CyclingRevealed's Giro '07 Perspective
Tappa 5, May 17th, Teano to Frascati, 173 km
Central Italy is home to the best loved of all Italian wines which are known and enjoyed all over the world. While red Chianti, from the north of Rome , is instantly recognizable, it is the white wines that dominate the region and represent about 70% of all local wine production. From these wines Umbria 's Orvieto , Marches Verdicchio and Latium 's Frascati are the most famous and have devout followers all over the globe.
If you are wine and food connoisseur as well as a race fan you cannot help but notice that all three Grand Tours ( Italy , France and Spain ) frequently start and finish stages in towns and regions famous for such delights. This is no accidental occurrence. While the riders are strictly limited to their somewhat bland and boring race diets, the race organizers, team helpers and journalists certainly avail themselves of these premeditated local specialties. The ‘dolce vita' is alive and well in sunny Italy!
Today's finish town of Frascati lies in the famed hills of Rome to the south of the city. Until relatively recent times the vines of central Italy were scattered among trees and crops. Unlike the military rows of French vineyards, this happy-go-lucky way of random planting was known by the colorful term of ‘promiscuous cultivation'. Sadly modern commercial demands have dictated a somewhat more disciplined approach to their planting techniques.
Frascati wines (made mainly from the Trebbiano grape) have been grown at least since ancient Roman times and many of the extensive deep cellars and caves that store this wine date back to those times. The end result is a brilliantly pale yellow wine, with a delicate, slight perfume of distinctive floral aromas. The palate is refreshingly dry, clean and crisp with citrus, grassy characters. For the wine lover the ultimate Frascati experience is to taste the wine cold in a jug brought from its own cave, and to eat roast pork and bread with it in the open air. You can be sure that is exactly what many of the Giro entourage had planned for their post-race pleasure!
Frascati: promiscuous cultivation, world class wine!
After yesterday's sinuous route on narrow and often dangerous roads, today's stage is almost a straight shot all day with just one modest Category 3 climb towards the end. Having calculated their arrival to be within the time cut at yesterday's mountain top, the sprint members of the ‘gruppetto' will be ‘rested' and looking for another shot at a stage win.
The script for a day like today almost dictates that a break will form early in the hopes of beating the sprinters. Sure enough in the opening kilometers the day's cannon fodder launched themselves off the front and bravely set about building a big lead. Once again, as they have every stage so far, the Tinkoff team led the initiative. This time it was Mikhail Ignatiev flying the colors but he only had Mickael Buffaz (Cofidis) for company. The peloton was mightily happy with the situation as they cruised along saving their energy for the days ahead. Liquigas, as the Pink Jersey holders, did much of the work to keep the break within reasonable bounds while the sprinters teams kept their trains in the ‘sidings'.
Caution is the word for the sprinters today because of the Cat 3 climb with 18kms to go. If Bettini has recovered from yesterday's crash the terrain is perfect for one of his blistering attacks. But first the break needs to be reeled in from their maximum 5m 30s lead. Almost like robots the field is guided towards their quarry by team managers calculating distance, speed, weather and terrain and barking their commands to the riders through their race radios. In the good old days the riders had to think for themselves and out-of-sight breaks had a much higher survival rate.
With 60kms to go Ignatiev clearly was not thinking as he attacked and dropped Buffaz. He may be the former U23 World TT champion but behind him Milram and Predictor Lotto were starting to mass their forces. Sure enough the lone rider was reeled in with 20km to go and then inevitably the counter-attacks started. Finally the race hit Frascati en- masse at warp speed and, despite the best efforts of the Milram (for Petacchi) and Predictor (for McEwen) lead-out trains, it was Robert Forster, Gerolsteiner who triumphed over Danilo Napolitano, Lampre and Thor Hushovd, Credit Agricole. The bunch finish ensured no change to the major GC places.
Stage winner Robert Forster ( Images © La Gazetta )
Michelangelo is quoted as saying of a local Roman wine that it “kisses, licks, bites, thrusts and stings”. With the famous Italian passion for life, sport, and the ‘dolce vita', such a wine tasting note could easily be applied to many of the teams and riders of the Giro. But based on the flack that the race organization received for its happy-go-lucky organized chaos of the transfer from Sardinia to the mainland, their planning skills are clearly based on the ancient principle of ‘promiscuous cultivation'!
Tomorrow: from the ancient City of Tivoli east of Rome we travel 177 km north to the City of Spoleto. The race course takes in the famed climb of Monte Terminillo. Join CyclingRevealed a daily stage perspective.
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