CyclingRevealed's Giro '07 Perspective
Tappa 2- May 13th, Tempo Pausania to Bosa, 205 km
Slim Pickins' 2007
For the next two days the Giro races from the northern point of Sardinia to its southern point and its capital, Cagliari. The roads pass over rugged terrain surrounded by beautiful panoramic views. Although ‘lumpy' there are no major climbs and both days are predicted to be dedicated to the sprinters.
Both the start and finish towns today are small communities with a history stretching back to ancient times. The original town of Bosa is the only river side town in Sardinia and it is set back a short way from the sea. In recent years the local community focused on attracting tourists and extended the town itself down to the sea to create Bosa Marina.
Today this relatively tranquil holiday playground saw the high speed arrival of the entire Giro peloton in its mad rush for the finish line. In classic Grand Tour style the peloton is fully aware that there are three full weeks of very difficult racing ahead of them. At this early stage most teams are contented to ride at a well controlled tempo while providing as much protection and ‘rest' for their team leaders in preparation for the big days to come.
Consequently after about 10kms five riders forged a solid break that was allowed about 4mins maximum lead. The perfect scenario for those teams with long term GC aspirations.
Especially for many North Americans, the sharp regional differences in Europe are almost incomprehensible. Culture, terrain, architecture, languages and dialects can differ significantly within very short distances. Most often these differences are rooted in history spanning many centuries. Unfortunately riots, armed conflict and terrorism still flare up with some of the most extreme regional ‘patriots'. Happily the majority of regional flavors contribute to a peaceful and fascinating European landscape. As an example we will take a brief look at Alghero, a small coastal town that the Giro passed through about three quarters of the way through today's stage.
If Sardinia stands in sharp contrast to the Italian mainland and Sicily, the city of Alghero on the northwestern corner of the island provides an even sharper contrast to Sardinia itself. Alghero's origins go back to the tenth century, when the Genoese, with the help of Pisans, turned out the Arabs and obtained grants of land from the Judges of Logudoro, one of the groups of judges that administered Sardinia during the Middle Ages.
Alghero derives its name from the abundance of seaweed (alghe) in the surrounding waters. It was known as Algarium in the Middle Ages and Al Alguer and Barcelloneta under Spanish rule. Surrounded by water on three sides, the "old city" of Alghero, the center of its traditions and customs, seems once again held captive-not by the Spanish who once dominated the city for some 360 years, but by the very people who love the city so well. Today not only the structures remind visitors of the town's Spanish heritage but surprisingly Catalan (from north east Spain) is still spoken by many of the locals.
The old city sits within thick fortress walls, interrupted only by solemn towers. These ‘torre' are massive structures, arresting in size and captivating in the way the sea-mirrors the sunlight endlessly playing off their rough textures. The stone streets of the old city, narrow and lined with shops, are dotted with randomly spaced and seemingly unplanned tiny piazzas. You do not often hear a mother's plaintive "Giovanni!" or " Franca !" issuing from an upper-story window as you might in other neighborhoods. Here life is quiet and the people rather more subdued. The day's laundry is strung out against the backdrop of elegant Spanish-inspired arches that bridge the streets. Rising above the rooftops, and more easily seen from afar than from close by, is the variegated ceramic dome of the church of San Michele and the stately, pointed Aragonese tower of the church of San Francesco, two of the old city's most familiar landmarks.
Of all the contrasts that exist between Alghero and Sardinia , perhaps none is as striking as that which exists between the Algherese and the people from elsewhere on the island. If the Sardinians are noted for their quiet strength, independence, fierce loyalty, bravery, deep hearted friendliness and, at times, dour mien, the generous and hospitable Algherese have a well-earned reputation for combining the best traits of the Sardinian character with an unabashed love of the good life.
The arrival of the Giro in their ancient town was reason enough to spill out into the streets, head for restaurants serving the amazing local fish dishes and drink generous quantities of the excellent local wines.
In a way it is such a shame that the Giro riders experience none of this as they get no more than a fleeting glimpse of the festive scene being played out in ancient streets. For them their focus today is on reaching Bosa Marina, getting the day's business finished and then dealing with the routine of massage, food and sleep.
Inevitably the first riders of hard working break were agonizingly brought to heel with just 14kms to go. Tinkoff's Pavel Brutt was not willing to throw in the towel just yet and rode strongly away from his former break companions. Awaiting the bunch with 7kms to go was a nasty climb of about 6% that was just begging a last minute assault by adventurous and aggressive riders. Right on script it was Sella (a climber) who burst from the front of the bunch in an attempt to outwit the sprinters.
For the pure sprinters this mountainous Giro offers slim pickins' so with just a few kms to go everyone was reeled in and some serious lead out trains set to work. Possibly the most hungry sprinter is Petacchi who is trying to return to his former glory days and it was his Milram team that took control at the front. Bettini and his Quick-Step team rapidly joined in the fray and as the final kilometer flag was passed chaos ensued. The shoving, barging and general chaos was a perfect McEwen situation as he took out Bettini (2nd ) and Petacchi (3rd) in one of his classic lunges for the line.
Meanwhile the Liquigas team was playing their own little game by making sure that Di Luca finished a few seconds ahead of his Pink Jersey clad teammate Gasparotto. By slipping back the unfortunate Gasparotto got caught up in a sizeable crash that occurred 1300m before the finish. So after yesterday's petulant performance Di Luca is now all smiles as the new race leader (and Gasparotto is 2nd)!
Stage winner Robbie McEwen [ Image ©: www.gazzetta.it ]
Robbie McEwen is a real scrapper and never one to miss a good Grand Tour bunch sprint. The opportunities for the sprinters may be few in this Giro but Robbie will never turn down such riches even though they may be ‘slim pickins' .
Tomorrow: the race ends its visit to Sardinia when it reaches Cagliari on the southern tip of the island. Once more the sprinters are expected to reign and Bettini and Petacchi in particular will be out to tame a certain Australian!
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