were friendly guys.

The photo ops and fans are thin on the ground, down here – just the odd monument and hilltop tower to keep me occupied.

But a little further south the waiters are out from an upmarket hotel, to catch the Giro – this is more like it !

The break is doomed on roads like these; long, straight, flat and tail wind assisted along the Golfo di Santa Eufemia.

The guide books say that the finish town of Tropea is a nice place – that’s good; the smell of petrochemicals and featureless landscapes are getting to us.

Talking of ‘finishes’ – who’s gonna win ?

We don’t think it’ll be Cav; the writing is on the wall at HTC, the body language and vibe is all wrong and the word is that he’ll be in the red and black of BMC for 2011.

He doesn’t look like the all conquering Cav of yester year – and in our opinion, Petacchi out dragged him fair and square on stage two.

Ventoso took the other sprinters’ stage, beating Ale to the line in a very tough uphill final – which suited his characteristics.

He’s a possible for today but the if the ‘race bible’ is to believed the last kilometre only rises slightly and dips to the line.

It says, ‘Ale Jet’ to us; but Androni’s Roberto Ferrari has been getting up there – he’s a ‘maybe.’

Provided they all get over the wee hill with a K or two to go.

We catch the carovana, no bad thing when there all those lovelies to snap.

And we’re off again, roadworks, long straights – and a bar; time for a Moretti.

We had planned to go straight through the finish and catch the action in a bar – but when the percosro hits that ramp inside two to go, there’s a space for the car and a cafe with a TV then it’s time to stop.

Cappuccino in hand, plasma screen in full effect we have two away, a Vacansoleil and a Farnese Vini – they have three minutes with 25 K to go.

Outside, to the top of the ramp; ‘Compatto !’ says the announcer in the red Alfa.

But it’ not ‘compatto’ – there’s a Farnese Vini away and looking very strong.

And who’s this ? dancing clear of the peloton ?

Alberto !

The ‘Heads’ were all there, Ale Jet, Weening, Scarponi and best ‘giovanni’ Steven Kruijswijk.

From about 20 back all of the corridore have realised that the game is up and there’s no urgency.

Despite the shortness of the ramp the peloton has exploded – there are blown riders everywhere.

My ‘boys’ from the sixes, Alex and Michael, look tired

The QuickStep boys are well back; but they were doing a job to close it down for Ciolek – before Gatto went and spoiled things.

Last rider on the percorso is Matt Wilson – the ripped shorts and road rash on his thigh tells its own story.

We scurry to the car, burst the tapes on the barrier and haul it to one side; the Boss confirms the one-two to us from PEZ HQ – Gatto and Contador.

Sicily here we come !

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