If you were to see the stage all the way round, from the finish line to the start, you could spot already all the signs. This morning Dario Cataldo was the first rider out of his team bus, he went to sign in by himself, he looked around, laid his bike and had a read of the newspaper enjoying a coffee, sitting in one of the small tables in the starting Village. He stared for quite a while the backlit cathedral of Mileto with that sort of intricate work on its top from which a glimpse of the sky is visible. «I would like to draw it, but churches are not my best» Dario sketches out faces, eyes, profiles, portraits. «During the night, when I have difficulties in falling asleep, all I need is a sketch book, a pencil, a memory».
He should also be able to portrait Nibali by heart as in those days who’s able to spot Nibali is very lucky, his team bus is besieged and he wouldn’t be able to enjoy a coffee with his friends at the Village. «It wouldn’t be an usual black and white sketch, Vincenzo is all in pink those days», Cataldo smiles. He took the stage route map and fixed it on his bike like an artist would do, making sure the edges are even and clearing air bubbles with his nails. «Can you see this point here? Right before the 30th kilometre. Here we will be leaving the Tirreno coastline and we will start going North. In 3 stages we will be in my hometown, the Abruzzo».
The Giro is an endless loop. A parade full of disasters, landslides, earthquakes, uneven roads, bridges falling down like on a domino game, a poor Country fallen victim of its stunning beauty which is unbearable to cope with, to defend, maybe even to hold up with it. The Giro passes by and leaves behind the nostalgia of that exaggeration. Over the intricate shape of the church pediment the sky of May is made up of a violent blue. Cataldo is one of those riders that return. Cycling has brought him around the world, amid international flights and retreats in the mountains, luxury hotel halls and lonely chalets, classic rides, and stage races – he is living his life as a domestique with the mind of a star. That spot he pointed on the map it is not a place like others – it is called bivio Sirene. It is a crossroads that can change the history – here there is the path you are about to leave; there you find the path you choose. Before we could talk about the Sirene (mermaids), a loud sound brought us back to the Stage about to start. Among all those riders moving fast and in crowds there had to be Nibali, all dressed in pink and we wonder if he thought about the first time he crossed the “Stretto”, and the father of his friend Carmelino Materia was there to say goodbye and something like «so you two are now leaving to go racing in Italy… well, be careful!». For the first time Nibali understood what it means to live in an island and to leave it every single time.
And then there is the Giro that brings you back there. The stage was on, always too soon, and suddenly you race with one only horizon in front of you – that white line beyond the 223 kilometres, three KOMs and a downhill finish at the Montescuro crossing. First breakaway attempts at the start like they were waiting anything but that. We are stopping at a gas station when Radio-Tour tells that one rider is already on the breakaway, all alone. «Rider number one-six-two, Cataldo». They thought it was too early, a rider on his own for two-hundred kilometres? Where is he thinking to go? «Rider number one-six-two has now taken a lead at the 29th kilometre, Strada Statale 18, close to the Bivio Sirene». He said that. You always must talk to riders before they start, they would tell you everything. He told us he would do that and he did that at the exact place he was pointing on his map. He looked at the seaside, the same one in which Ulysses met Nausicaa, the King’s daughter. It is not only a legend – what historians and archaeologists have reconstructed leaves no doubt about the fact that this is the land of the Feaci. The hero Ulysses was thrown into the steep rocks of Capo Vaticano from where he looked for a safer landing – he found it on this flat seaside and in Nausicaa’s eyes. The rider with the number 162 had fixed all of this in his artist eyes and then with his domestique legs he went for it. 190 kilometres to the finish line and he never looked back.
Like Ulysses wanted to go back to his Itaca after years spent in the war and as much spent to make his way back, Cataldo hoped that the other riders would not chase him. The peloton wasted time, weakened by the summer heat – Nibali in his pink jersey had a laugh with Sagan and then had a munch with Viviani, he always stayed in the leading position with Ciccone keeping an eye on him. Cataldo was battling his odyssey in the front, all alone, the first two KOMs accompanied by few cheers and the team car telling him his advantage lowered from 9 minutes to 5 something. Then the last climb, 1600 metres of the Valico di Montescuro where, along the first turn, a grandma with her nephew were marking the time singing an old nursery rhyme: Gaddinedda zzoppa zzoppa quanti pinni tiàni ‘ncoppa e ‘nda tiàgnu vintiquattru una, dui, tri e quattro. They were waiting for the gruppetto, Cataldo alone was not enough. They were waiting for the whole race, not a single rider. He climbed with almost a minute ahead of the others, he approached the last descending as there was salvation at the bottom of it – or maybe his home. When we saw him appearing still on his own as at the beginning of this stage, the peloton behind him was coming fast and faster, big, and bigger. The sound of the chase was almost scary. Cataldo arrived stretching his arms, alone, twelve seconds before the rest of the peloton. And here is how you return.
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 2Bros creative.