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May 27, 2014 - Ponte di Legno - Val Martello/Martelltal, 139 km
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Gilberto Simoni, winner in 2001 and 2003, can legitimately claim to be the finest Giro rider of the 21st century. However when one thinks of Trentino cycling, it's impossible to look beyond the Moser family. Big brother Aldo wore pink in 1956, and rode sixteen giri all told. Enzo took up the cudgels next, and he too spent two days in the maglia rosa, in 1964. The third brother, Diego, rode it four times, the last in 1974. That year Francesco made his debut, and he'd become one of the biggest stars in the sport. He won over 270 professional races, including the legendary Giro of 1984.
Diego and Francesco work in the family vineyard these days, but their respective sons look set to carry on the great tradition. Diego's oldest, Leonardo was a pro', and huge things are expected of Moreno. He's already proved himself a big winner, and a big performance at the Giro is surely just around the corner. Francesco's youngest, the gentle giant Ignazio, started out last season with BMC. Though it's early days, he may well develop into one seriously strong classics specialist.
SEE, HEAR, FEEL...
The Valtellina was earmarked as Mussolini's last stand. As the allies crashed through Piedmont and Milan, his generals proposed the area, heavily fortified from WWI, as his best chance of refuge. The idea was that 50,000 loyal blackshirts would follow him, and he harboured the (deluded) notion that the Dolomites were a worthy backdrop place for a great general's last battle. The Germans opposed it however, because area was a partisan stronghold. The plan stalled, and ultimately he never made it. He was captured on 27 April 1945 at Dongo, on the north-western edge of Lake Como.
MOMENT IN TIME
The Passo di Gavia's Giro debut, back in 1960, very nearly didn't happen at all. Snow covered the mountain until just a couple of days before, and plans were in place to reroute the stage. Thankfully the route was cleared in the nick of time, and Imerio Massignan's heroic solo effort that day has become one of the most emblematic of all time.
That Giro had belonged to Jacques Anquetil. In the 68 kilometre time trial at Lecco he hammered almost seven minutes into Charly Gaul, nine into Massignan. So strong was he that by rights 51 riders ought to have been sent packing that night, but that would have meant a peloton of just 53 headed into the final week. The jury raised the time limit from 12 per cent to 20, claiming it had been too windy. As such all but three of the lucky bleeders were given a stay of execution, and compelled to ride up… The Passo Gavia.
It's what the Giro is all about, and Gavia and Stelvio are amongst the most mythical climbs of the race. People always talk about Fausto Coppi, Andy Hampsten, all those exploits, but we shouldn't forget that it's the mountains themselves that create the racing.
There are all sorts of arguments about climbing Gavia and Stelvio first and finishing on Val Martello. It's less famous, but I don't see it as an issue. Gavia and Stelvio will still have a profound effect on the stage, and also on the race itself. It'll be a great day anyway, and it's probably going to tell us who will win the Giro. While you watch it, though, spare a thought for the poor sprinters. For them just getting to the finish is a mammoth undertaking. In a word: pain…