CyclingRevealed's Giro '07 Perspective
Tappa 11, May 23rd, Serravalle Scrivia to Pinerolo, 198 km
Storm in a Teacup
Yesterday we noted how the riders displayed sheer exhaustion at the stage finish. Such sights were rare with the Pro Tour peloton prior to Operacion Puerto. Tomorrow the race moves into a string of days dominated by major mountain climbs. Consequently it was no surprise that today's “mostly flat” stage would be treated as a form of rest day for the peloton. The definition of “mostly flat” today is a route with three uncategorized climbs and a steady drag up to the finish line.
While the peloton rests there will always be one or two opportunists willing to take a chance at a stage win. Today it was just one rider, Mickaël Buffaz (Cofidis), who rode away alone at 38kms. His maximum lead extended to a little over 8 minutes but by then it was time for the sprinters teams to start bringing Buffaz to heel.
In the Middle Ages, the town of Pinerolo was one of the main crossroads in Italy , and was therefore one of the principal fortresses of the Dukes of Savoy. Its military importance was the origin of the well-known military school that still exists today. The famous fortress of Fenestrelle is nearby.
The famous fortress of Fenestrelle
While the city of Pinerolo is proud of its long history there is one event that stands out in the collective memory of its citizens. It was 1949 and a divided Italy was still in a very delicate situation balancing on the brink of anarchy and even civil war. Famously the rivalry of Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali did much to divert the nations focus from its serious situation.
In 1949 the Giro stage from Cuneo to Pinerolo saw Coppi at his imperious best. At that time there was no television and fans in Pinerolo gathered around radios to follow the race. The commentators voice crackled over the airwaves: “There's a man alone ahead. His jersey is white and blue. His name is Fausto Coppi.” And to the great joy of those awaiting the race, this living legend was riding victoriously into their town. The town web site remembers that great day with the picture (shown here) of Coppi passing graffiti of his own name in the snow.
Coppi on the way to Pinerolo
Forty kilometers to go and Buffaz was still persisting with his lead still at about 5m 30s. Overhead storm clouds were brewing as the world below was steaming in 30degC temperatures. Now the sprinters teams were gathering up front and a big bunch finish looked to be in the cards. Thirty kilometers to go and Buffaz was now only 2m 30s ahead. For the pursuers the chase was a leisurely affair with the GC contenders happily cruising along without a care in the world. The junction was made at 14kms to go but Buffaz could at least be contented that he kept his sponsors name in front of the TV cameras for most of the day.
Caution was now the watchword as rain started to fall to make the roads very slick. A dangerous finish favors a scrapper like McEwen and today was probably his last chance in this Giro as he typically goes home once the mountain stages arrive. His next target is the Green Jersey at the Tour.
Coming into town with 3km to go Tinkoff's Ignatiev took a flyer. Milram were quickly on him and McEwen could be seen fighting to hang on to Petacchi's wheel as he leaned on Napolitano! A photo finish between Petacchi, Balducci and McEwen fell to Petacchi's advantage. Unfortunately as the bunch hurtled over the line riders started to brake, skid and crash. The Maglia Rosa slid over the finish line on his rear end as did numerous other riders looking as though they were on ice. There will be some sore riders this evening and hopefully nobody was seriously hurt.
Slippery roads caused a massive pile-up ( Images © La Gazetta )
While Buffaz deserves great credit for his brave escape today, the entire stage was little more than a storm in a teacup.
Tomorrow: Coppi is remembered again when the race passes over the Colle dell'Agnello (designated as the Cima Coppi) which is one of the highest points in Europe at 2744m and the highest point in this years Giro. Read our report here.
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