“CAAAAAAPTAIN!......TRINACRIA!!!...” That’s probably what the sailor must have screamed, when he spotted the island. Actually not so, but that’s how we like to imagine that landing went. Or rather, those landings: Phoenicians, Pelasgians, Minoans, Greeks, Carthaginians, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Swabians, French, Aragonese, Spanish, Austrians. Just Klingons and Meganoids are missing. So much so, that if you ask an indigenous old man about the “Invasion of Sicily”, he will reply: “quale, Voscienza?!” (“which one, Sir?!”). Ethnicities, languages, religions, gastronomies, cultures have been alternating for centuries, enriching this already prosperous land that should thrust the chest out for pride in its wonders and instead is more likely to blush with shame.
People landing in Sicily today are different, they move around in a long caravan, not a fleet, people of the Giro d'Italia don't arrive in Greek triremes or Viking knarrs, they ride bicycles, they don't travel on wood, but on carbon. They are here to measure themselves in this stage that crosses three provinces and three millennia of History, from the Sicani to the European Union. This stage starts in Monreale, where the Christ reminds us of something we struggle to clearly identify, when he spreads his arms from the apse of the Cathedral, either to embrace the peloton or to unleash it: "Go and ride!". Digested the tzigane potboiler, the real Giro d'Italia can begin , the real Giro d'Italia can begin.
The Shark and the Windmill Man are spying on each other, Frooll is already looking forward to the Etna stage and relies on catenaccio and man-to-man defense, SuperPeto still licks his Gyor's wounds, Andersen is scared of seeing his fairy tale come to an end, Campenaerts doesn't want his last lap's bell to ring. The young Evenepoel has a talent of pure gold, like the one that fills the decorative bands of the columns of the Duomo and that some electric-chair worth tourist tries to remove with a pocketknife. He doesn't want to suffer the same fate, he dreams of being the troll but fears the retaliation of the grizzled buccaneers instead. Ciccone is all envy, he's like a horse champing at the bit, but must obey team orders. Still, among crossing glances and widespread omertà, the Giro arrives to Campofelice. While Dumoulin, Bardet, and Démare - among others - pass by, the cameras frame a pastry shop whose name we cannot recall and which will conventionally be called #notonlycannoli: walls of cassatiedde, uphill time trials of cuciddati, madisons between pistachios and almonds, orgasms of frutta martorana and the Viennese! ... A nonexisting pastry in Austria, this delicious delicacy owes its name to the Habsburgs. It gives the morning breakfast a dimension between the esoteric and the apotropaic, trying to exorcise the traditional strawberry granita with freshly whipped cream (some criminals would like it to be appointed as a heritage of humanity, when it should be banned because of its highly addictive power). E i francesi che si incazzano” (“and the French get het up”) as Paolo Conte (a famous italian singer), because the biggest pastry school in the world doesn't accept embassies from a continent that measures ice cream in balls instead of flavours – which it sounds a lot like that time the Brits refused to play in the World Cup, believing that the masters should never lower themselves to the students' level.
Immediately after Vicari, Majka kicks off uphill, Lopez chasing him and allowing the comeback of Fuglsang who immediately gets in his tow. Ciccone, unleashed by Nibali, Evenepoel, who has something to prove, plus an assortment of tired racers, follow them. The big names let them go, the stage is long. In Lercara Friddi the Polish is the first to clear the hill and takes the improvised posse with him. When the road starts descending, the most difficult thing is not to be distracted by the landscape, there is a race to think about and a mini-breakaway tentative to catch. In Castel Termini the group has the fugitives now in sight and the gap is closing. Evenepoel attacks again, only Fuglsang, Majka and Lopez can keep his wheel.
Shortly they will be climbing towards the Valle dei Templi, a Hellenic heritage that leads directly to those Mediterranean people who invented sport, and inspired the idea that sport could be a compromise between the Art of War and Dance, a noble though profane discipline, which could display values and virtues through elegant technical gestures (this is the reason why neither battles were fought nor shows were staged during the Olympics: they were not needed!). Here Evenepoel decides that the he likes everybody's company, but he has other things to do up there, says goodbye to everyone and leaves. Dancing on the pedals, tick-tock, tick-tock, jumping from one side of the bike to the other, perpendicular to the ground like milestone, climbing like a chamois. In the meantime, the group behind him is harassed by the peloton that stretches while chasing Evenepoel, trying to suck sand back through his hourglass. Formolo is left behind, Froome limps, Nibali holds on and picks up Ciccone on the way. The Belgian loses a good part of his lead - which in the end will amount to just half an hourglass on Nibali, who grabs back the pink jersey for a few grains - but crosses the finish line by spreading his arms in the most iconic solo finish: this is what the Christ Pantocrator reminded us of!
Evenepoel wanted a fight today, had they given him a cyclocross bike, he would have easily climbed Scala dei Turchi and sent a postcard to Van der Poel. He spent a lot and earned relatively little, plus the mockery of having missed the pink jersey for as little as three tenths. Did he do the right thing? Or was he wrong? Who knows! The Sicilian tradition comes to our help, here the elderly use to recite an old saying: “Cu mancia fa muddichi” (“Who eats makes crumbs). And Remco was very hungry today...
This jersey will be signed by the stage winner and auctioned for charity at the end of the Senzagiro. Design curated by Fergus Niland, Creative Director of Santini Cycling Wear, based on a design by the illustrator Osvaldo Casanova.