Rarely -- or maybe never -- do the Appenines decide the overall winner of the Giro d'Italia, and considering what looms on the horizon, this year won't differ. But tomorrow's stage brings the Giro deep into the mountains of Abruzzo, humping up from sea level to 4770 feet (1454 meters). As you can see, there are a handful of consequential climbs, as well as an uphill finish to destroy the hopes of any sprinters who hang on to Pecocostanzo. The three rated climbs are the Valico del Macerone (3.6km, 5.5% avg, 9% max), the Rionero Sannitico (10km, 6.3%avg, 11%max) and the Pietransieri (9.2km, 6.5%avg, 10%max). Don't look for Mark Cavendish or Robbie McEwen anywhere but the caboose. In fact, we should have some real competition for the mythical maglia nera, the last-place honors. [Go here for some background on the Black Jersey.]
More to the point, however, we might just see a few other jerseys change hands. Giovanni Visconti, current overall leader, has shown enough Classics-level climbing ability to assume that his nine-minute lead over the big names is safe for now. But he's even with Matthias Russ for the maglia rosa and the young rider's jersey, and Russ is vaguely comparable on the hills, so that battle will be joined. Daniele Bennati will have great difficulty keeping Riccardo Riccò's hands off the maglia ciclamena; Riccò ranks as a stage favorite, and somewhere in the top 5 should be enough to overcome Benna's 14-point lead. Emanuele Sella will have to break a sweat to defend his 7-point lead, with some 9 points to be had. As for the stage... Danilo DiLuca always shows himself in Abruzzo, even if this is a few valleys over from his natal Spoltore. The pure climbers won't benefit from the closing slopes, but they'll all be in contact with the Classics-climber types on the streets of Pescocostanzo.
Some notes about the stage:
- The day will be at least partly dedicated to the memory of Vito Taccone, who passed away last fall. Taccone, winner of Lombardia in 1961 and various other races, is considered the patron of Abruzzese cycling, and is known as "il Camoscio d'Abruzzo"... which translates improbably as "the suede of Abruzzi." Maybe he had really interesting skin. He gained notoriety at the 1964 Tour de France for causing crashes... or so the story goes, with reality long since lost to antiquity. Anyway, Taccone influenced his most recent, prominent successor -- Danilo DiLuca -- who says "he believed in me from the beginning." Factor that into your stage handicapping.
- The latter stages of the route passes through Castel di Sangro, made famous by a really fun soccer book, and winds up in a winter/summer resort. Gavia mentioned the possibility of snow on the upper slopes.
- My own ancestors are from the next valley over. Don't get me started. Just know I'll be an interested observer tomorrow morning.