Friday, May 11, 2018

Giro d'Italia Stage 6 Caltinessetta-Etna WE ARE THERE!

We didn't get to Sortino on Tuesday for a variety of reasons, which made us even more determined to see Thursday's first big stage.
We rented a car for the day and blasted off around 9 AM after a stop to pick up some panini from our local alimentari. Grazie Corrado!

We joined La Corsa Rosa with about 50 kms to go until the finish line atop Mt. Etna. Unless you drove up to the checkpoint before 7 AM or had race credentials, you were stopped about 5 kms before the finish line. No worries, we had our backpack so we parked the car in a spot off the road and started walking. At the checkpoint the road reared up to what seemed like 15% on a very irregular climb. We continued to around 400 meters-to-go where the fences made it tough going. They weren't letting folks in the road so we decided to turn around and head back to a steeper place to await the race.

Oh, and to have some lunch! Since we were prepared with panini, a great ristorante option appeared about 2 kms from the finish line. 15 euros for antipasto, primo, secondo, vino e acqua! Count us in!

Antipasto - a slice of mortadella, some caponata, fresh pecorino cheese and a baked melanzane/prosciutto plate got us started. Then came the first plate - a baked pasta with meat and cheese that yours truly couldn't finish! The secondo was a roast pork very much like porchetta. Mmmm! The house vino rosso wasn't bad either.

We couldn't resist dolci, a pistacchio cake. They had the race going on a big screen TV in the ristorante so it was easy to keep track of the race. This is why race-watching in Italy is so great! Real civilization. But now it was time to see what we came for...

We walked back (much easier, but it did make the quads hurt much more than coasting down on a bike) down to just before the 3 km marker where there were some nasty-looking switchbacks. Soon enough we started to hear about Chaves and Ciccone attacking and getting away. Didn't take long for Chaves to come zooming past as you can see above. He's going fast enough the background is blurry!

The rest chased as you can see above. This was a tough spot on this climb.

You either walked up here or rode a bike though it did seem they let plenty of folks on motor scooters through the road block, quite likely because there was space to park them vs automobiles. As you can see the road was fenced off most of the way up.

We began to make our way down as the pack was very strung out after the contenders went past. Now we saw what you don't see on TV..the guys who have either already done their work for the day or their assignment was just to get the finish before the cutoff time.

This is when Larry laughs when he thinks of all the times he's heard club-level racing cyclists or just enthusiasts act like "they coulda won the Giro if they'd only had the time" Every one of the guys at the Giro is good enough to be a pro and get a decent paycheck. Thousands of great riders never get this far. Even the last one on the road today could wipe the floor with every single one who has made that comment over the decades!

In some ways we think the gregari have a tougher job than the stars. Sure the stars have all the pressure to deliver after their teammates bust their a__ all day to put them in position to win. But the star gives his all only at the end...and then he's done. Guys like Luis Leon Sanchez or Vasil Kiryienka killed themselves today for their leaders, but when they could give no more, they STILL had to keep riding to the finish and make sure they didn't get eliminated. You don't get to see how dead these guys look on TV...but they get up the next day and do it all again.

The Sicily stages were a great contrast to the earlier Israel "racing". Velonews' Andrew Hood has a great piece - read it by clicking HERE.

Larry's off to Piedmont Cycling Resort on Monday, have you reserved your place yet?

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