Welcome to the 2013 Giro d'Italia parcours review, PdC-style! In the Age of Acquarone you can count on a terribly entertaining course, hard but not mindlessly so, dripping with historical or other symbolism, and awash in celebrities, buff dudes in goat masks, and the occasional bike race.
This year's Viewer's Guide uses a real-time theme at PdC House, whether to deal with the fact that you accidentally made a non-decision decision to make over your entire house. On the menu, as of three weeks ago, was some light construction work (goodbye bike closet, hello mud room!) and a lot of painting. But the painting was a silent killer -- years of expedient living left the house chock-full-of-crap, and painting means removing everything, temporarily, except once you do that and see what there is, well, we couldn't bring ourselves to just put it back. Yadda yadda yadda... every room of the house, right down to the chicken run, is undergoing major change. [N.b., the chickens do not live indoors.]
This means that every morning is a choice between accepting the fact that people are visiting, turning parts of the house upside-down, making lots of noise and dust and chemical odors, and otherwise disrupting what, in theory, could be a nice morning spent watching a bike race... and watching a bike race. The results have been unequivocal: Tour de Romandie? Heard about it. Giro del Trentino? Saw a replay. Thankfully the project is going great and the contractors vary from good people to long-time friends.
But even if you like your contractor, you have to respect schedules and not disrupt theirs too lightly. So this year's Viewer's Dilemma is, what would the grind of house construction mean to someone trying to watch the 2013 Giro d'Italia? [In reality, nothing, because they're finishing this week. Not that I planned it that way. In my case, I've been known to fall out of a tree and land on my feet on occasion, metaphorically speaking. So there's that.]
Anyway, as demonstrated below, what it could mean during the Giro is a daily choice between dealing with details of construction, or ceding territory to the project, versus being able to watch the race in peace. Thankfully nobody works on Sundays, and will so note in the Guide, but that leaves 18 stages where you might like a little help deciding whether or not to watch. Be it construction inconvenience, family obligations, work, girl/boyfriends, whatever, we all face our own set of responsibilities we hope to shirk when the Giro hits the key stages. Use this guide accordingly, and good luck!
Stage 1: Napoli - Napoli, 130km
Saturday, May 4
Stage Excitement: Napoli is a rather colorful place to kick off the Giro d'Italia, the decrepit heart of troubled Southern Italy. Whatever broad brushstrokes you want to paint Naples with, you can't avoid seeing it as quintessentially Italian. Well, I can't, not after years of my grandfather taking us to the Sorrento Room, where il Vesuvio (and the wait staff) was always smoking. Anyway, the Giro continues to unite its best-known destinations with some lesser ones and some foreign ones as well, so Naples fits the bill nicely.
Overall Significance: First, it's an actual road stage, which means we'll have 24 hours or so of a sprinter in pink, rather than a time-trial guy. Cavendish leads the list of names for what promises to be a pretty riveting points competition. With seven "flat" stages and six "medium mountain" events, Cav and the other fastmen (Bouhanni, Degenkolb, etc) need to make their opening statements.
RAI Value Added: In Napoli, where love is king, when boy meets girl, here's what they saaaaayyyy...
Too American for RAI? Probably, but celebrities and cycling, in Naples? For the opening stage? Yeah, this should go OK.
Unnecessary Aside: Not every dinner was like this in the Fontecchio household growing up. Just when we had guests.
The Call: Saturdays tend not to start too early in the construction world, so it might not involve a hard choice, but if anyone shows up to work, definitely don't hesitate to redirect them to another area of the house. The start of the Giro is a time to celebrate, with minimal distraction.
Stage 2: Ischia - Forio, 17km TTT
Sunday, May 5
Stage Excitement: Team time trials are lovely to watch even when they're not circling a small island in the Bay of Naples. This should be a visual feast, as well as a tough stage with more than enough climbing, particularly in the first 10 minutes, to disrupt some teams. At 17km, the short distance reduces the significance for the GC guys while driving the stage speed up to track levels. Good times!
