Veneto is a real cycling stronghold and you always get big crowds there. The stage profile is mainly flat, but the finish is steep for the pure sprinters to have a chance. Nor is it a GC day, obviously, but it’s made for somebody who can attack on these short, steep, punchy climbs.
Giovanni Visconti won in Vicenza two years ago and I wouldn’t be surprised if another Italian wins. A lot of the CSF guys, for example, come from that area and they’ll target the stage. The finish is really steep – it’s about 800m at 10 per cent and to me it looks really good for someone like Enrico Battaglin. He’s from Marostica, which is just up the road from here, and he’s really strong on this type of terrain.
For the GC group it looks like a really tricky final hour. You can easily lose time here, so you can be sure everybody will be totally focussed on being near the front.
Moment in time
Race director Carmine Castellano had a bright idea for the 1996 edition. He’d started it in Athens, to celebrate the centenary of the Olympics. That had just about worked, but it had gone rapidly downhill since – 17 stages, each more sterile than the last, hour after hour of tedious, defensive ‘racing’. A taciturn Russian (Pavel Tonkov) in the maglia rosa and a tongue-tied Basque (Abraham Olano) favoured to export it once again. It was just, well, awful.
It had been five years since the Giro had anointed an Italian winner. Miguel Indurain (twice), Evgeni Berzin and Toni Rominger had bulldozed their way to the jersey and now Marco Pantani was out injured. For the tifosi it was going from bad to worse.
By now the Italian media – at least those still awake – were counting the days. Today was Wednesday 5 June and they were hoping against hope that the Giro would begin in earnest on Thursday 6. That would be a time trial, then there’d be two mountain stages, then the sprint to Milan. Then, all the excitement condensed into three days, they’d go home and forget the whole sorry business. First, though, another sprint finish, this time in Vicenza. Mario Cipollini would doubtless win it and the rest would be nowhere. Not that anybody much cared. We’d like to report that the stage was an absolute corker and that against all the odds the Giro caught fire. However, it didn’t and so we can’t. Cipollini won again and Tonkov shuffled off home with the pink jersey. Moving swiftly along…