Notes from the Italy Desk

Fotoreporter Sirotti

What... the... hell?

Your Lombardia preview is due here shortly, or even before I get this completed, so there's that. But that only begins to describe the madness that's suddenly overtaken cycling in Italy.

* There's the madness on the women's side, which Sarah has covered here. Brunello Fanini is a piece of work, I'll say that.

* Friday came the announcement that €13 million went missing from the accounts of RCS Sport, and soon after Michele Acquarone, the public face of the Giro d'Italia, went missing from his official duties, placed on suspension along with two other officials. Today RCS announced that its sport division has been folded into the advertising wing, RCS Pubblicità, and a new CEO has taken over from the titular head Flavio Biondi. Raimondo Zanzaboni is now the leading man. It is important to note that Acquarone and Matteo Pastore have only been "provisionally suspended," while an investigation determines what happened to the misappropriated funds. RCS have been careful not to say that the two have done anything wrong. By contrast, CEO Giacomo Catano resigned, and was replaced by Riccardo Taranto.

* Sunday the Giro di Lombardia runs on the Seventh Day for the first time. And Monday is an even holier day -- the rollout of the Giro d'Italia course. The Giro guards its secrets the way a chicken guards its eggs (wandering off at the first site of a snack), and so of course TuttoBici Web has announced the entire course in advance. I could post the whole thing, but that's a bit much by web-content-sharing standards. See it here.

* Some important notes about the Giro are that, of course, it starts in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on a Friday. There are three stages, followed by a transfer to Bari, one of the southernmost points on the heel of the boot. Fortunately there are some flats between there and Taranto, as the race makes its way toward Rome, so the riders won't have too much at stake as they overcome their jet lag. Supposedly the first week includes a stage at Montecassino, scene of some of WWII's most dramatic fighting.

* From there the Giro will pay tribute to Marco Pantani, whose popularity in Italy remains a complete mystery to me. Regardless of the terrible message being sent, the race will take in some of Elefantino's favorite climbs and points of success, meaning some interesting routes in Emilia. No complaints about the roads themselves, that's for sure.

* The final week will be the usual passo-overload, with the Zoncolan on the menu, among the hardest pro peloton climbs in Europe. Here, though, many details remain unrevealed, so Monday should contain some surprises.

* And finally, my mortal lock for victory tomorrow is Diego Ulissi.

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