Overall Significance: Minimal, but I do love the idea of having a prologueish TTT as stage 2. There's something classical about letting stage 1 and the first maglia rosa go to the sprinters, and doing the time trial second means you can quickly create some time gaps on GC as well, rather than carrying a 172-way tie for first.
RAI Value Added: Hm, weather forecast isn't good. Which is a shame, because decamping the RAI show to the beach on a hot, sunny day, while the race is still in the early, giddy phase would have the makings for some real fun. Cloudy and cool? Forecast calls for decreasing bikini shots as the day goes on.
The Call: One rule to this format: let's not pretend that your construction crew is showing up Sunday -- any Sunday. Enjoy the peace and quiet.
Stage 3: Sorrento - Marina di Ascea, 222km
Monday, May 6
Stage Excitement: Substantial. Well, it might take a bit of time to develop, being a tad long (but only the fourth-longest stage of this long, long Giro). But it's also the first medium-mountain event, with some potentially selective climbing and a nosedive to the line. Also, the early rollout is along the achingly beautiful Costa Amalfitano. When it comes to laying the scenic smackdown (on the entire sport, really), the Giro d'Italia doesn't mess around. This should be an entertaining last half-hour.
Overall Significance: Precious few seconds will be available to the stage winner, but that's it. If there are riders looking for a way into the points jersey through the climber route, that could increase the day's intrigue. Cavendish will not be at the head of this sprint. KOM points will be happening for the first time, so someone will put themselves in that jersey.
RAI Value Added: Low. If the course were reversed and it ended by Amalfi, that could have upped the celebrity factor. Beyond that, it's Monday. Glitterati will be sleeping in.
The Call: It'll be interesting, as I'm thinking this thru as I write, to see whether there is a thoroughly inverse relationship between the RAI value and the urgency of the construction crew. Because it's Monday, and unlike the glitterati, those guys will be ready to work. You can record this one for after work hours.
Stage 4: Policastro Bussentino - Serra San Bruno, 246km
Tuesday, May 7
Stage Excitement: Almost nonexistent. Let's face it, not all medium mountain stages are alike. This is a long march to the toe of the boot, mostly flat along the coastline, with a significant 13km climb at the end. But that may actually suppress intrigue -- it's mostly in the 6% range -- not selective enough to interest the GC teams, and too selective to interest the sprinters' teams. Who does that leave? The smaller teams. The French. Also, a breakaway.
Overall Significance: Like I said, not much, unless people fall asleep. Oh, and a second cache of mountain points.
RAI Value Added: For a race to a deep-southern hill town? Nonexistent. A voi!
The Call: I would step out of the way of the work crews and watch this one recorded later on. In fact, it's probably not enough to say this; you need to look ahead and think about when the big stuff can get done. Today? Maybe suggest it's time to prep the walls in the TV room.
Stage 5: Cosenza - Matera, 203km
Wednesday, May 8
Stage Excitement: An intriguing one, this stage starts in Cosenza, an occasional Giro locale, descends down to the lungomare along the sole of the boot, and climbs up to another of southern Italy's quiet, evocative little hill towns. The stage will feature some of Italy's least-known and appreciated places, some of the sleepiest terrain in western Europe. Matera itself looks like a slightly crumbling dreamscape, where the stone houses and main steeple cap the hills like snow on a Cascade volcano. The stage is entirely unpredictable, unlike stage 4. My guess is that the sprinters will have a chance, but the final KM on the Via Dante Alighieri is an uphill false flat, so it won't be for just any sprinter.
Overall Significance: Assuming I am right about Tuesday, then the points battle resumes Wednesday. .
RAI Value Added: Not much. Helicopter shots of beaches? A visit to the Taranto shopping district? The southern turn doesn't provide a lot of obvious material for RAI, but they won't stay still for long.
