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Asti's Giovanni Gerbi, the old "Red Devil" himself, was the first professional cyclist. Gerbi is a mythical figure, but let's focus instead on one of his contemporaries. Savigliano's Michaelangelo Bosio wasn't the best cyclist in Italy, and nor even the best in the province of Cuneo. Truth be told even we don't know much about him, excepting that he gave the 1911 edition a real crack. One of the 86 masochists to roll out of Rome (chosen to host the partenza because they were celebrating 50 years of the republic) he survived the 394 kilometre opening stage to Florence.
He kept on keeping on until the penultimate leg, but then his world collapsed. Just 40 kilometres from the finish in Pompeii his frame gave out, and with no mechanical assistance that was him done. When he climbed into the broom wagon he'd ridden 3200 kilometres on a 15 kilogram bike with one gear and no freewheel. He'd been in the saddle for over 140 hours, 17 of them on the stage to Bologna alone. And what did he get for his troubles? Naught but our undying respect and admiration...
SEE, HEAR, FEEL...
We're on the edge of Langhe here, an area of breathtaking natural beauty. The stage, very obviously, is a celebration of the great winemaking tradition of Southern Piedmont. This part of the world is so replete with culinary excellence that it's difficult to know where to start, but let's try the foodie mecca of Pollenzo.
Just 14 kilometres due north of Barolo, it houses not only a remarkable museum of gastronomy but also a unique wine bank. Bra, just 7 kilometres west, is the cradle of the Slow Food movement, picturesque Alba the world centre for truffle. The list goes on and on, and what's more it's a sensational place to ride your bike. What are you waiting for?
MOMENT IN TIME
Stage 13 of the 1997 Giro concluded amidst the baroque splendour of Cuneo. Run off on a balmy Friday afternoon, it attracted a massive crowd convinced they'd be watching Cipollini storming to victory.
That they didn't was due to a second year professional from, of all places, Sweden. Glenn Magnusson was riding for the Amore & Vita team, which is to say for little more than bread and board. Here though he jumped clear and, as the rest played cat-and-mouse, held on for a miraculous win. That had the press scratching around – or scratching their heads – to figure out who he was. When they asked him about his hobbies he replied, appropriately enough given where he was, that what he liked most of all was… cooking. Smart move.
The time trial means many different things to many different teams. The people targeting the GC will have no choice here – they're on the rivet for an hour. People like Quintana will be trying to defend themselves, while the likes of Porte will try to gain as much time as they can. Then the specialists will have been saving themselves, and there will be half a dozen guys who will pin their Giro on getting a good result.
For teams like ours it's just a question of doing the bare minimum to stay inside the time limit. Some will have a hard time simply because they're not cut out for it, and they will have to work to ensure they're not eliminated. For others it's almost a day off.