Saturday 17th July
It’s one week after the Giro finished, the legs should have recovered a bit now, so where are all those nice little post-Giro crits that give the winners a chance to show off a bit? Well there aren’t really any. The Gran Premio Cento Carnevale d’Europa – Memorial Viviana Manservisi is probably the nearest thing, and that is a UCI listed event complete with ranking points , specifically designed to discourage anyone looking for a bit more than a training ride.
Cento is best known for the massive carnival it puts in the run up to Lent every year, events at which include the local heat of Miss Italia, masked Ju Jitsu and very elaborate carnival floats (and we’re not talking of the oversized company mascot type floats, these are the real thing) and a guest appearance by the best Bond girl ever (and what idiot flagged the original version of that as for over-18s only). The organisers of that Carnival are also the organisers of the GP Cento, but I’ve not yet managed to find mention of the bike race on their website.
Cento is a very beautiful place, and given its history you would expect it to be. Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI took it to make it part of the dowry of his daughter Lucrezia on her third marriage, to Alfonso I d'Este, and if you burrow around a bit more you will in no time be an expert on Renaissance Italy. That also means that it’s very pretty. Well don’t take my word for it, here’s a webcam put up by the local council in Piazza Guercino, which quite by coincidence is where tomorrow’s race starts and finishes. Even when it does crits, Italy does them with a certain style. Read on for a bit more on the bike race itself.
Cento sits right in the middle of the Po valley, equidistant between Bologna, Ferrara and Modena, so that means that the terrain is flat, really really flat. According to the bikemap profile above, each lap of the 10km circuit includes a grand total of 10m of vertical ascent, most of which no doubt is on the two bridges over the river. The one disruptive element, which you probably won’t spot from that webcam, is that most of the streets in the town centre are cobbled, so that’s probably the best part of a kilometre per lap. The race is eleven laps long, so that’s approximately 10km of cobbles in all. Nevertheless it’s still a race for the sprinters, and probably the older, stronger ones too (although as this weekend coincides with the U23 championships in Ankara, Turkey, most of the younger riders won’t be here anyway).
So who to watch out for. I’ve yet to find a start list so most of this is cobbled together from assorted sources. Rochelle Gilmore, for whom this race has been a long-time favourite (or who even if she hates it does very well here most years), tweets that she will be there with a Lotto squad that looks likely to be working for her. Ciclonews has reproduced a collection of press releases showing that Alessandre d’Etttorre of Top Girls Fassa Bortolo-Ghezzi, Inga Cilvinaite of Safi-Pasta Zara-Manhattan and Valentina Scandolara of Vaiano Tepso Solaristech will also be starting, and although I’ve yet to see it officially confirmed, I would expect Gauss’s Giorgia Bronzini to be there too. But the most interesting face on the start line will be that of Marta Bastianelli, wearing the lime green jersey of Fenixs-Petrogradets, and returning not only from a two-year suspension for doping, but from a whole series of misfortunes during that time including breaking her jawbone into four pieces and damaging her backbone (though fortunately not her spinal cord) in a similar way to Marian Romoli.
I’ve yet to see any sign of TV coverage, but if you’re desperate then there’s always the webcam. If you drag the little orange Google streetview man around the map above then you can explore some other parts of the course. Put him on the blue dots for a random collection of photos. The race kicks off at 16:30 CET and should end between 19:00 and 19:15.