Great enthusiasm at the starting village: Cervia greeted the heroes of the Giro warmly. Many emotions up to this moment, especially yesterday in Cesenatico, important Apennine crossroads town. A day supposed to favor the former pink jersey winner, Vincenzo Nibali, but which instead revealed some of his limitations, as this time the rain and cold were not his allies. Nevertheless the great work of his team allowed him to stay in the race. “Less chatter and nose to the grindstone” was the motto of the late Felice Gimondi, and that’s what fans are waiting for.
The race started again with a new ranking and 190 km to cover from Cervia to Monselice, with Tim Wellens wearing the pink jersey in a section that required care in the final part. The weather was finally pleasant, a prelude to a general and awaited improvement that was also forecast to coincide with the more demanding second half of the race. A very fast start today as well, many are asking how long the riders can keep this rhythm up, as if there were no tomorrow.. but the Giro is now following this pace and it’s unlikely to change.
The sprinters’ uncertainty of holding on in the final harsh bits and the aim of the pink jersey candidates to save energy with the next day’s very important time-trial in mind, suggested that a break was the most likely option but oh my, at what cost! In Alfonsine, after just 33 km of racing we already lost track of the many attempts. Only when the race crossed from the Emilia region into the Veneto, after Polesella and before Rovigo, the “go ahead” came at last and the first 100 km were covered in just 2 hours!
Radio Corsa lists the names in an almost jubilant tone, even for them it wasn’t easy to broadcast with the usual clarity the continuous upheavals: Mathias Frank and Andrea Vendrame of AG2R La Mondiale, Maximilian Schachmann of Bora Hansgrohe, Alessandro De Marchi of CCC, Mattia Cattaneo of Deceuninck-Quick Step, Lawson Craddock of EF, Davide Villella of Movistar and Chad Haga of Sunweb. The breakaway group lifts itself up but the pink jersey team can not leave too much space; among the attackers Max Schachmann is @ 4 min 16 sec from the Belgian who immediately sends his teammates ahead.
First crossing of the finish line in Monselice, a lead of 3 min 10 sec of the first 8 in command who till now have gotten along fabulously. We’re near Padova in the Colli Euganei, a paradise for cyclists and a protected natural area since 1989, when the Regional Park of the Euganean hills was created; hills so dear to the poet Francesco Petrarca, who lived here the last years of his life, editing the collection of his 366 poems telling a history in verse of his life: the Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta, more commonly known as the Canzoniere and one of the foundational texts of Italian literature. The Roverello pass, 269 meters above sea level and 4 km of regular climbing: the breakaway group of 8 all proceed swiftly, it’s easy to predict that those wanting to give it a go will do so in the last 2 km of the harsh section coming up next: the climb of the Grate, where gradients reach 20%.
At the GPM mark, Mathias Frank passes in first position. The compact pink jersey group, at the Passarello pass, pedals 3 min behind. A quick downhill stretch, a few flat kilometers and for the 8 begin the two ramps of Calaone, a narrow steep road where the safety ushers try to contain the enthusiasm of the fans who have congregated here. The US cyclists Haga and Craddock are the first to raise a white flag, while Frank is always leading. In the toughest section De Marchi tries to progressively distance himself; Cattaneo, Villanella, Schachmann and Vendrame respond and transit as in the GPM order, practically following Alessandro de Marchi: “the Red from Buja”. Quick dive towards Este and then towards the finish line in Monselice. Vendrame does not cooperate, he’s hoping that Frank will re-enter the race despite his 15” of delay. Minus 3 for the finish line: by now Frank won’t re-enter and the four are tired of carrying Vendrame on a carriage. The first to break is Vilella, Shachmann responds swiftly; Cattaneo and De Marchi go at it together as soon as the German re-enters on the Bergamo cyclist of Moviestar, this time he hesitates…only a moment, but it’s fatal!
It’s the moment that changes everything, when you realize that the opportunity is lost and you are desperately looking for help that won’t arrive. A final sprint of two, uncertain up to the very finish line, between riders whose best quality is not the fast sprint. De Marchi comes out the winner of this one, Cattaneo is beaten. After the finish line the two share a hug and congratulate each other, even if with opposing states of mind. Vendrame picks up third place after 6”, Vilella and Schachmann complete the first 5 positions. The German cyclist rakes up more than 2 minutes in the general ranking and climbs to fourth place @ 2 min and 12 secs from Wallens, who arrives at the finish line in a group with a delay of 2 min and 10 sec. His gaze is already looking towards the prosecco hills.. where a crucial challenge will be run tomorrow for all those aspiring to the final success.
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 Giulio Castagnaro.