The startlist has come together for tomorrow's Giro dell'Emilia, and everything is shaping up for one hell of a race.
Weather? 78 and sunny.
TV coverage? Yes. RAI Sport 2 is planning live feeds from 14.20 local time (which is 2.20, which translates into something like 5.20am Pacific). Whatever, there's video, a big step up after last year's disappointment. Presumably some kind soul will turn that TV into links we can actually watch.
What's the race really all about? It's some climby goodness, with four notable humps between km 60 and 140:
- CÀ BORTOLANI - Lunghezza km 11,5 - Pendenza media 5-7%
- ACQUA CERELIA - Lunghezza km 2,0 - Pendenza media 3-4%
- SELLA DELLA CROCE - Lunghezza km 0,8 - Pendenza media 12-14%
- BADOLO - Lunghezza km 6,0 - Pendenza media 5-6%
- SAN LUCA - Lunghezza km 2,1 - Pendenza media 10% - max 18%
Yep, that's the
picturesque achingly beautiful porticato leading up to the Madonna di San Luca Sanctuary at the top of the climb.
The riders don't actually ride in the arcade -- the 666 arches sheltering pilgrims making their way to the 15 chapels lining the hill, or to the Madonna itself. The race runs under an occasional arch and mostly on the road that parallels the arcade. Either way, it's a visual feast, finishing in the equally lovely piazza up above, and with an 18% max the San Luca climb separates the wheat from the chaff pretty decisively, once the battle is truly joined. Usually they pass 2-3 times in relative tranquility before it's Business Time.
The race organization put out an awesome video, complete with the Digital Santuario, because... they can, I guess:
Giro dell'Emilia Granarolo 2012: presentazione ufficiale (via Oradelciclismo)
As for who...?
- Carlos Betancur, the defending champ, is going reasonably well these days, though finishing a minute back in the Coppa Sabatini maybe suggests he's running out of gas. His teammate Danilo DiLuca is running about at the same level. So look for one of those two, along with a Masciarelli, for the A&S game plan.
- Vincenzo Nibali, ol' Small Motor, is always a person of interest, but in truth he hasn't done much lately, and co-star Ivan Basso has been even worse. Look for their last run as teammates at de Gaas to go out quietly.
- Over at Lampre, Italy's other big outfit, Damiano Cunego (Italian for "pyrite") leads a squad that has some serious hope... Przemyslaw Niemiec! OK, Niemiec seems to have hit the wall after the Vuelta, and Cunego was decent in Lombardia. Seems like old times. Cunego's best effort in the past was fifth in 2006, before he scalded the roads of Lombardia for his second monument win. With the Falling Leaves behind him, maybe he gives it a real go this time.
- Sky will be leaning on the Dynamic Scandic Duo of Thomas Lofkvist and Lars-Petter Nordhaug. Lofkvist lost a rather awesome three-way duel here in 2009 with Gesink and Fuglsang, but he's always in the picture someplace. Nordhaug has shown a bit more in recent weeks, so expect at least one silverback to make a play. Having two or more cards to play is yet again to Sky's advantage. So far they only have five riders listed at CyclingFever. Paging Rigoberto Uran!
- Movistar are actually my pick for most likely team to storm the San Luca, with still-fresh Nairo Quintana and Giovanni Visconti supported by Vasil Kiryienka, Vlad Karpets and Marzio Bruseghin. Visconti, for all his form, has actually never done well in this race, with 14th several years ago as his best effort. But it'd be silly to forget him completely, and at worst he can help set up any final moves.
- Fabio Duarte of the Colombia - Coldeportes squad is coming off a win in the vaguely similar Coppa Sabatini. With John Atapuma (best name in cycling) and a bunch of other guys who I'm sure can climb without looking up anything more than their nationality, I'd consider Duarte a threat, and Atapuma if the peloton gets too focused on Duarte.
- Astana are ready to cap off a season that saw them rise back into the top ten (Podium Cafe World Rankings and CQ have them 10th). Climby classics are where they've done best, with wins in Amstel and Liege by two guys who... aren't on the startlist. Tiralongo is the nominal leader, but Kessiakoff has been excellent lately and Kiserlovsky... if this weren't his first start since July I'd probably be talking him up for the podium.
- Thomas Voeckler. That's all. Do French riders ever win anything in Italy? Since Fignon's Giro win, at least?
- After that, it's the usual suspects, an avalanche of vowels and names that sound like gelato flavors: Paolini, Pozzovivo, Sella, Pellizotti (sigh), and so forth. Oh and
Chechu RubieraMiguel Angel Rubiano. More vowels.