Unnecessary Aside: Taranto is home to the Tarantella, a staple of Italian folk-dancing which has spawned a million different versions. The Tarantella Napolitana is its own institution, and the source of perhaps the biggest musical stereotype in the universe. Been to an Italian-American wedding? Then you've heard a Tarantella. Probably for the one millionth time. The fact that the Napolitana version is the known one probably has to do with American immigration, which is quite heavy on Neapolitans. Anyway, the really interesting part of this story is that Taranto is the native habitat of a "wolf spider" nicknamed the "tarantula" after its hometown (not to be confused with the fuzzy, colorful Mexican tarantula of more popular lore). The bite of the original Tarantula was known to send Tarantini into paroxysms of madness or delight or who knows what. Anyway, now it's a folk dance.
The Call: If they prepped the walls of the TV room yesterday, today might be a good day to let them do the painting. With a flat stage upcoming, that gives you 48 hours for two coats and some airing out. But do record it and look in later.
Stage 6: Mola di Bari - Margherita di Savoia, 169km
Thursday, May 9
Stage Excitement: This stage is all about Bari and the southeastern coastline. It's board-flat, runs largely in a straight line, and is dead-certain to end in a sprint. Being only 169km and almost certainly the easiest day of the race (depending on weather), it also is a pretty good sign that the race is about to turn nasty.
Overall Significance: By now a sprinter, possibly named Cavendish, should be padding his resume for the points jersey. That guy will NOT want to miss this day. Chances don't come any easier. For the rest, it's time to stay out of trouble.
RAI Value Added: Definite seaside day, which should bring out the best in the RAI crew after a couple days in the church-like silence of the interior.
The Call: I'm not gonna go so far as to say that you could have the floors sanded, but if there's anything in your work plan that's heavy on dust or chemical smells, this is a good day to do it. Watch a youtube clip of the last 3km at work.
Stage 7: Marina di San Salvo - Pescara, 177km
Friday, May 10
Stage Excitement: The stage profile has to be seen to be believed:
Oh, but don't worry, the last 3km on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele are completely flat. This is basically a tour of the Abruzzese coast and nearby interior, trundling up to Giro regulars like Lanciano and Chieti before heading back to the coast. If you don't hear from Danilo DiLuca on this day, it's because he's crashed out or something. My guess is he wins the stage.
Overall Significance: This is one of those stages where virtually anything could happen, except for a bunch finish. The leading contenders would love to see a group of nobodies up the road, but if they don't get the group exactly right, you could see 20 minute gaps with the wrong rider in pink for a long time. The big favorites will almost certainly not want to extend themselves on a day before a ridonkulously long time trial that could decide the entire Giro. Which leaves them two choices: burn their domestiques to a crisp, or let out a huge gap. The stage battle itself should be quite exciting, and the KOM guys won't be asleep either. Best case scenario is that a B-list threat goes for it and throws all the big teams into chaos.
RAI Value Added: Strictly sporting. The first major juncture of the Giro is officially upon us.
The Call: This may be one of those days where you can learn a lot by watching the whole stage. In-race tactics will be at a premium. So with the weekend looming, try and redirect your crew to some smaller items on the punch list. You will want to be watching.
Stage 8: Gabicce Mare - Saltara, 54.8km ITT
Saturday, May 11
Stage Excitement: As high as possible for a time trial. A crono of this length, with some climbing thrown in (to keep the Italians in contention), will sort out the GC in a massive way. The fear is that Bradley Wiggins will destroy the entire race on this day and the rest of the Giro will be functionally canceled. Hope not, and doubt it, but that's how big this stage is. Oh, and it's Le Marche's day in the sun, in this Everyone-but Lazio-and-Umbria-gets-a-stage edition of the Giro.
Overall Significance: I suppose riders can calculate what their maximum losses could be and where they can get those minutes back. My suggestion is, get them before this day, because once Wiggins goes into Pink, Sky will not let anyone away.
RAI Value Added: This stage could mark the first time RAI has to take the UK seriously... very seriously. And just in time, with the start heading to Belfast for 2014. Definitely some material to work with there.
The Call: I'm not sure you want to lock out the crew just yet. Stage 8 is awfully early to go to DEFCON 1 on your people, and since it's a time trial, it's not the most visually impressive event. But do have some towels on hand to stick under the door, for noise purposes.
