What's Cool In Road Cycling

Pez Previews Il Giro’12 Corsa: Stages 1-8

With over 51 Giro’s under our belts, we’ve logged many thousands of kilometers chasing Italy’s greatest race from one end of the boot to the other, with visits at most points in between. That’s a lot of local knowledge – the kind you just don’t get from the race guide, or anywhere else. Here’s the PEZ-Take on Week 1…

The 2012 Corsa: What You Know…
Our initial study of the tappe revealed what you probably already know –
• 21 stages
• May 5 – 27, 2012
• start and first 3 stages in Denmark
• more balanced mix of flat, medium mountain, and high mountain days
• epic penultimate day climbs the Mortirolo enroute to summit finish on the Stelvio.

And What You Don’t…
But a closer, more examined look at the route shows that there’s much more to this Giro than you know – the kind of stuff you can only find here at PEZ. This year we’ve tapped our pretty darn extensive ‘local’ knowledge of Italy and the Giro for what I proudly call a ‘revealing’ look at what’s going to make this race a good one.

My rough calculation added up to at least 51 PEZ-years of Giro coverage, and even if we don’t have all the answers, we certainly have an opinion – usually based on actual personal experience, but in the odd case, completely made up.

For this round of PEZ-Wisdom, we’ve tapped a veritable wealth of Giro knowledge from our in-house race council, including (but not limited to…)

Alessandro Federico – Our resident Italian – born and raised, (he lives in Stage 5 finish town of Fano), he knows Italian racing better than any tifoso you can find, and has followed cycling for 20+ years, been to … get this: 21 Giri (54 stages), 20 Sanremos, 10 Tours (28 stages), 8 Lombardias, 7 Emilias, 5 Tirreno Adriatico (6 stages total), 4 Worlds, 2 Strade Bianche, and 1 Roubaix. His English, ain’t perfect but nothing’s lost in translation.

Ed Hood – Covered last six Giro’s for PEZ, at least 3 Primaveras & 3 Lombardias, plus so many trips to the Giro pre-PEZ he’s lost count. If it happened in cycling’s modern era, Ed probably witnessed it.

Jered Gruber – In addition to working on our Giro coverage every year since 2005, Jered spent the past year living in Italy and riding extensively in the Dolomites, and elsewhere. Uniquely skilled at climbing with one hand while shooting spectacular photos with the other, Jered’s passion for the sport might be considered ‘messy’ in some cultures.

Corey Sar Fox – Has lived in Italy for 12 years, the last 5 in Bolzano, and has been following the sport since the LeMond era of the ‘80s. Famous for his “Mr. Cheapoh” tech columns here on PEZ, Corey’s take is anything but expected.

Richard Pestes – I’ve made 14 separate trips to Italy, including living there in 1998, and an extended stay in 2010. I’ve seen 9 Giros, including covering the last 7 editions. Unashamed to admit the Giro’s my favorite Grand Tour, and Italy my favorite place away from home, I’d be there right now if I could.

Our coverage breaks down into three parts – so let’s get started with Week #1!

The opening three stages in Denmark are all pretty much… flat.

Nothing wrong with starting a race in the home of a world famous pils…

The Giro has never started in Denmark, so there’s the coolness of the ‘first time’, the Danes do love cycling, as the recent World Championships and the ongoing Tour of Denmark stage race prove.


Ed Sez: The Giro starting in Northern Europe can only mean two things; lots of Euros moving electronically into the race’s bank account – and an early rest day on May 8 to facilitate the transfer. The first point doesn’t affect the riders and staff but the second certainly does – the phrase ‘rest day’ becomes a misnomer as what was originally meant to ease the stress of a three week race becomes anything but restful.

Memories of the recent World Championships should guarantee big crowds for the Giro in May.

This is particularly true for the race personnel who have to drive all those trucks, buses and cars half way across Europe – that’s over 1500km and 14 hours of driving.

It also makes it a very long second week for the riders with the second rest day not coming until May 21. But as long as those Euros fly through cyber space and the TV footage is good, what the heck?

This is about as hilly as it’s gonna get, but it’s the wind you gotta watch out for.

Stage 1 May 5, 2012 Herning 8.7 km
Ed Sez: The town of Herning is situated in the Midtylland region on the Danish mainland, that finger of land which points north from the top of Europe to the colder climes of Scandinavia across the Skagerrak, the wild straights which separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden.

The organizers have kept the race away from the traffic madness which afflicts all big cities – Odense and Copenhagen are on islands well to the east of Herning.

