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The tiny island of Caprera sits just off the northeast tip of Sardegna – a stunningly beautiful island smack-dab in the middle of the sun-drenched Mediterranean Sea. It’s actually part of Sardegna, and is also part of the Archipelago of Maddalena. Sorting out the geography will be nothing though, compared to sorting out the technical requirements for tomorrow’s stage one Team Time Trial – there’s nary a straight patch the whole way ‘round…
• One look at the twisting turning red line on the course map indicates this is one for the bike handlers. Our eye-witness recon confirmed it.
• The stage starts on the little island of Cabrera, now a beautiful and quiet nature reserve but once home to Italian partisan, Giuseppe Garibaldi whose 200th birthday the Giro’s visit celebrates.
It starts, believe it or not, with 200 metres of dirt road – let’s hope no one punctures!
Within 500 metres it’s dragging-up, no time to find a rhythm or settle as it winds up through the trees for around a kilometre; well-surfaced, but narrow.
• At the top it’s 90 left then dropping fast and straight to a 90 right and a leftward drift; there’s the causeway to Maddalena, Cabrera’s sister island.
• It’s long, straight and quick to the Bailey bridge at around 4 k which let’s the tidal-flow through the narrows between the two islands. The bridge is surfaced with timber slats, with a steel retaining strip running up the middle – it will be lethal in the unlikely event of rain.
• It’s becoming clear that this is no ‘blast’ course, this impression is reinforced as the route takes in a series of 90 rights and lefts within a few hundred metres of exiting the causeway.
The course skirts the suburbs then starts to climb, a little ‘snap’ to start with then drag, drag, drag to the Naval Museum; glorious views but not when your pulse has maxed-out and the DS is screaming at you to; “hold the wheel!”
It rolls and twists from here, ‘technical’ doesn’t do it justice.
• Back to the sea; beautiful little coves and under-stated hide-aways of teh rich & famous.
• The road tries hard to follow the coast, ducking and twisting around the headlands – up, down, left, right. What looks like a fast bend tightens half way round – rehearsal is crucial to survive this course.
Some might say it’s not really a course for the TTT specialists, but perhaps that’s what the organisers wanted so the chrono teams can’t open big gaps.
• At around half distance the course tops-out and the view is stunning but there’s no respite from the endless bends, upward snaps and rapid little drops. Rhythm? No chance, this course has to be attacked to be conquered.
The big descent comes soon after, positively scary with hairpins and sudden little climbs thrown in to the mix. There are wind-blown rock formations and breath-taking views back to Sardinia but very little straight road.
The final drop through the ferry port of Maddalena is wild, some might say too dangerous for this discipline. It’s a Poggio-style drop through the houses and shops; skirting high walls and building sites through a series of hairpins.
• The last right-hand bend into the finishing straight is very tight, maybe 120 degrees: and just so it won’t be any easy finish, the straight is paved with granite blocks.
• Disc rear wheels would be a positive hindrance, medium-section carbons front and back would be my choice on road bikes with clip-ons rather than chrono bikes.
Most DS’s will just want their boys to get round and to see the finish with no drama.
And to win? I think Liquigas or QuickStep; CSC or Disco might prove me wrong but we don’t think so – it’s definitely one for the roadmen.