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Giro di PEZ: The Road To Assisi
Roadside St.10: 'The Rough Guide' isn't kind to Civitavecchia, they reckon the only reason to visit is if you're catching a ferry - oh well. We've been here before, on the way back from Sardinia in 2007 - we had to forced march from the docks to the car hire office...let's take a closer look at yet another amazing stage - this time, to Assisi!

Dave moaned all the way, I had to remind him of what we used to say in the Foreign Legion; 'march or die!'

Our digs last night were a step down from the previous night's luxury, but clean and there was a pizza place next door.

The promenade in Civitavecchia is actually nice - bright, clean with cafes aplenty.

One of them, the Gran Caffe, is owned by ex-pro, Roberto Petito.

Pictures of the man with Lance and Cipo adorn the walls - cool.

There's razzamataz aplenty before a Giro stage - the caravan lines up, the disco pumps and the PR girls knock your eyes out.

Gazzetta time: Ventoso on 8/10 - we'd have given 9 - Felline gets 8 but Ryder only gets 5.

The Gazzetta doesn't like the 'bigs' getting involved in sprint madness - and they enquire if Ryder has forgotten what happened to Phinney at Horsens ?

The bus park isn't close to the sign on, so the riders leave it late - whistles blow, arms get waved and there's a cascade of big names; Caruso, Visconti, Bruz, Hunter, Flecha, Rubiano, Goss, Cav, Basso, Scarponi, Ferrari, Rodriguez, . . . .

Pippo appears - in Club Tropicana mode - he's out after yesterday's crash, but still smiling, despite the bandage on his wrist.

And there's Ryder - everyone wants a piece of rosa as he smiles his way through the foto ops.

And some, like yesterday's break hero Bulgac, have time for loved ones.

'Time to go,' says Dave - he's the transport man, so no arguing.

Back between the wars, D.H. Lawrence the writer described the seaside around Civitavecchia as; 'a peculiarly forlorn coast.'

Words would fail him now; refineries, shipyards, power stations - grim.

But in an ancient era this was the land of the Etruscans, a sophisticated culture, before the time of the Romans.

Soon we head inland and the road begins to rise and twist - the break will go here, for sure.

An ancient aqueduct runs alongside the road; olive groves and vineyards are much easier on the eye than power lines and advertising signs.

It plateaus, long straights - not so good for the break.

There are knots of spectators here and there - but we enjoy the quiet, the sun, the greenery.

The general trend is ever upwards as we wind through Vitriol and Viterbo, tailing the Sky car on their way to the feed.

Past Viterbo the tar ducks and weaves it's way through the trees - perfect breakaway territory, albeit some of the surfaces aren't so clever.

There are no GPM points on offer, today - Rubiano can hide in the peloton.

Despite the lack of mountain points, this is no flat stage - with 100 K to go the road drags and drags - Theo Bos is @ 1hr 42' 40" on GC but we have a feeling that today he'll crack the two hour barrier.

And that's before half way in the Giro and with two 4* and three 5* stages still to come.

Our guess is that a few of the sprinters will say; 'arrivederci' after stage 13.

Sleepy hill top towns, solitary poplars, beautiful farmsteads - we could be working for the Italian tourist board, today.

Al updates us; 'five up the road, Keizer (again) ahead of Minguez, Brдndle, Failli and

We've just stopped for a coffee and glance at the TV to see the farm we just photographed - oops !

Best push on, too much of that laid back vibe.

With 50 to go the tar heads for the skyline - there will be riders sliding out of the back up here.

We reckon it will be Katusha doing the damage, today.

The finish is made for Rodriguez and with the bonuses he can take the jersey.

But as Dave says, it's not a percorso where you can hide; ups, downs on poor surfaces, twists, turns - heavy, heavy roads.

Vineyards, olive groves, bird song, a soft breeze - we wish we were on our bikes.

Into the last 10 K, it's flat, fast - but there's a sting in this tail.

And with five to go, there it is, Assisi.

High on the skyline, towers reaching for Heaven in honour of Saint Francis.

Italy's most important saint, born here in 1182, he could even communicate with the beasts of the field.

We establish PEZ base camp with around 3200 metres to go, on the first 'hump' - there's no way we'd get parked on the finish climb.

It isn't as bomb damaged as we thought, with a big peloton blasting towards us.

A GreenEdge leads, with the 'bigs' right behind, Rodriguez, Hesjedal, Scarponi, Kreuziger . . .

Behind it's blasted, though.

Beppu, Luke Roberts, Alex Rasmussen . . .

Fran Ventoso; he looked happier on the podium, yesterday - and Chicchi, it's not a good day to be a sprinter !

Tuft sheperds Matt Goss, who manages a smile about something.

Eisel comes up alone - unusual, he rarely leaves Cav's side.

Has Cav chucked it ?

No, he's safe with another four Sky's to look after him.

Phinney hangs tough.

And so does Jack Bobridge - he needs to do this to beat GB I'm the Olympic team pursuit.

Stone last is number 66, Euskaltel's, Cabedo.

OK ! - let's get off this hill !

Dave nurses the clutch on the Panda.

The Giro email arrives - 'Rodriguez.'

Sometimes we know what we're talking about.

a domani !


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