Stage 8: Praia a Mare — Montevergine di Mercogliano, 209km
Time for the Giro to make some headway into the heart of Italy. What you consider the heart of Italy is fighting material, but for Giro purposes, it’s definitely not Campania. Fun place to swing through though.
What’s It About?
A central-casting medio-montagne stage of the variety that made the Giro famous. Bit of beach time as well. Not a maglia rosa day though, unless something goes completely awry.
One obvious highlight there. The climb to the Santuario of Montevergine is a truly sensible thing to do. Riding around Campania one is inclined to say “wow, look at all those mountains! I bet you could run a great Giro stage up them!” And the answer is, sure, if you can find a big parking lot up there for all the team buses, fans and race detritus, which then limits you to monasteries and the odd national park (see Vesuvio stages of years past). And that’s why we have stages to Montevergine on a regular basis. Here’s the climb itself, which consists of 20-plus switchbacks on the way to 1260 meters of elevation:
The Giro hasn’t been here since 2011, when it arrived at the Santuario for the fourth time in 11 years. Its first arrival was in 1962, won by Armand Desmet, who ended up tenth behind Franco Balmamion in Milan. The race didn’t return again until 2001, and it proceeded to be won by punchy types Danilo Di Luca, Damiano Cunego, and Di Luca again. The latter two events were tickets punched on the way to overall victory, and while you can dismiss Di Luca’s win, the one in 2004 was pretty significant in that Cunego put himself in control of his team with the Montevergine effort. The most recent Montevergine effort was won by Bart De Clerq in 2011.
Did You Know?
The Montevergine monastery was founded by Saint William (Gulielmus), who has a pretty interesting story. He got religion early on during his life up north by Vercelli, and decided to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, which he undertook wearing some sort of iron shell around him to increase his suffering. [You can already see the cycling connection forming.] After he got back, he planned to continue on to Jerusalem, but as happened to so many people on their way somewhere via Naples, he got beaten up and aborted his plan. Without access to psychotherapists to work out his PTSD, William decided to become a hermit, which in turn made him famous, which tells you a lot about how exciting life in Campania was. [True story: my maternal grandfather was from this very area before moving to the US, fleeing a life of sitting around on a hill surrounded by sheep.] Anyway, Billy pulled off a few miracles and fell into favor with the local Norman king, Roger the Second, and ended up with a swanky monastery that now hosts stages of the Giro. Done and dusted!
Whom Does the Stage Favor?
Hm, I don’t really see the GC guys doing very much on this day. The mild gradients simply don’t allow someone like Froome to get free of someone like, say, Yates. Great day for a breakaway, honestly. Or if not, the stage-hungry types who can climb. Ulissi, Woods, Ciccone, De Marchi and Visconti would be my picks.
AmyBC’s Wine of the Day
Wine: Guttarolo 2013 Primitivo Lamie della Vigna from Biondivino
Why, yes, the same producer, but two very different ways of making wine. Yesterday in anfora (clay), today, stainless steel. From the importer: Grapes are hand-harvested in late September/early October and fermented using natural yeasts in stainless steel fermentation tanks.The grapes are then macerated for 16 days and aged in stainless steel tanks for 20 months, followed by an additional six months in bottle before release. The wine is then bottled without clarification, filtration or the addition of sulphur dioxide.
Pick to Win
George Bennett! I had you guys going there for a moment. Bennett looks good and has ambitions too, though probably not GC. Woods is an obvious one based on form, but I don’t want the Kiwis coming after me so I’ll take Bennett.