By Graham Jones
and Barry Boyce

CyclingRevealed Historians



Giro d'Italia Champions
Living and Dead





CyclingRevealed's Giro Perspective

Tappa 6, May 12th, Busseto to Forli, 223 km

Chariot Race

Could McEwen out sprint one of these?

Two thousand years ago the Romans were building roads all over Europe . Beautifully built and whenever possible as straight as an arrow. Today the Giro's finishing stretch into Forli is along the Via Emilia which runs in a straight line along the foot of the Appenines. With Italy's ancient towns and villages dotted all through the country it is not too hard to imagine Roman chariots racing along these magnificent roads.

With the stage being as flat as a pancake, high speeds and a huge bunch sprint is almost guaranteed. In these situations, and under current form, that master gladiator (McEwen) of the bunch gallop has a day tailor made to his skills.

As expected an early break of three riders managed to escape. Andoni Aranaga (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Sergiy Matveyev (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) and Christophe Edaleine (Credit Agricole) eased off the front just 6km after the start. Behind them the bunch rode at a brisk pace mainly under the impetus of T-Mobile to protect the Maglia Rosa and Davitamon-Lotto in the interests of Robbie McEwen. While the domestiques worked at the front the main contenders were sitting comfortably protected enjoying another warm, sunny day but not quite as warm as yesterday.

Along the roadside as the bunch passed through villages and towns, posters remembering ‘il Pirata' (Marco Pantani) were much in evidence as the race entered Pantani's home region. Tomorrow the hilly stage is right on Pantani's doorstep and the race will cover roads that he frequented for training.

After four hours and 172 km of racing the break still had just over four minutes on the bunch. With 55 km to go the bunch started to exercise its usual torture on such breaks. Maintaining tempo but gauged to swat out the break like an annoying bug agonizingly close to the finish.

Those chariot race spectators in ancient Rome 's famous Circus Maximus would greatly appreciate the raw athletic spectacle of a modern Grand Tour stage finish. Today as the huge bunch roared into Saltara it would seem that Caesar had given the thumbs down to the three gladiators leading the race. They battled valiantly to the end as the bunch bore down on them with just 16 km to go. They had been out front for 205 kms.

As the bunch approached town at warp speed several “trains” started to form at the front. Ag2r, Davitamon-Lotto, Quick.Step and Milram were the main protagonists while others looked for an opportunity to launch a last minute surprise attack. Good luck along this wide, dead straight road! However with 10km to go Jan Ullrich was showing that he is returning to champion form as he lead the bunch at over 50 kmph.

Horsepower, bumping, grinding, skill and nerves of steel are needed for a pure sprint finish like today. With 5km to go the sacrificial domestiques are earning their keep while pushing and shoving for position is much in evidence at the front of the bunch. Three km to go and they get up to 60kmph. In classic style McEwen is hiding somewhere inside this crazy melee. Coming into town the blistering speed and “argy bargy” causes several riders to hit the deck. With unnerving skill McEwen explodes to the front with 100m to go and thus clocked up stage win number three in this Giro. T-Mobile's Olaf Pollack nabbed second place and the time bonus that went with it gave him the race lead.

The sprint [ Image ©: ]

As the winner (the aurigae) today McEwen would be feted in ancient Rome. Back then the most famous charioteer was Scorpus who racked up 2,048 wins. Robbieus Maximus has a way to go to top that!

Robbieus 'Maximus' McEwen! [ Image ©: ]

SPECIAL NOTE: The great Ercole Baldini was born in Saltara and posters were much in evidence to remember the great man. In 1958 he won both the Giro and the World RR Championship. By 1960 he was the highest paid rider in the World. However by that year the good life was taking its toll and at the Giro the tifosi (fans) were not amused. Graffiti on the road declared “ You earn too much; you eat too much, Ercole.” and “Win a stage or go back home.” By the third week of the race the proud Baldini was able to produce a reasonable ride in the long time trial. But no stage wins. Read more about the 1960 Giro in our exclusive article “The French Connection” coming soon on CyclingRevealed.

Tomorrow: to the hills! With the first real climbs of this years Giro we may start to see some real GC action from the leading contenders. Stage 7, Cesena –Saltara is also the longest stage of the Giro at 230km. Check back here for our report.


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