The first proper road stage of this year's Giro travelled through sunny Abruzzo today, and while it was a quiet day for the most part, it ended with a bang, both literally and figuratively.
There's plenty to catch you up on, and to prepare you for ahead of tomorrow's stage 3, so let's get to it.
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Today in Review
by Anna McEwen
When I said I would write the race review for stage 2 of the Giro, I didn’t know that a virus would decide to attack me on the same day. But I dosed myself up with coffee and paracetamol and settled down to watch 204.1km of racing across the Italian countryside.
The countryside was beautiful, the racing relaxed, and the break was held at a comfortable distance. For 200.4 km nothing really happened, some KOM points were fought for and won, there was an intermediate sprint or two and I allowed myself to be lulled into complacency. This stage was going to be a predictable bunch sprint, which would be won by one of the big favourites. I thought I would end up having to make up the word count describing notable architecture spotted along the way or talking about the deliciousness of the local cuisine.
But I should have known better, not only was this pro cycling but this was the Giro. It is anything but predictable.
As the end neared, the peloton picked up the scent of the finish line and the pace increased. Here comes the inevitable bunch sprint, I thought. But about halfway through the pack a couple of riders came together and went down, just a heart-breaking 0.7 km before the crucial 3km mark. Several riders hit the floor, including Cav, dashing any hopes that he would be a contender that day. Also slowed down in the bottle neck behind the chaos were the big stage favourites and a few of the GC men. Though luckily (or unluckily depending upon your point of view) the race leader was not one of them.
A much-reduced peloton made it to the flame rouge. Jonathan Milan of Bahrain Victorious, hit the front, and no one could get near him. He took the win comfortably.
Geoghegan Hart of INEOS seems to be the main GC contender who has come off worse, losing 19 seconds, falling from 4th to 8thplace.
Evenepoel ‘the man of many jerseys’ keeps the Maglia Rosa and Bianca classification, but concedes the Ciclamino to Milan. The KOM jersey changes from the back of Geoghegan Hart to Lapeira of Ag2R, who fought for mountain points during his long day in the break.
Speedy Stage Preview
Stage 3 – Monday 8th May – Vasto – Melfi – 216km (Medium mountains)
After the Grande Partenza in Abruzzo, the peloton faces a long transfer ahead of their usual pilgrimage from south to north. Beginning on the coast in Vasto and travelling directly south, the first 50km or so are completely flat. The next 120km could all be argued to be ever-so-slightly, if not full-blown false flat, leading to the day’s main challenge – a double climb which will divide the field and may decide the day’s stage winner. Category 3 Valico dei Laghi di Monticchio (6.3km at 6.4% average gradient) is separated from the cat 4 Valico la Croce (2.6km at 7.6km) by almost 5km of gradual descent, and the two climbs could combine to offer a punchy climber with a strong finish or a gritty sprinter the chance of a stage victory, as it’s surely too early for the GC contenders to show their hand.
WHAT TO EXPECT: a drawn-out battle to be in the day’s break. Puncheurs rising to the challenge. A winner from outside the main GC group.
HOT TIP: Mads Pedersen will be keen to be involved after missing out today; Michael Matthews will go well on this type of finish. But Kaden Groves is my pick for the stage - a strong, in-form sprinter who can handle himself well over this type of climbing, I think the win is heading the way of Alpecin-Deceuninck.
Lena's Giro Antipasti
with Lena Koch
I already mentioned the region Abruzzo yesterday and if I want to talk about it, today‘s the day, because the Giro is leaving the region and heading southwards.
I already put some not so sneaky geographic information in the articles of stage 1 and 2. If you haven’t read them yet, what are you waiting for?
Abruzzo was a very isolated region for a very long time because of its two natural geographic borders: the Adriatic Sea and the Apennine mountain chain. This creates several vastly different landscapes in the region. From sandy beaches to steep coastlines, lush hills and seemingly high alpine mountains. We will visit Abruzzo one more time this Giro. But I don’t want to spoil too much about Campo Imperatore. Which besides amazing landscape shots, should give us a great GC battle.
You might be surprised but Abruzzo is still not that popular as a tourism spot, even despite usually having more snow than the alpine regions during the winter.
And then the food. It’s probably worth to visit Abruzzo for that alone. Mare e Monti is the fitting motto. Soups and stews that combine lentils and fish. Also spicy peppers and saffron are used. If you’re a truffle fan you won’t be disappointed either. The local wine is of worldwide renown and only grown in the flatter parts of the region below 500 meters: Montepulciano d‘Abruzzo.
If you ever visit Abruzzo you’ll find magnificent renaissance cities, but Abruzzo was actually a very poor region from the 18th century until the 1970s, with many people leaving the region or Italy altogether. The reason for this decline was the loss of the wool trade which created one of the poorest regions in Italy.
