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Stage 11 Preview: Serravalle Scrivia - Pinerolo

Sandwiched between today's system-shocker and Thursday's epic ascents is a relatively flat, transitional stage which carries the Giro d'Italia across the flat centre of the Piedmont, a region otherwise ringed with mountains, including the Alpes directly in everyone's sights for Thursday. The race action will come down to a choice: should the sprinters' teams spend their energies chasing down the inevitable breakaway, or is it better for everyone to have a breather in anticipation of Thursday's war of attrition? Since time elimination is all that stands between Alessandro Petacchi and the maglia ciclamino right now, I'm guessing Milram will stand down, but you never know.

Pinerolo is a famous name in Italian cycling, if not for stages such as this one. The race has finished here in 1949 (Coppi), 1964 (Bitossi), and 1982 (Saronni). In 1949, the Giro made famous by Dino Buzzati's book as well as the exploits on the road, Fausto Coppi won a truly epic stage ending in Pinerolo. The similarities to this year's Pinerolo stage end there; in '49, the day began in the southwestern Piedmontese city of Cuneo, and circled through the French and Italian alps for 250km. My book is on loan at the moment, but IIRC Coppi left the peloton very early on and won by some 15 minutes, seizing the maglia rosa with two days remaining in the race and utterly devastating Gino Bartali and the rest of the race in one truly majestic ride.

There's a famous radio announcer's quote from the day: "Un uomo solo è al comando; la sua maglia è bianco-celeste; il suo nome è Fausto Coppi." One man alone and in command. His jersey is white and celeste (Bianchi!). His name is Fausto Coppi.

Il Ciclismo has some interesting details about the stage: somewhere around Novi Ligure, early on in the stage, the race passes by the Villa Coppi, where Il Campionissimo shacked up with his famous "dama bianca," a huge, delicious scandal in Italy at the time considering Coppi ditched his wife for his new love. Less salacious but probably more meaningful to the riders is that this part of the course retraces a portion of Milano-San Remo.

That's all I can find for now. Enjoy!