There’s a tendency to oversimplify when talking about time. These are not the twenty four hours and some change that they want us to believe in. It’s all a bit more complicated or at least more varied, certainly variable. Especially in these parts of Italy, in this arch of hills that would like to become pre-alpine.. ready to bid goodbye to the plain but never with the strength to do so. The hills that connect Conegliano with Valdobbiadene however never whined about it, they maybe indulged themselves but that is recent history, which those who use the right words call “gentrification”.
Some time ago it wasn’t like this. Yes, time. For centuries, the slog began at sunrise and ended at sunset. And if you didn’t complain about fatigue, you complained about hunger. Hours were bell clangs in the distance that boomed through the ground. Clangs that became rings, little bells which then marked the beginning, end and intervals, once time became anti-solar and factories took over the countryside. The effort was the same but hunger eased. Not thirst, though. That has always stayed the same. Wine did change: yes, it became more gentle, rouged and refined. Glasses changed too, from stocky and thick to long, thin and graceful. They expanded to the point of marking the rhythm of our days with a new temporal dimension, that of a goto (glass), a prosecco or a spriss, new rewards for an escape from work.
It is in drinking, or maybe in making others drink, that these hills have found new life, have started being crossed again, after risking being forgotten. They have been repopulated faces. Everyday faces and transitory faces, often seen pedaling since the Veneti, despite their SUVs and fancy cars, did not forget their bicycles. And “amen” if a lot of the time they have to cost like an expensive car to be accepted in a group. “Because in life there are rules and fuck ups and many times you can’t tell the difference” according to Bepo, speaking the local dialect. He has known these hills forever and the osterie (local bars) even better. “Even drinking has its rules. It’s all a question of rhythm: a glass every half hour, and two of water in between. But only because I’m old, otherwise wine will make me dizzy”.
Because time is just that, a question of rhythm. This is known well by Richard Carapaz, Miguel Angel Lopez, Davide Formolo and Romain Bardet who never found it in the second time trial of the Giro d’Italia. Chris Frome knows it well, having discovered it late. Tom Dumolin knows it well, who found it in the first 6 km. A harmonious cadenza, most of all fast. So fast as to become fleeting while the road climbed towards the summit of the wall of Ca’ del Poggio. This did not use to be its name: Rivon dei Pascoli (“sides of the pastures”). But as prosecco changed, even the place names became more gentle. This should have been the right day to stir up the rankings and punish the avant-garde of the stage 12. It didn’t happen. The legs of the Dutchman got lost among the rows of Glera vines. And that minute and 48 seconds, clocked at the finish line changed into a grin, two eyes lost in the void of a question he doesn’t know the answer to: is it really over?
Different look and different grin, now on Maximilian Schachmann. In the hills of the Romagna he managed to throw off the veil of annoyance and disappointment of the first few days. He turned it into a smile in the hills of the Marca (Treviso area). The German never lost the rhythm, rather he cranked it up one stretch after another, until the most decisive one, gears in Rohan Dennis’ face. The Australian had waited for hours, sitting on the little seat, looking like somebody who could pull it off easily. Surely not everybody can pedal for 33.7 km, mostly looking upwards, averaging 48 km/hr. On the screen he had seen the plus sign in front of any rival at every split time.
Photocells don’t lie, but sometimes they deceive, especially since they have no imagination. And the descent of Schachmann down from S. Stefano is the stuff of imagination. It was there that the 15 sec separating him from Dennis evaporated, zeroed. Sixty six hundredths of a second, just the time needed to wipe the smile from the rider of team Ineos. The towel thrown to the ground, words that seemed ready to explode but instead went off with him to the team caravan.
Vincenzo Nibali instead was full of words, 13th at the finish line with a lag of 1 min 18 sec, but in front of almost all of the top-tiered men. “It could have gone better but it didn’t go badly, on the contrary”. Even Damiano Caruso, eighth @ 55”, said: “Had they told me at the start I would not have believed it”. Neither did Tim Wallens believe what the ammiraglia (team follow car) was telling him, who, pedaling in the pink jersey among the hills of the little golden bubbles, started at some point to believe in the venture. Not in a victory, for sure, but in a great outcome, why yes. His was a syncopated dance, at a 5/4 rhythm. Five like the seconds gained on Dennis in the third split time during the push towards Guia (better than him was only Carlos Alberto Betancur who, in this Giro, went back to being what he hasn’t been in a while: the racer). And a couple more seconds gnawed back on top of the S. Stefano hill, four from the finish line. It could have been a masterpiece but then, 3 badly taken curves, two of which were just wrong and a straight trajectory at the last turn downhill. A heavy loss, saddling him with 1min 45 sec but a bad fall avoided and the pink jersey still on his shoulders with 27 sec. A destiny to share with the “super Ganassa”. Because even Remco Evenepoel had to deal with the same straight stretch, the same scare. This kid too does not fall but loses his burst and chance to take home his second victory in this Giro. The two Belgians however fared better than Victor Campenaerts. For the record holder of the hour, two record split times but then two flat tires and detour into fields. At S. Pietro Barbozza, swapping one delay for another, he stopped: time for a glass of wine, cheers to the host and on the road again.
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 Jacopo Rosati.