The town has a population of 46,000 and is the largest venue for exhibitions in Scandinavia; one of the halls for which supported a six day from 1974 until 1998 when Risi/Betschart won – so the town is no stranger to the sound of fast rolling, rock hard tubulars.

And one of its most famous sons is a certain Bjarne Riis . . .

The time trial has Alex Rasmussen written all over it, pan flat, long straights with the usual sprinkling of 90 degree lefts and rights – let’s just hope that someone, somewhere can make a distinction between drug abuse and being a slapdash youngster.

Stage 2 May 6, 2012 Herning 206 km
Ed Sez: If Rasmussen does win the time trial then there’s no fear of him going off on any of the climbs on stage two – the percorso is pan flat with a one star difficulty rating, although there is a GPM on the snap at Osterbjerg.

The big enemy on this day may be the wind, the course describes a big loop out and back to Herning, with some 50 kilometres of which running due north along the North Sea coastline; if the wind blows and the echelons form there could be Spanish and Italian climbers out of the running before the race even gets to Italy.

Rabobank will be planning already.

Homeboy Alex Rasmussen won the hometown GP Herning here in 2010 – watch him to show his stuff in May as well.

Stage 3 May 7, 2012 Horsens 190 km
Ed Sez: Horsens sits on a fjord on the eastern coast of Jutland – again part of the Danish mainland – with a population of around 53,000 the organisers have again shied away from the big metropolitan areas.

Horsens is famous for its Medieval and crime festivals (we had a permanent one of those where I used to live, in Kirkcaldy, Scotland) and the arrival of the Giro is part of efforts to regenerate the town.

One for the sprinters, the stage is given one star degree of difficulty by the organisers but rolls over two separate loops around the fjord mouth then three times around the town of Horsens.

There should be breakaways out in the Jutland countryside but those finishing circuits point to a bunch finish.

Expect finishes like this on stages 2 and 3.

It will be a surprise if whoever wins the opening time trial isn’t still in pink when the long haul south commences.

And even the Giro’s official video concedes that the race only ‘properly’ starts when it returns to Verona for the TTT.

Team time trial – now there’s a real race . . . .

Rest day 1 May 8, 2012 Horsens – Verona
Mark this day on your calendar. If you do happen to see any pro teams transferring across northern Europe, it’s maybe not the best time to ask for a free waterbottle of team cap.

Stage 4 May 9, 2012 Verona 32.2 km
Pez Sez: The fabulous Team Time Trial – poetry in motion, the most beautiful test in cycling, Ed Hood’s favorite event, call it what you want, but this is one race you want on your bucket list. Verona loves hosting TT’s (most recently in 2007 & 2010), and why not – that gorgeous town center is worth spending the day in. The 2010 Giro finished here with a chrono on the old World’s course, and stepped up the spectacle as each rider finished inside the ancient Roman coliseum, Basso won and it was the most emotional Giro finale I’ve witnessed.

This year they’ll do a loop out west of town, and return to cross the line just outside the ancient arena. If you get the chance, spend a couple nights here – the city vibe is cool, and the pedestrian only streets, great looking people (read: hot Italian babes) and outdoor restaurants make strolling through town a verified simple pleasure that must be enjoyed.

Stage 5 May 10, 2012 Modena – Fano 199 km
Pez Sez: On paper, this almost pancake flat run to the Adriatic coast looks like one to be skipped (even for the riders). Even the tiny 122 meter mosquito bite of a climb with 20km to go will have no effect on the drag race into this ancient Roman spa site. But the real reason to watch here is to spot PEZ’s own Italian Bureau correspondent Ale Federico roadside, as the peloton sweeps into his home town. Italy is full of undiscovered gems (at least to us tourists), and Fano is worth a visit.

The main piazza in old Fano is the perfect place to let your 4 year-old run amok.

At Ale’s insistence, I spent a week there with my family in 2010 and loved it. Originally built over 2000 years ago by Caesar Augustus as a spa retreat from the bustle and pressures of running the world’s biggest empire, (the famed Via Flaminia was built for the sole purpose of getting the emperor here as quickly as possible), Fano is now a popular beach resort town in summer, and tranquil seaside town the rest of the year where fishing and yacht building are the main industries.

The size is easy to manage, it’s never really crowded, and the old Roman wall still circles the citta vecchia, with it’s modern shops, stylish cafes, and the bar where I had the negroni that changed my own recipe for my favorite cocktail. Keep your eyes peeled also for Ale’s new son Mario, who’ll no doubt be viewing his very first live stage of the Giro.

