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Giro Stage 14: Faux-down!

It’s a mountaintop finish! With very little chance of changing anything!

Dumoulin in control
Luk Benies

Stage 14: Castellania — Santuario di Oropa, 131km

At last, a true MTF that will start sorting out the general classifica... what? 131km? With one measly climb? Sigh...


map 14


Oropa stage

Final/only climb:

Oropa climb

AmyBC’s Wine of the Day

Azienda Vitivinicola Massimo Clerico, Costa della Sesia Rosso Ca’ du Leria

From the importer: The Clerico family has worked the land in Lessona since the 1700s. In fact, the Clerico estate, under the direction of Sandrino Clerico (Massimo’s father), was one of the three original vineyards awarded the right to the Lessona appellation when it was first created in 1976. The Clerico family owns two hectares within the designated Lessona zone which, by the way, makes the Clerico azienda the third largest landholder in the appellation!

Did You Know!

That this is the Marco Pantani stage? Pantani, who is verging on becoming the Kim Kardashian of Italian cycling (why do we care about him again?), padded his growing legend with a stage victory here in 1999. He was already a Giro-Tour double winner from the previous year, and was in the maglia rosa on this day, when he jammed his chain at the start of the climb of Oropa. He quickly dropped half a minute on his rivals, led by a not at all doped Laurent Jalabert. Pantani’s team waited for him and paced him “like a motorbike” because that’s totally how the human body works in its natural state. He caught and passed everyone, including the motorbikes and some F1 cars at full throttle, proving that he was the greatest cyclist ever with no reservations.

As you can see, I am a little sick of the Pantani shit. If Lance Armstrong died before he confessed all his sins, maybe we Americans would be guilty of the same pathetic delusions as Italian fans and an indulgent Giro leadership are. Pantani was, after all, a born climber, and if you could re-do the past with no EPO or other cheating techniques, there’s a good chance the Pirate would have been an actual legend rather than a hopelessly sad one. On the other hand, he did suffer from debilitating depression, and he also maybe won the 1998 Tour because all the big teams threw out their blood bags when Willy Voet got stopped, while the less visible Mercatone Uno squad felt OK about hanging on to theirs. So maybe his real athletic ceiling was Simoni-before-Simoni, with a mental illness grenade set to go off at any time. We will never know. And they will never stop celebrating utterly suspect nonsense like this:

A week later Pantani met his disgrace when he was pulled from the race atop the Madonna di Campiglio in the Dolomites when his hematocrit reached a magical 52. It was a huge scandal at the time that got a little less huge afterward when information came out that he’d previously registered numbers like 58 and 60 in 1995 (at Milano-Torino) and that his medical records from the 1997 Giro somehow “disappeared.” Then it became even less huge when he was found with insulin in his hotel during the 2001 Giro, and might have turned into nothing at all had he lived long enough to be implicated in Operacion Puerto before the cameras. But he was dead by then, which turned everything about his life up to 11.

Fortunately the stage begins in Castellania, birthplace of a true campionissimo, Fausto Coppi. Stage 13 ended in Tortona, where Coppi also lived, and today the race departs from or passes by the home where Fausto and his brother Serse were born, now a museum. Coppi died from a misdiagnosed case of malaria, and I suppose that’s related to Pantani in a couple of ways. They both died young, although in Coppi’s case his career was more or less a wrap while Pantani’s was spent treading water in a sea of retarded excuses and bad cycling. But they also both briefly fulfilled the longing of Italian fans for a great climbing champion, and very few others have managed to fulfill that role since WWII, which I think is the other real reason for all this celebration. I’m not entirely sure why Nibali hasn’t washed away this need, maybe because he’s not a pure talent so much as just a really smart, well-trained all-rounder? I can’t look within the soul of an entire nation, even if my grandparents once lived there and I’ve learned to make a totally authentic puttanesca. Maybe I’m the one who has a problem that needs solving, not them.

Oh, and the Santuario di Oropa dates back to the placement of a black wooden statue of the Virgin Mary at a spot on top of the hill above Biella (the town at the start of the climb). Eventually a basilica arose around the statue, and the whole thing is a UNESCO world heritage site, ruining preserving it for all time.

What’s It About?

The one climb. Will’s Mountains Preview covered the locale quite nicely. Obviously he’s ridden the climb, which is making its sixth appearance in the race. It’s simply not that hard, not for these guys, and it comes at the end of a very short day (though a pretty long week). So I just can’t see anyone hurting anyone else too badly, if they’re all feeling OK. Really, this race will be a mere warm-up and test to see if anyone doesn’t have it on the day.

Pick to Win

Adam Yates. He no doubt arrived in terrific shape and he’s spoiling for a fight with a bunch of guys who are more intent on fighting each other. On a stage that promises to be another stalemate, Yates is in the best position to get away for a win.