So the riders in this imaginary Giro have battled their way from the Naples Grand Depart (or should that be Grande Partenza?) and up Vesuvius and Etna, and have succesfully traversed the South of Italy. Now though, the race is going to take a turn northwards, and enter more challenging terrain.
The rest days are at week intervals, so after a day in transfer up to Foggia from Messina, the riders have seven days of varying course to look at, although in a reverse to the usual trend, this week is probably easier then the first, with only two Summit finishes and stages for the sprinters. In place of difficulty, it has beauty, with this week including the climb the Blockhaus, a circuit race around Rome, various lakes, Verona and Venice, and the cruel turns of Monte Crostis….
Stage 8: Foggia-Pescara 114.2miles/183.7km – 772.2miles/1200km
Stage 9: L’Aquila-Blockhaus 136.9miles/220.3km – 909.1m/1420.3km
Stage 10: Laggo Di Bracciano-Rome 90miles(30+6=x10mile circuits), 144.8km – 999.1m/1565.1
Stage 11: Rome- Castiglione Laggo 123.2miles/198.3km – 1122.3m/1763.4
Stage 12: San Marino-Bologna 96.4miles/155.1km – 1218.7/1918.5km
Stage 13: Verona-Venice 91.5miles/147.3km – 1310.2m/2065.8km
Stage 14: Udine-Monte Crostis 103.6miles/166.7km – 1413.8m/2232.5km
Stage 8: Foggia-Pescara 114.2miles/183.7km
A rolling stage with a flat finish links two seemingly forgotten Italian cities: Foggia, part of the ‘granary of Italy’, where the race will start in the shadow of its Cathedral, and Pescara, which the peloton will enter after another coastal run, which I’m informed has a rather pleasant harbour. The day is easier to ease the riders back in: I’ve never been too keen on having ridiculous mountain stages after the rest day of the first week, when the riders won’t have ‘acclimatised’ to spinning the gears required for ascent.
Stage 9: L’Aquila-Blockhaus 136.9miles/220.3km
Of course, that doesn’t mean the riders are being let off. They start in L’Aquila, the town famously ravaged by an Earthquake in recent years (2009), with its Spanish fort overlooking the city, before traversing towards the ocean and the final run up the legendary Blockhaus climb. The climb was first used in 1967, then in 1968, 1972 and 1984, with the 1967 climb notable for heralding onto the scene a young Eddy Merckx in his first grand tour. Perhaps a similar legend will be unveiled on its slopes today?
Stage 10: Laggo Di Bracciano-Rome 90miles(30+6=x10mile circuits), 144.8km
The race visits the capital, something it doesnt do too often, via a detour from the Lago di Bracciano. The main event however is the ten laps of a city course that takes in two nations, as it makes the riders go through Vatican City, one of three foreign excursions on this years race. the loop includes St Peter’s Square, the Imperial Forum and the Colosseum, with the finish line on a straight after a tight loop of the great arena.
Stage 11: Rome- Castiglione Laggo 123.2miles/198.3km
On paper, this looks like yesterday’s stage in reverse, but in reality, we’re going to a different lake on a stage built to pit the sprinters, who don’t have many chances in this race, against the breakaway artists. The race will start near the Trevi fountain and give the photographers some lovely blurry rider images sweeping past it, then head near directly North to Castiglione Lago, to finish by the lakeside, preferentially at dusk.
Stage 12: San Marino-Bologna 96.4miles/155.1km
The second foreign excursion of the race, if it can really be called that, given the two foreign countries visited so far are landlocked by Italy itself, is to San Marino, the oldest surviving sovereign state in the world, having been created in the 3rd September 301. Its rugged terrain wont have any effect on the race however, as this is the easiest stage of the whole race – a downhill sweep to the coast followed by a very flat road through Ravenna, the old capital of the Western Roman Empire, and onto Bologna, home to the oldest University in the world, where the sprinters will have the opportunity to win in the Piazza Maggiore.
Stage 13: Verona-Venice 91.5miles/147.3km
The prettiest sounding stage of the race is a bit dull on paper, and is in purely to showcase the two titles of the cities hosting its ends, as well as providing the sprinters with one last hurrah before the real action of the GC kicks off tomorrow. Verona is of course the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, whilst Venice has been the setting of many a love story thanks to its canals, gondolas and Romanticism.
Stage 14: Udine-Monte Crostis 103.6miles/166.7km
The beautiful imagery of the previous day will be quickly obliterated from the minds of the riders by today’s stage however, which is the beginning of the end for anyone who doesn’t harbour GC ambitions. Starting in Udine, where Attila the Hun supposedly used to live and built a hill as the town was too flat, the course meanders West into the Valley that houses some of the most feared climbs in Italy: the Crostis and the Zoncolan. The Crostis was to be used in conjunction with the Zoncolan in 2011, but concerns over its extremely narrow and technical descent, shear drops that had meant nets were rigged up to ‘catch’ any riders who slipped over the edge, and the death of Wouter Weyland the week before led to its 11th hour removal, much to the annoyance of the locals who had toiled to prepare it. This time however, they get to see the race charge up over their work, and the 20% gradients should provide some great action.
Tomorrow: The final week, with the Stelvio, Mortitolo, Galibier et all, and a suprise sting in the tail… https://sicycle.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/giro-ditalia-2013-an-alternative-route-week-three/