Stage 9: San Sepolcro - Firenze, 170km
Sunday, May 12
Stage Excitement: Pretty big. Fucked up majorly in the time trial? Well, don't sit around lamenting your losses; get to work on forming the Anti-Sky Movement and leading a breakaway across the Appeninni passes. The Vallombrosa, slightly lower than the preceding climb of the Passo della Consuma, will be a stern test of 6.5km averaging just under 8%. From there the climbs get easier but they keep coming, all the way to Florence, where a 3% grade to the line greets what's left of the head of the race. Even if the contenders are all kept in check, it should be a fantastic stage.
Overall Significance: Chances of anything big happening here aren't very high, but more than zero, with the rest day on the horizon. If the time trial has left anyone feeling desperate enough, they could use this day to soothe their hurt.
RAI Value Added: Big day. It's not that often you get a stage finish in one of the Original Eight cities, apart from Milan (of course) and Chieti (on occasion). It's even less often that the city is both a cultural capital and a cycling homeland, as Firenze -- host to the 2013 World Championships -- most certainly is. With a rest day coming, RAI will leave it all on the stage.
The Call: Sunday, dude. You're watching.
First Rest Day
Monday, May 13
This is a good day to meet our construction crew, since they'll be back at work first thing. The genius behind our current project, apart from Mrs. PdC, is our designer Rebecca. She came over originally for a consultation on paint colors, which turned into a consultation on a lot of details. Then she mentioned how she can do the work herself -- which was a bit of a surprise coming from an interior designer, let a lone a young, petite blond woman with some bling in her style. But her bid was great, and before long she was grinding walls with a vacuum on her back. Apparently some of her friends call her Construction Barbie, which is awesome on several levels. If Stacey were hiring a life coach, Rebecca's phone would ring first.
The other main character is Layne, a family friend of many years, and a man of many talents -- he actually got me to make proper turns in deep powder, right up until my ACL abandoned its post. Layne gently suggested that our bike closet, a separated space resembling a walk-in closet with only an outside door entrance, could be reconnected to the interior space of the house after some bad duplexing work in the 70s. A century of existence is a long time for a house, plenty of time for people to have made some very weird decisions. [People have been known to go digging in their back yard in Seattle and strike... carpet.] Layne owns a Bianchi and knows the value of a good bike space, but in the end I got to make a meaningful choice, so it's all good.
With the off-day, it's a good time to hang out with Layne and Rebecca, go over the myriad details, and marvel at all their excellent work.
Stage 10: Cordenons - Altopiano del Montasio, 167km
Tuesday, May 14
Stage Excitement: Very, very high. The first of the high alpine stages
might be the best, or close enough. [Update: it'll be great fun, but let's not compare it to week three.] This is devilishly steep terrain, on both of the day's major climbs. The Passo Cason de Lanza spends most of its 14km exceeding 10% (not a typo), apart from about a 4km break in the middle where the road descends (reloads). The finishing climb to the Altopiano del Montasio averages over 8% for 11km, and hits a very nasty 20% patch in the middle. See Will's Mountains Overview for more.
Overall Significance: Whoever takes the lead in the time trial will have some defending to do on this stage. It doesn't represent the Giro's most significant climbing, but assuming Wiggins is the big winner on the crono, a stage of this difficulty will be a big chance for someone to put him back on his heels.
RAI Value Added: Refreshed after the day "off" (spent doing the real work of RAI, hosting roundtable talk shows with cyclists and celebrities, the crew are back at it... and all sporting business.
The Call: Sometimes construction crews leave key pieces of equipment at the job site overnight. And sometimes something goes wrong with the equipment. Ideally just a minor problem, one that can be fixed by the time the race is over. Just sayin.
