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Giro Stage Two: Sprinting into Tuscany

Bologna - Fucecchio 205 km

2013 Giro d’Italia - Stage One Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The preliminaries are over and done with, yesterday’s sausage as it were. Time to get on the road for real.

Che cosa è questo?

Unlike many other Giro editions where much of the actual traveling through the boot-shaped country was done in massive transfers between stages, a big trend this year is long stages that actually get us where we’re going. And this is the first of many 200+ km stages. Lets ask the riders in three weeks which they preferred, touring more of Italy by bus or in the saddle?
First half of the Giro is also going to throw up plenty of opportunities for the sprinters, more than I can remember since the heydays of Alessandro Petacchi, now working in the commentary booth for RAI. Stage 2 offers the first of those chances but the road there is not easy.

I dettagli della tappa

Our journey this year takes us from fairly far north in Italy, dips briefly down south along the west coast, then slings back up north via Abruzzo, avoiding pretty much all of the far south before we see the final stages play out in the northern mountains as per usual. So the first goal now is to head down towards Rome and that journey will first take us to Tuscany and the town of Fucecchio.

As Tuscany was home to one of the greats of Italian cycling this stage is designated “Tappa Bartali” in his honor. What exactly that means is fuzzy as usual when it comes to these things in the Giro but I assume we can expect an extra dose of black and white images of old Gino and possibly some folksy accordion music to go along with it at some point in the day’s coverage

This is a fairly rough introduction for the riders when we are mostly used to nice scenic but fairly easy first road stages. This actually gives us some of the more challenging terrain of the first week. The final 20 kilometers are fairly easy though.

La Banalità

Fucecchio has a “Palio” horserace fought out between rivaling neighborhoods just like the more famous one in nearby Siena. The venue looks a bit more traditionally racehorsey though and not as spectacular as the main square in Siena but then probably it’s not quite as lethal for the horses either? When it comes to cycling it’s perhaps more interesting to note that this is the hometown of Andrea Tafi, classics-slayer of the 90ies with Flanders, Roubaix and Lombardia wins to his name. Lets keep those glorious, Mapei-padded, statistics in memory rather than his latest ill-advised media blitz to get his aging old ass on a team to ride Roubaix one more time.

A qui piace ?

Had this been a late-race stage or maybe even a few days into the Giro we’d seriously be wondering if the peloton could contain a breakaway on a day like this. The road grinds upward from the start which usually means we get a strong breakaway and the final quarter of the stage is seriously bumpy making for a difficult chase. This being day one should compensate for all of that though. Even if we see the pink jersey on a team that fairly desperately wants to avoid carrying it through the long slog that is the first half of the race we still have four teams with big sprinters who are likely also prepared to take some responsibility for making it a sprint. Bora-hansgrohe (Ackermann), Lotto-Soudal (Ewan) and Deceuninck (Viviani) will likely all chip in a bit as will almost certainly some of the smaller teams. So unless we see those teams putting good riders in the break the outcome should be given. Sorry Gianni Savio and your fellow piccolo Italian teams, I don’t see you walking away with this one I’m afraid.

Once we get into Fucecchio this is a troublefree road by the looks of it. Some going through roundabouts and two sweeping lefthanders going into the final kilometer which is then dead straight on a wide road on the outskirts of town. You’re not likely to get it any more comfy in the Giro and if you do it’s probably because you had to climb half the mountains in Italy to get to those final kilometers in the first place.

So with a fairly straightforward finale and maybe a run-in through town that has enough tricky parts to favor the Deceuninck leadout this looks like maybe a day for Viviani and Ackermann to go head to head? Just as we are assuming the GC will essentially be a three-man contest the assumption is really that there are four main players in these sprints, besides Viviani and Ackerman there is also last year’s dominant Gaviria and Caleb Ewan who comes with a dedicated Lotto team (almost) just for him. I’m gonna go ahead and assume UAE and Lotto are going to need a day or two to get their shit together whereas DQS and Bora look like the well-oiled machines this year.

Looking at outsiders there are a few that could do well on a simple-ish finale like this including Arnaud Demare who is doing the Giro for reasons passing understanding, and Sacha Modolo of EF who tends to like these fast dragraces. And there is almost certainly an 8th place reserved for solid old codger Nizzolo who never fails to be relatively uninteresting in the Giro.