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Giro Stage 21: Roman Holiday

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Roma Circut Race, 115km

Time to finish off in grand style... by getting a few wheels caught in tram tracks.

What’s It About?

Finishing off in grand style. Did you not read the last sentence?

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Stage Details

Mappa of-a the tappa:


Giro stage 21

All sorts of Roman traffic speed records will be set tomorrow, as the peloton zooms through the Eternal City with nary a hint of traffic. Rome has its share of hills — seven of them, perhaps you’ve heard? -- and the race catches maybe three or four. Coming around the Roman Forum the riders will traverse the Capitoline and Palatine Hills. Heading south, they may or may not catch some of the Aventine Hill. And for sure, at the north end, they rise up and descend from the Quirinal Hill, which drops into the majestic Piazza del Popolo via a narrow city road with two sharp switchbacks. These hills are mere pimples compared to where they’ve come from, but it will be a technical city circuit, and various people (including Chris Froome) will have to be on their toes to avoid getting gapped or caught up behind a crash. The good news is that after the Piazza is a long straightaway where anyone left behind can hit the gas and get caught back up.

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Did You Know?

It occurs to me that we have arrived at a significant moment here. Let’s face it, the Did You Know segment is a device I have deployed (and forced others to deploy) to pontificate about something. Writing is an inherently vain exercise, and the best one can hope for is self-awareness (hi!). Well... what better subject to pontificate about than Rome? Not only is it ripe with pontificability (the key elements being interesting stories and everyone already knowing them), it’s also the home of the very word “pontificate.”

The word is now said to mean “to expound in a pompous manner,” but the word is a Latin one derived from pontifex, which was the title of a priest in the ancient Roman religion. That religion, by the way, is not only a ripoff of the Greek religion, it’s also known for featuring a complex array of gods whom the citizens of Rome were known to pay off for one favor or another. This polytheism was one of the most significant objections of the citizens of Roman Palestine, a/k/a the Jews, who are humanity’s original and rather dogged monotheists. This offensive polytheism being foisted upon them spurred on a general rejection of the Roman occupation of Israel, which led to the High Priests of Jerusalem playing both sides of the matter with their powerful overlords, which led to various Jews to go on the lecture circuit about how wrong it all was. Including a certain Jesus of Nazareth, who went on to become the Son of God and the impetus behind post-Roman resurrection of Rome as the home of the Catholic religion. Crazy, huh? This is way worse than one of those Vin Scully stories about how some pitcher grew up in a town with a famous dog that once won the Westminster show that was judged by the great-uncle of the guy who’s playing catcher.

Anyway, pontificating started with those Roman priests, not the Pontiff himself, the modern-day Pope, for whom pontificating isn’t a bad thing, even though for the rest of us it sort of is. Life isn’t fair.

And with that, I will forego a lecture about the Seven Hills of Rome, noting only that there are actually twelve hills in Rome now with the city limits expanded, and there is a long, long, long list of cities claiming a Roman-style array of seven hills, including Rome, Georgia, Bristol and Bath, England, and ... um, Seattle. [Ours are a lot steeper.]

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Whom Does the Stage Favor?

The sprinters. Somehow a number of them have survived the climbing to find themselves taking the start in Rome tomorrow. Chief among them is Elia Viviani, with four stage wins to his name in this year’s Giro, as well as Sam Bennett, author of a pair of sprint victories. These two are separated in the points competition by 74 points, which means that unless Viviani falls over rather dramatically, his hold of the jersey is secure. But last-stage big-city wins are their own currency, and Rome is Rome, so here we go.

AmyBC’s Wine of the Day

Monastero Suore Cistercensi Benedic... Wine from nuns!

From the importer: Fate can have lovely consequences. Our fortuitous encounter with the Bea family of Umbria of course led to the unearthing of one of the great domaines of Italy. But, we have been additionally blessed as we marched together with Giampiero Bea as he made the acquaintance of the Sisters of the Cistercian order living and working at their monastery in Vitorchiano, ninety minutes or so north of Rome in the Lazio district. Here at this quiet religious outpost eighty women of this religious order work vineyards and orchards and gardens organically. Under the guidance of Bea, they produce two wines as honest and sympathetic and gracious as they are.

The sisters produce a scant amount of red wine: a charming blend of equal parts Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo called “Benedic.” Despite a two-week maceration, “Benedic” is typically a beautifully pale, translucent wine. Registering just 11% alcohol, its color is calm, soft, and almost coppery—one can sense its gentle nature just fromlooking at it. A pure, honest nose of red licorice, dried leaves, and fresh pipe tobacco introduces an ethereal caress of a palate with almost no detectable tannins. “Benedic” is a pretty, tasty, plain-speaking wine with no makeup and no pretension, and its softly floral edge puts one in the mind of springtime.

Pick to Win

Viv. I hear his team know a thing or two about stage victories.