Stage 11: Tarvisio - Vajont, 182km
Wednesday, May 15
Stage Excitement: Strange one today, as the race does some significant climbing en route to the village of Vajont, where the race will commemorate one of the world's bigger dam disasters, the landslide and reservoir spill that claimed 2500 lives at the Vajont Dam. The disaster is retold in fascinating detail at this blog, but the gist of it is this: The Vajont Dam, a high-head structure blocking what we might call a slot canyon, it's so narrow and deep, created a deep reservoir in the valley behind it. But because the soil wasn't very stable, the walls of the canyon around the reservoir collapsed when the water level rose and the soil became saturated. After a couple minor slides, there occurred in 1963 a slide so massive that it splashed all of the water out of the reservoir, up the other embankment where it destroyed a village, and out over the top of the dam, a wave of 250 meters high, that destroyed the valley below. Bizarrely, the dam is still there and working.
Overall Significance: Exhaustion should limit the favorites, and the final climb to the dam is no biggie. Breakaways should have their say.
RAI Value Added: RAI go into somber remembrance mode. 2500 lives isn't far less than September 11th, so one can imagine that this day in 1963 will not be forgotten.
The Call: Now that the table saw is working again, it's probably time to get out of the crew's way, lest they start becoming suspicious.
Stage 12: Longarone - Treviso, 134km
Thursday, May 16
Stage Excitement: This should be the fastest, and possibly least interesting, stage of the Giro. There is some climbing on this net-downhill course, but nobody will be putting in a serious dig, with 30km of flat to the line. The purpose of this stage is for race director Michele Acquarone to show the peloton he cares. There is a long transfer from the finish to tomorrow's start in Busseto, and while transfers are necessary to accommodate all of the awesome elements of a good Giro, at least you can have them at the end of a short race with an early conclusion. Stage will be all about getting it over with.
Overall Significance: No action today, save for the points guys to start padding their resumes.
RAI Value Added: Meh. They have a long transfer too.
The Call: Are you redoing your floors? This calls for sanding -- an incredibly dusty mess under the most professional circumstances -- and finishing, which stinks up the house for 48 hours. This is those 48 hours.
Stage 13: Busseto - Cherasco, 254km
Friday, May 17
Stage Excitement: I should probably not assume Busseto is Italian for Bataan, but it might feel like that to the peloton. Excitement will be limited to this day being over.
Overall Significance: Nil, apart from the points.
RAI Value Added: Does the race pass by Fausto Coppi's house in Tortona? Yes, yes it does. Expect one of Giuliana's grandkids to take part in the post-race roundtable analysis, seated between the politician and the cocktail waitress.
The Call: Everyone has work to do. Same for you. Get after it.
Stage 14: Cervere - Bardonecchia, 168km
Saturday, May 18
Stage Excitement: Pretty massive. The Giro comes to the Italian Alps, and with a nice kicker at the end. It's one thing to follow the nice roads over the high alpine passes, which make for a grand day with big statistics. But it's something else for the Giro to say, "screw it, let's crawl straight up that hillside." Here's what I'm talking about:
My guess is that this is a ski road, which are notoriously steep, because the Jafferau climb is 7.5km at right under 10%. Yikes.
Overall Significance: Obviously some people are gonna get hurt here.
RAI Value Added: The usual: RAI in a ritzy ski area... can't be too terrible.
The Call: If the crew show up too early, have some coffee and croissants ready. it's Saturday, they'll appreciate a little fun, and it should shut them up til the stage is over.
Stage 15: Cesana Torinese - Col du Galibier (FR), 149km
Sunday, May 19
Stage Excitement: Perhaps the most majestic stage of the entire Giro d'Italia, and one of the biggest-ticket items in years: a Mont Cenis-Col du Telegraphe-Col du Galibier treble that takes the Giro to its second-highest point (really?). A profile:
Bienvenue a la France. The fact that it might be the most majestic stage -- and might not -- tells you something about this course.
Overall Significance: Huge. Not sure any elaboration is needed, except to point out that there's a rest day and a couple easier stages ahead.
RAI Value Added: Cycling reverence will be the order of the day. The Galibier is too thick with cycling history, and too unlikely to show up in another Giro anytime soon, for RAI to take their attention off it.
The Call: Happy Sunday. This is your church:
Second Rest Day
Monday, May 20
Catch your breath. This Giro doesn't rest for long.