Only strategic investments into the region and finally building motorways that connected the city to Rome turned the tides. Today Abruzzo is the economically strongest region of the Mezzogiorno. Why is Abruzzo counted among the southern Italian regions? Well I’ll tell you that during a different stage.
Italian to go
by Emma Bianchi
Today sees the first 'real' stage after yesterday's opening ITT, with a flat stage for the sprinters to take and the GC riders to sit back on and enjoy. That's what today's idiom is about: Fare la bella vita means to live the good life. The original Italian is more nuanced though: Fare means to do, or even to make, and bella is not only good, it is beautiful, charming, easygoing. If you are facendo la bella vita, you are doing the easy, beautiful life, and you might be seen as living a life of leisure, enjoying fine dining, exotic travel, expensive clothing, and other luxuries. It is used to describe someone who enjoys a hedonistic and affluent lifestyle, free from the stresses and hardships of everyday life, often linked to luxury, pleasure, and indulgence. This idiom is actually commonly used in a negative way, describing people who live without much regards for others.
For our sprinters and breakaway riders today we hope that the GC guys are going to do just that: pay them little to zero regard, without the negative connotation of course. The GC riders can enjoy the luxury of not having to fight just yet, they can hopefully even take a look at the gorgeous landscape they are riding through. If it is particularly beautiful, they might exclaim today's curse: Porca vacca! It is used to express surprise, similar to its English equivalent 'Holy cow!'. That surprise can either be negative, out of frustration and anger, or positive, if you can’t believe your own two eyes. My italian friend Nicholas told me: 'Take cars for example: You can say it either when you have hit your car and there is some damage, or when you see a really nice Ferrari driving by.' The funny part though is that porca doesn't actually translate to 'holy' - it literally means 'pig'. So what you are shouting out loud is 'pig cow!', and I personally couldn't stay angry after that.
For our bicycle, we are continuing with building the wheels today. The next thing we need is a cerchio - a rim. Whether it is a cerchio in carbonio, a carbon rim, or a cerchio in alluminio, an alloy rim, is not important for the time being, you can pick that for yourselves. Rims provide the necessary support for the tire, keeping it in place and preventing it from slipping off. A rim is also like the backbone of the wheel and helps to distribute the weight of the rider and the bicycle evenly. I could go into much more detail here, rims are their whole own science and we could probably all talk for hours about the design, benefits and marginal gains of certain rim models. For our bike though, we will simply take your standard starter rim. And since we need two of them, that makes due cerchi.
Ciao and until tomorrow!
Canzone dell'Amore Infinito
curated by Stine 'DJ Momo' Agerbæk
6: Stage 2: Johnny Johnny & the Johnny’s + Joe Bodie - Big Boy
Well, given the winner of today and the intended bonus track (stay tuned for that one) I went into this recap with a sure-fire plan. But in a move almost as cruel and unforeseen as that crash-causing swerve that put the entire Trek squad out of contention for today, Shonen Knife’s album Rock Animals and its 'Johnny Johnny Johnny’ turns out NOT to be on Spotify…
So instead you get an improvised and still extremely topical shout out to today’s winner and my 2nd favourite member of the Italian 4k team. It’s also a different insight into my personal music taste in the form of this brand new, sun-drenched and danceable Argentine/Canadian garage-pop track.
7: Stage 2: The 184.108.40.206’s - I’m Blue
Bonus Track: I had a plan. A great plan even. The plan included a double whammy of Japanese guitar girl-group brilliance, but alas. Spotify ran that plan off the road.
But that will not deter me from throwing in this power-pop earworm as a bonus track to celebrate both the focal point of today’s stage until the final 5k AND to commemorate the confusion that was the whole Maglia Azzurra situation before today’s stage. So while Tao isn’t sad (see yesterday’s bulletin) he definitely started this day being blue… And cue music!
(If you wanna check out the pop-punk brilliance that is the originally intended Shonen Knife track, you can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4DUdjE5Bjc&ab_channel=TheUsed1995)
The Watch Zone
Young Rider watch: youngest rider of this year's Giro Matthew Riccitello of Israel-Premier Tech finished safely in the bunch, losing a few seconds but not as many as some as a result of the hold-up following the crash, officially awarded place 111, +31 seconds behind the winner.
EF watch: how did the writebikerepeat sponsored team fare on the first 'proper' stage of the Giro? Here are the official results from FirstCycling:
In a reversal of fortune, Stefan de Bod finished last from the team today, but only lost 34 seconds overall, while the majority of his teammates came in with the +19 second group. One rider, Alexander Cepeda, finished with the lead group - nice one!
Any other business?
Following up on yesterday's Tao Geoghegan Hart sadness, in a strange twist of fate, the man himself actually ended up in the blue mountains jersey, after a farcical mix-up with Brandon McNulty.
After all, who could be sad with these team mates around them?