The Tifosi go nuts at me when I take up position to get my pictures at the top of the Crosara climb – they’ve been here for hours and I just wander up with my creds and stand in front of their barriers. Time to stage a tactical withdrawal to the other side of the road.
A short wait and the usual stampede of motor bikes – and it’s . . . . Movistar – Again!
It’s Visconti; we’d expected Chavez (Androni) best climber of the four man break which has battled across the long flat straight roads of Northern Italy to this hill, 10 miles from the finish in Vicenza.
Visconti grabs a bottle, Chavez is 10 seconds back. The ‘Bigs’ come next, throwing themselves off the top with Pippo well to the fore, this is his patch.
Around a minute back – they’ll not get that back, the ‘Bigs’ group has too many guys looking for the stage win.
But let’s go back to the start in Carravaggio, 200 kilometres west of here . . .
. . . Things must be going OK for old Ernesto Colnago, judging by his company’s HQ – more Silicone Valley than bare floor boards littered with dead cotter pins – we passed his temple to good taste at Cambiago en route the start.
The start town – Caravaggio, birthplace of the famous painter whose name he took from the town. And there’s none of that horrible cold rain which has marred this Giro.
The sun is high in the sky and I better get myself a hat – I don’t want to keel over and die of sun stroke like Caravaggio did. The riders are ‘for sure’ happy about the sunshine – even though the sign on is a pretty subdued affair.
GreenEdge’s Christian Meier was in yesterday’s ultimately abortive break and looks a little tired; ‘I’ve never heard so many guys coughing in the peloton, seems like everyone has been sick. I was sick myself for four or five days but I’m OK now. It was obviously disappointing to get caught yesterday but the peloton was chasing hard towards the end and the co-operation stopped.
I’m glad the sun’s out again, but I’m not so sure about the weather for the last three days . . .
In the coolness stakes, it’s hard to call, we’re suckers for Pippo but Pirazzi in the Montagna jersey is looking icy to us.
And Hondo – well, it would never do for Danilo to look tired, dirty or anything but glacial.
Luxury coaches have changed the pre-race dynamic at the Grand Tours, most riders leave it late before braving the fans to head for the sign on – and even then, many return to the air-conned comfort of the bus before heading for the start.
But BMC sprinter and Cadel’s team mate, Englishman Adam Blythe wants some fresh air and has time to chat to us – he’s looking much skinnier than he did when we last saw him back at the Six Day Nights of Zurich; ‘I’m really tired now, it’s been a very, very hard race – that’s why I’m so skinny! And I was sick, but everyone has been sick on this race . . .
His boss, ‘Cuddles’ – but in fairness to Mr. Evans, he’s much less spikey, these days – pedals by, looking relaxed.
Time to go; we don’t want to have the race motor bikes hassling us because the race is getting too close to us. ‘Hey!’ comes the shout from the QuickStep van, it’s Aldis, Cav’s personal soigneur, we’re friends from when he used to work at the six days; ‘you need to start drinking Diet Coke, fat boy !’
I’ll spare you my reply to that one . . .
The percorso is a tough one to wax lyrical about in the early part – pan flat, arrow straight and with just little knots of fans at the roundabouts and flyovers which punctuate it. Or, as the Giro communiqué would have it; ‘Caravaggio to Vicenza, 214 km.
The stage is mostly flat, except for a testing ramp inside the final 25 kilometres (Crosera, 5.3 km at 6.8%), with a technical descent to the finish line in central Vicenza.’ We have a notion that it’s possible Cav might just get over it . . .
It’s Cavriana with 129 K to go before we leave behind the featureless fields and industrial estates and get back into nice green countryside with vineyards and old, old buildings.
And there’s Aldis at the feed; ‘you’ve hurt my feelings,’ I tell him – ‘I need a race cap to cheer me up!’ But the bag with 50 in it is in another team car – damn!
We ask how the team is; ‘when we came here, there wasn’t a lot of expectation and not much morale, just a group of riders – but when Cav started to win, they’ve come together and now they all ride until they drop, for him.’
For the photo I ask for four fingers for Cav’s four wins; ‘No! we give you five – he wins today, too!’ Yes, we think it’s just possible . .
Time for a look at the Gazzetta; whilst we cruise the flat roads – built up again with less greenery and few photo opportunities. ‘Attacco’ it says over the picture of Scarponi; but ‘Risposta’ is the caption above Nibali as he edges closer to Brescia and glory.
One of my favourite features in the Gazzetta is ‘le Pagella,’ the report card – Intxausti gets 8.5/10 for his win and Scarponi 8 for his attack – but Santambrogio gets 4.5 for his ‘Giornata no’ (the Italian equivalent of the French ‘jour sans’ – literally a ‘day without.’) dropping two minutes and more on the other contenders.
Onwards through one ‘Any Town Italia’ after another with the odd green bit in between. It’d be an easy day to crash on – long straights, a big bunch and attention wandering . .
Lonigo, 50 K to go and the church is too beautiful not to photograph. Inside 35 K the nature of the percorso changes dramatically, narrowing, twisting and climbing through the vineyards into the foothills.
The climb comes suddenly – it’s tough and tough enough, but we still think Cav can make it over – there are recovery flats between the ramps. The top is the top – but there has to be a bar? There it is – but they’ve run out of beer!
Never mind, the TV works. We watch the break shatter on the climb but miss out on Visconti’s ‘dig.’
It’s picture time; Visconti, Chavez, Pippo, Cav – and a wasted looking big Luke Durbridge, GreenEdge’s double Aussie champion. He was in the break and one look at his face tells you how hard he’s been trying. We sprint back to the bar to watch Visconti versus The Rest of the World.
He takes the risks, he drives hard, he holds on; to the delight of my new amici in the bar. Beautiful – and that’s four stages for Movistar, a brilliant Giro for the Spanish team. Cav doesn’t make it back to contest the sprint but he’s still in rossa.
The slow motion shots of Nibali in the savagely fast closing kilometres show a man looking like he’s on a club run. Can he be beaten?
With every day passing it seems less likely. Chronoscalata tomorrow – we’re looking forward to that one.