Stage 16: Valloire (FR) - Ivrea, 238km
Tuesday, May 21
Stage Excitement: Lots of descending, following a climb of Mont Cenis from the easier side, as the Giro heads home to Italy. Breakaway day, for sure.
Overall Significance: KOM battle should be mildly interesting. Also, if there's a climber going for the points jersey, he'll have his day here.
RAI Value Added: Steady on folks. This is about to go big.
The Call: Let them work. You could DVR this one for later, just in case.
Stage 17: Caravaggio - Vicenza, 214km
Wednesday, May 22
Stage Excitement: Sprint stage. Presumably the big boys of the bunch gallops will stick it out for this whole Giro, and if so they'll be raring to go here. Oh, and if one of them is Cavendish, look for the peloton to make him hurt on the climb to Crosara, a 5km little beyotch mostly in the 8-12% range that summits 17km from the line. Could be a fun one. Hopefully the winner is riding Campagnolo, whose factory is near the finish line.
Overall Significance: Just points, obviously. There's noplace left to hide after this.
RAI Value Added: Factory tour?
The Call: Start redirecting the crew away from the TV area. In fact, start redirecting them out of the house entirely.
Stage 18: Mori - Polsa, 20.6km ITT
Thursday, May 23
Stage Excitement: Happy Cronoscalata Day! Yep, it's uphill time trial time, on a course designed to check the time trial box without completely eliminating all the Italians. Still, it's more of a power climb:
One 10% ramp isn't going to propel Pozzovivo back into contention.
Overall Significance: Pretty big, though at 20km it shouldn't have quite the time gaps as the earlier crono. Or the next two days.
RAI Value Added: RAI will be in business mode until further notice. There's a Giro to be won.
The Call: So here's my master plan. Construction crews, even when they're your friends, don't like too many bumps in their schedule. It's an unpredictable business anyway, with little changes cropping up constantly, so when you say something like "can you guys skip today so I can watch TV in peace?" they will not be pleased. The trick, then, is to come up with something that will make them want to skip working at your house. And there's one sure-fire solution: a chicken pox outbreak. Lay the groundwork today -- just a couple light spots on your face and arms. A bit of makeup will get it done.
Stage 19: Ponte di Legno - Val Martello, 139km
Friday, May 24
Stage Excitement: Gavia... Stelvio... hold me.
Not to be overlooked but the Val Martello ends with a 14% last km.
Overall Significance: Coin flip as to whether this stage, the Galibier or tomorrow holds the key to the race. Places will change hands, for sure.
RAI Value Added: Celebrities in ski parkas, reporting from the snowy Stelvio. Yep, gonna be epic.
The Call: Outbreak time! A few well-placed phone calls should scare the crew from coming anywhere near you for a while.
Stage 20: Silandro - Tre Cime di Lavaredo, 130km
Saturday, May 25
Stage Excitement: This is the annual stage-which-can't-be-described-without-using-profanity. I mean... holy living fuck! The Costalunga is a 25km warmup, the San Pellegrino an amuse bouche, the Giau one of the nastiest climbs in Europe, and the climb to Tre Cime is itself a drama in three acts, the last of which averages over 11% for 4km. Fancy yourself a climber? Well, climbers come in several varieties: guys who prefer long, lower gradient grinds over steeps, and guys who swing the other way, favoring the steep stuff. This stage has something for everyone -- their specialty, and their kryptonite. If the goal is to shake up the GC, this is a great way to go about it.
Overall Significance: Last chance time for everyone not in pink. Does that sum it up?
RAI Value Added: Everyone at RAI will earn their salary today.
The Call: The outbreak has probably bought you peace through the weekend, but some police tape across the front door might be an extra precaution.
Stage 21: Riese Pio X - Brescia, 199km
Sunday, May 26
Stage Excitement: Huh! A 200km flat day to the final finish line? Bit of a curveball for the guys who wanted to do a short parade.
Overall Significance: Game. Set. Match.
RAI Value Added: The tearful goodbye. It goes on for a while. I'll be crying.
The Call: Enjoy your last Sunday. If you were putting off doing the floors, you're screwed tomorrow.