What's Cool In Road Cycling

Giro dell’Emilia: The Race Under The Arches

In seven days, cycling will depart from the European roads until February. The Giro di Lombardia will be, as usual, the last Classic of the year; a sort of final revenge for the few who still have the power to fight for a part of history. But, before the ‘Classic of the Lake’, one race on the Italian calendar promises one of the most interesting and fascinating battles of the year: the Giro dell’Emilia.

The Giro dell’Emilia is one of the oldest classics and its starting list is always impressive as well as its former winners. In the recent past, riders like Boogerd, Simoni (two times), Rebellin, Bartoli, Ullrich, and Basso were able to write their names in the album of the race.

Davide Rebellin took the two-up sprint over Danilo Di Luca for the win in last year’s edition.

What is so special about Emilia? The tradition of the race is one of the most important things. This is something that is always very attractive to the riders, especially the Europeans. To win a race that is a part of cycling history, a race that has seen riders like Coppi, Merckx and Moser fight for her, is sometimes a reason enough to suffer for.

The organization isn’t half bad either – very well organized and classified as an Hors Categorie one-day race on the European Calendar. This means that it is one step below the ProTour races, but as history has shown – that means nothing in terms of the quality of the race, and its spot as a final tune-up for riders with their eyes set on Lombardia – or just in the hopes of etching their names in the record book of Emilia.

The route also plays a very important role in this splendid race; the final circuit with the San Luca climb is something special that no other race on the planet can lay claim to: two kilometres beside and under the arches of the San Luca Dome, dedicated to the Madonna who watches over and protects the city of Bologna from the top of the hill, as the old people like to always remember.

As seems to be normal with many cycling events, these places are almost lonely for everyday of the year save for race day, but on race day they completely change. The same can be said for the San Luca climb. With so many people waiting for the riders, San Luca has got another particular characteristic: every year you can meet the same people from the year before in the same spot. The race becomes a sort of reason to meet and to remember. Everyone under his own arch. “Do you remember when Bartoli…?” “This gives to you the best view…” “One time Coppi…”. It’s so absolutely normal to hear comments like these.

The first time I watched this race was in the 2002. The World Championships in Zolder were only a little ways off and the Giro dell’Emilia was the right place for the riders to show their condition to the selectors of the National teams. That was exactly what did Bartoli who, together with his talented, young teammate Basso, attacked and isolated a young Danish rider recently turned from mountain biking…a certain Rasmussen. Two Italians against the foreigner: under the arches the people started screaming like crazy. Bartoli won, and I really was impressed by the atmosphere of this race.

It is impressive to take in the wave of screaming fans as the riders climb under the and beside the arches. The Giro dell’Emillia is not just the San Luca though. The route touches many interesting small towns where life flows quietly, where’s it’s usual to enjoy your espresso beside an old castle and where the ‘pasta’ is really something to taste with the Bolognese sauce.

We will be there, under the arches, and we will live everything again. And, believe me, there’s no place I’d rather be.

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