This is one of the best tasting negronis I’ve ever had – and also one of the biggest. After savouring the tarty-sweetness, I was inspired to enter yon bar and request the key to its goodness – the barista revealed he’d used Gordon’s Dry gin. I’d been using Tanqueray up to this time, but from this moment on I was converted. The dry gin is definitely the way to go, and let the campari and vermouth handle the botanical side of the palate.

Stage 6 May 11, 2012 Urbino – Porto Sant’Elpidio 207 km
The racing should get interesting today, with a never-flat run down the eastern foothills of the Apennines. The GC men will be on the lookout for any sneaky moves, but watch for the breakaways to shake like pepper and likely even stick.

Ale Sez: From Urbino to Porto Sant’Elpido is a complete “Marchigiana” stage. Hills and gravel roads for those who like to suffer… good food and quiet landscapes for who like life. The Giro will ride on Scarponi’s roads which are also my roads (what a difference!)

The Adriatic sea is so close, but the race won’t touch it till the end. Porto Sant’Elpido is a nice fish boats port and has nothing to offer except a good quiet life. The starting town, Urbino, is a small treasure of art and culture. It’s the town of the famous painter Raffaello and this is enough for a visit here; but do not go there in winter time – it’s the most cold place you can find in Italy. I still remember a day in March when I was there and it was snowing. A visit to the Palazzo Ducale is a must. What to eat? Tagliatelle with beans is my favourite but we have to offer much more, starting from the fish.

Stage 7 May 12, 2012 Recanati – Rocca di Cambio 202 km

Ale Sez: The Giro heads south from Recanati to Rocca di Cambio. Recanati is still in the Marche region but I’ve been never there (it will be a good excuse to visit it in March), Rocca di Cambio is a very small village close to L’Aquila in the middle of the South Appennini. It’s a modern village built for the ski season.

This region, even if south, is very cold in winter and over there the snow lays from December to March. I’ve been there once in the 2002 during my first Tirreno Adriatico stage chase. I was not yet writing for Pez but I was already travelling up and down of the “boot” spotting good races.

I remember very well that day, it was a week before of the Super Mario Sanremo. Won Di Luca with a solo attack on the final climb. I also rode the final climb which will be done by the Giro. It is quite easy, nothing special.

But the view to the Gran Sasso is very exciting and I spotted a nice picture of the peloton with the Gran Sasso mountain behind. I than uploaded on my personal web page (something like 900 unique readers in 10 years…), and a year later Pez found myself in the web thanks to the picture of that day…. and seems he’s not yet bored of me…..

Stage 8 May 13, 2012 Sulmona – Lago Laceno 229 km

This one’s a long day that’s all up and down – so it’s gonna be tough. The race goes straight up a 500m the climb from the gate, so watch for someone to take off early. The climb to Lago Laceno is almost 9km at only 6% – likely not steep enough to break things up, and there’s till a 5 km flat-top to the line, so this’ll shape up more as a defensive day where someone will lose time.

Pez Sez: Now here’s what you don’t know. In 2008 I spent a night in Sulmona after the stage finish at Pescocostanzo (read it here). Ale drove from home bright and early the next morning to meet me for the start of the stage in Rivasondoli (read it here).

Here’s my view of Ale’s car as we crossed the plain above Sulmona.

We had a few miles to drive to the start and I was following Ale in my own rental car. As we ascended the climb out of Sulmona and started across the high plain on a long, flat, straight – and deserted road – I expected Ale to gas it to make up some time. Instead he drove a steady pace of around 100kmh – considerably slower than the fast-as-I-could-get-away-with speeds I’d been recording along my journey from the race start in Sicily.

So I phoned him to enquire as to the slow pace, and encourage him to pick it up a notch. “Yes, yes, no problem he said.” The pace lifted to about 105kmh. I called him again. No results. As is my usual manner when I’m driving too slow, I got antsy. Finally, on about my third phone call to Ale, he confessed that speeding fines are a costly infraction in his country, and while I was a visitor, he – as a resident – wasn’t about to take any risks. Fair enough. We did finally arrive at the start with plenty of time in hand, and no driving infractions.

Sifting back through my own archives of photos from my seven Giros, I’ve spent a lot more time than I’d expected recalling so many of the adventures and good times. Here’s Ale and me signing off from that start near Sulmona in 2008 – that was a great day as I handed off the PEZ-baton to Ale and his days ahead covering the roadside action. It doesn’t seem like four years ago…

So while whatever happens in 2012 is anybody’s guess, one thing’s for sure – Pez will be there from front to back – we’re looking forward to the adventures ahead.

Stay tuned for our looks at Weeks 2 & 3 of the 2102 Giro.

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