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4° Tappa Preview: Out Come the Climbers?

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Wednesday's climb to Montevergine di Mercogliano caps one of the most beautiful courses imaginable, starting in Salerno, winding around the Amalfi Coast, turning north before skirting around Napoli and climbing past Avellino (my other ancestral hometown) and up to the Montevergine Sanctuary. The Giro has come here twice before, in 2001 and 2004, and both stage winners are on hand: Danilo DiLuca and Damiano Cunego. The Costiera Amalfitana is a classic Mediterranean dream landscape, where yours truly would have honeymooned if it were even remotely affordable. Anyway, UNESCO agrees with my assessment, having designated it a World Heritage Site in 1997.

For more details on the race, let's turn to M. Facoltosi at IlCiclismo.it, via Sherlock:

The "girini" will find the forehead of the first true mountain to climb, the Partenio, on whose flank lies the Sanctuary of Montevergine (1260m). The first arrival will cover 17 Km of tortuous road (19 hairpin curves to ascend in the second half) but not particularly steep: the median slope is 5%, with a peak of 10% in the fourth kilometer. It is not particularly selective as shown by the last two finishes at the Sanctuary, when a large group finished, comprised of all the best GC riders.

Lest you think Sherlock now works, that was heavily edited by yours truly, but you get the picture. Anyway, Cunego's victory in 2004 seemed inocuous at the time, taking three seconds and a time bonus out of teammate Gilberto Simoni and others... and replacing his "Legalize my Cannondale" prison stripes (ugh) with Simoni's pink jersey. Except for three days when Yaro-Pop borrowed it, the maglia rosa was Cunego's to keep.

In 2001, Danilo DiLuca won a 5-up sprint over several familiar names such as Simoni (2nd), Garzelli (3rd), Rebellin (5th) and numerous other going concerns (Hontchar, Beltran, Azevedo, Noe) three seconds back. Then the stage was #5, a good time for the climbers to test their legs without going nuts. Sounds a lot like Wednesday's situation.

If DiLuca were smart, he wouldn't be thinking about stage wins this early, but I have a sneaky suspicion he will be ignoring my advice. Davide Rebellin is a more sensible winner... or maybe Bettini, but I'll pick DiLuca anyway.