CyclingRevealed's Giro Perspective
Tappa 13, May 20th,
Alessandria to La Thuile, 218 km
Entering Gino Country
As the Giro enters the Alps it is fitting that the race is remembering one of the greatest riders of all time, Gino Bartali. At the age of twenty in 1935, Gino won the first of his seven Giro mountain jerseys. Along with this 70th anniversary it is also remembered that he won three Giro's (1936, 1937 and 1946) and added to his enduring fame through epic battles with his archrival Fausto Coppi. Looking as though someone had smacked him in the face with a sledgehammer, his tough looking face and boxer's nose were easy clues to the toughness of the man. A great story relates to his ruthless treatment to other riders on the road. Very early in his career two famous Italian sprinters tried to box him in at a race finish. Most other riders would have tried to ride around them. Not Gino, he ploughed right between the two of them consequently bringing the lot of them down in a bloody mess. After that nobody messed with Gino.
In 1960 Gino was instrumental in discovering a new Italian star. Romeo Venturelli astoundingly beat Jacques Anquetil in the first long time trial of the 1960 Giro. A few days later Venturelli was out of the race and back home complaining of a stomach ache. Bartali remarked “He's got the legs, the lungs, but not the heart. I would never have quit the Giro just for a stomach ache. I would have been ashamed of myself.” Venturelli was a shooting star whereas Gino was a truly great champion for twenty years. Today would not be tough enough for Gino even though from the halfway mark the road rose continuously and gently until the big climb of the day.
At 200 km the Colle San Carlo rose up to 1951m at 10% average for 10km before the 6 km plunge down to the finish at La Thuile. With this prelude to a very long week of climbing one could forgive the main contenders from choosing to ride cautiously. Instead the bunch started the race at an insane pace averaging 53 kmph for the first hour. But the real action came on the Colle San Carlo as the riders rode into rain, cold and even snow flurries. At the end of our Stage 10 report we wrote “the ‘southern comfort' of Peschici will be no more than a cruel and tormenting memory”. Surely memories of the warm sun just a couple of days ago must have added to the peloton's misery.
The day started well enough in warm 25degC (about 85degF) but at the finish temperatures hovering around the freezing point with rain and even a little snow, accelerated Robbie McEwen's decision to leave the race. With CSC riding a hard tempo at the front of the peloton the day's early break was doomed to failure.
On reaching the Val d'Aosta rain capes started to appear as the first drops of rain fell. The misery was about to begin. With CSC powerhouses Voigt and Cuesta forcing the pace cracks started to appear on the early slopes of the big climb to the finish. Bruseghin and Rujano attempted to ride away as the bunch imploded. Savoldelli lost it after just 2 km of climbing and in short order Cunego and Di Luca also popped out of the back.
Final selection made on the finishing climb [ Image ©: www.gazzetta.it ]
Basso hit the front and only Saunier Duval's Leanardo Piepoli could go with him. In the grim wet and cold conditions Piepoli attacked just as he and Basso crested the summit. Throwing all caution to the wind Piepoli plummeted down the final few km's to take the stage win in La Thuile. Basso was second having been extremely cautious in his descent to the finish. The best of the rest were Gutierrez and Simoni (3rd and 4th) at 1 min 19 secs. Once again Basso had stamped his authority on the race in emphatic style. Behind his inscrutable smile and introverted nature, Ivan Basso masks a lethal killer instinct.
Stage winner Leonardo Piepoli [ Image ©: www.gazzetta.it ]
One is already tempted to think of comparisons with Miguel Indurain. Also there are shades of Eddy Merckx because with his commanding GC position an attack was not totally necessary today. However Basso is his own man and if his progression continues along its current track then we are seeing the next great Grand Tour champion emerge. Barring accidents or ill health the rest of the field in this Giro can fight amongst themselves for 2 nd and 3 rd place on the final GC podium. Citing a stomach ache amongst other woes, the much anticipated challenge from Jose Rujano evaporated as he abandoned on the Colle San Carlo. His feeble excuse would have drawn the sarcastic wrath of Gino Bartali. On the other hand Bartali would be a great admirer of Ivan Basso who not only survived the dismal conditions today with dignity and style but also handed out a sound thrashing to all of his main challengers.
Tomorrow: the race sweeps into and then out of Switzerland. Two long climbs, not severe enough to cause GC riders a problem, could prove to be to the advantage of a break. Check back tomorrow for our report on Stage 14 from Aosta to Domodossola, 224 km.
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