CyclingRevealed's Giro Perspective
Tappa 18, May 25th,
Sillian to Gemona Del Fruili, 227 km
Sud Tirol – Holiday Paradise
Inhabitants of Europe 's mountain regions are very proud of their local culture and history. The Sud (South) Tirol region bordering the Austrian Alps and Italy 's Dolomites is particularly rich in such attractions. Summer and winter tourists flock to the area for all manner of outdoor pursuits. Sillian, the start town for today's stage is typical of the area with drop-dead gorgeous scenery, great skiing for the winter and fantastic hiking trails for the summer. However there is always a price to pay for paradise and here the weather plays a huge role. Yesterday we saw the raw side of mountain life as snow, rain, wind and cold shrouded the peaks and valleys. But when the sun shines here it is truly paradise.
Up in the pastures cows lazily move around with huge bells hung from their necks. In the small towns and villages many locals wear traditional clothing as normal everyday attire. Dialects can change from valley to valley and small restaurants and bars serve up robust local dishes and cool refreshing beer. Drinking songs and traditional mountain music played on ancient instruments like the zither are frequently heard.
When the sun shines Sillian in the Hochpustertal is paradise
Sadly the Giro riders had little time to appreciate the local Tyrolean delights. From Sillian today they headed back over 80kms of Austrian roads before returning to Italy . While certainly hilly with three challenging ascents, the stage did not contain any major mountains. The last 55kms were mostly flat but at the finish a nasty 10% climb of 3 km awaited the race. The stage profile suited a long break or an audacious last minute attack. Mercifully the weather was a little more charitable today. Cool but no rain or snow. However the heavy grey clouds masked the beauty of the region so everyone was left to look at picture postcards to see what this area looks like on a nice day.
Five riders decided to forego the sightseeing and launched an early break. As is usual the bunch left them out to stew for most of the day with none of them the remotest threat to Ivan Basso and his CSC team. The stage profile showed two little bumps in the last 30kms. These turned out to be nasty very steep ascents with 18% pitches.
It was a pleasant surprise to see England 's Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) driving the break hard up both climbs. With 25 kms to go the break was holding the peloton at 3mins 44secs. José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre-Fondital), Charles Wegelius (Liquigas) and David Lopez Garcia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) stayed together to conserve strength in numbers until the inevitable attacks came leading to the finish. After the past two days stages, and what lies ahead over the next two days, there was little interest in the bunch to organize a hard chase. Conserving energy was ‘job number one' on this stage.
Not so with the break as it hit the final climb and blew itself to pieces when Lopez made his bid for glory. Behind them CSC moved to the front of the main bunch more to ensure Basso's safety than to chase down the break. On the run in to town Lopez held his small advantage until Schumacher powered across to him. With great difficulty the other three riders clawed their way back so that all five now contested the finish. Schumacher took his second stage win of this Giro.
Schumacher powers to his second stage win [ Image ©: www.gazzetta.it ]
The bunch blasted over the finish line 2'43" later with Paolo Bettini leading the charge. Without rain and snow, the stage today was at least a little closer to paradise as the main bunch took a relative holiday. Unfortunately ominous clouds had gathered over the race entourage during the day with rumors swirling about the fate of the Liberty Seguros team.
NEWS FLASH: Following the arrest earlier this week of Liberty Seguros DS Manalo Saiz on drug related charges, Liberty Seguros has shut down its sponsorship funding and announced that it had cancelled its sponsorship effective immediately. This is a catastrophe for the team (and cycling as a whole) and should send a major shock wave through the sport. The news came through as the remaining six Liberty Seguros riders were riding today's stage. Sadly these riders were obliged to withdraw from the Giro and find their own way home.
Tomorrow: back to rarified air. Four tough mountains to cross including a mountain summit finish. The most fearsome climb is the Passo Fedaia also known as the Marmolada. Known in the cycling world as ‘the graveyard of champions', the Fedaia will be tackled with respect and caution. The fun starts in Pordenone and finishes up the Passo Di San Pellegrino 220 km later. Check back here for our report.
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