Stage 4: Catanzaro -- Praia a Mare, 200km
The Tour of Italy returns to Italy... and starts acting very Italian.
What's It About?
A southern excursion through some of Western Europe's quieter places, and one where human activity dates back particularly far. This end of the boot is an archaeological wonderland, with Stone Age cave art and traces of homo erectus dating back 700,000 years. Like Sicily, its history is permanently intertwined with Greek civilzation, and it was in Calabria that the first "Italians" were so named, the vine-cultivating Oenotri eventually named for either a King Italus or from the Greek word for bull. Here's a map of the region from the time of Greek settlement:
Pretty Greek alright. The mountains along the route are low and gently sloping, and the route will stick mainly to the coastal road after crossing the toe of the boot from Catanzaro. But it does dip inland on occasion to keep the climbers engaged, before stopping in the Praia a Mare resort town. Stage finishes and advertising dollars... together at last!
Like I said, it's mostly coastal, but with enough opportunities for some trouble, especially at the end. Map:
And now, our first even remotely interesting profile of the Giro d'Italia:
Climbs of a cat-3 nature 50km or more from the line won't change the shape of this race much, but from Scalea onward the final 25km get rather intriguing. Legs will be tired out from the steady up and down, heading into the final 10km, which look like this:
That's nearly 2km of climbing up til the 8km to go banner, including a couple rather severe ramps. Are the remaining 8km enough for the sprinters' teams to regroup for a bunch gallop? Tough, tough call. The descent is gentle enough in slope, but likely include some Poggio-style twisting and turning, which would inhibit the chase.
Riders to Watch
A lot. From the sprinters' teams, of course Etixx-Quick Step will do its best to tow Marcel Kittel over the climbs and hang on to the maglia rosa for another day (it'll be gone by stage 6 for certain). Maybe Caleb Ewan can profit from a reduced sprint if Kittel isn't around. Andre Greipel doesn't seem to be tip-top at the moment. Elia Viviani might be the best choice of all if this climb is too much for some guys.
If all the sprinters were to get left behind, well, then we are talking Alejandro Valverde time. I'm not sure I can name another climber type who can sprint on a flat run-in with the proficiency you'll need in a bunch sprint of non-sprinters. I'm sure there are several, and "freshest legs" might win the day.
AmyBC's Food and Wine Pairings
Each stage will feature some alcohol and edible suggestions from our international food and wine writer AmyBC. You can check out her blog at Winebookgirl.
Wine: L’acino chora 2013
Grapes: Magliocco Canino, Guernaccia Nera. Ancient grape alert! Purple in the glass with red fruit. Lots of minerals, with finish that has me reaching for another sip.
Food: Biscotti di Zia Flora from Southern Italian Desserts by Rosetta Costantino
Lemon "wreath" cookies with a glaze and rainbow, or in this case, red, white and green sprinkles.
Chris's $0.02... I am totally buying Rosetta's Calabrian cookbook. We have no Calabrese connection, though we do have some relatives from neighboring Puglia... and their recipes are the family favorites.
Pick to Win
Kittel. Just seems to be on sparkling form, including sparkling enough to get back on after the climb. I'll give him one last moment in the sun before reality sets in.