CyclingRevealed's Giro Perspective
Tappa 10, May 16th,
Termoli to Peschici, 190 km
This is as far as the race goes south this year. Peschici is another favorite vacation spot for soaking up the sun along the beautiful Adriatic coast. For the hard working peloton there will be no time to enjoy the warm southern comfort of these convivial surroundings. Once the stage is done it's off to the local airport to be jetted across Italy to the west coast. However the next day is at least a rest day.
From the gun the race was fast. It did not take long for a twenty strong break to form and the narrow inland winding and hilly roads were perfect for the escapers. With about 50kms to go probing attacks started to splinter off the front. Meanwhile back in the bunch a hard chase led by Cunego's Lampre squad made little impression on the break. One rider with big ambitions today was Danilo Di Luca who won his first Giro stage in Peschici in 2000. On that day Di Luca won from two other noted climbers which provided a very clear clue as to the difficulty of the roads in this region for today's stage.
With 15km to go Axel Merckx launched a tremendous attack out of the break taking all sorts of risks on the narrow winding roads. Behind him his former break companions were not hanging around, and behind them the Lampre squad were hell bent on getting their man Cunego into a race winning situation. The race speed was incredible.
Most of us would be wondering how, after ten hard stages, the riders could race with such power and aggression. Anyone who has ridden a multi-stage race will tell you that from day three on the body starts to experience chemical changes. By stage seven you are different person to the one that started the race. So long as you started the race healthy and fit and recover well each night your power and endurance increases significantly. Mentally you slip into a cocoon where the race routine (eat, sleep, race) and the race environment becomes your entire private world. The fragility of the human body is such that once into this routine you do not dare break it. This is why Grand Tour ‘rest days' are treated as much as possible like a race day. For most riders the days following a long stage race are anti-climatic and often downright depressing as they re-emerge into the normal world.
Merckx getting caught [ Image ©: www.gazzetta.it ]
Merckx was clearly into the zone as he held off all comers until the final heartbreaking 100m when the remnants of the break caught him on the agonizing climb up to the finish. On the line Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) nailed it. Astoundingly the hard chasing peloton were still 3min 24 secs behind the break at the finish.
Pellizotti's stage win [ Image ©: www.gazzetta.it ]
Poor Merckx was devastated after the finish as his face presented a picture of disbelief and total exhaustion. He lost 13 seconds in those last 100m. Meanwhile on the podium a jubilant Pellizotti collected his spoils of war. With his big lead over the bunch he leap-frogged way up the GC table into fourth place (one ahead of Savoldelli).
Ominously the journey after today takes the riders back north and into the mountains. Warm sunny days may soon be replaced by cold, rain and quite possibly snow. Eleven days from now the race will be ascending the Passo Gavia (this years ‘Cima Coppi'). Everyone remembers Andy Hampsten's epic Gavia climb in 1988 when a snow storm ravaged the bunch and Andy etched an epic Giro winning ride into history. Should such conditions repeat themselves this year then the ‘southern comfort' of Peschici will be no more than a cruel and tormenting memory.
Thursday: May 18th , Pontedara, Individual Time Trial, 50kms. Check back for our report on a day that will shake out any remaining pretenders from the real contenders.
Tomorrow: look for our second May Feature article The French Connection: Giro 1960
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