Well this is a short stage to Abetone. At 17km it’s a long climb, but it’s regular and not particularly steep by today’s standards. I don’t see significant time gaps among the big riders. There’s still a long way to go and the GC riders tend to be focussed on doing as little as possible at this point. So I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a break goes at the bottom and stays away.
From our perspective it could be a chance. A Giro stage win would be a dream come true for us and it may be that Cunego tries for that rather than the GC. Damiano can’t win the Giro, but he’s a reference point for our team. We will need to sit down and decide whether a stage win has more value than, say, a top 10 finish and build our strategy around that.
Moment in time
In the shameful 1954 edition, Carlo Clerici, a domestique for Hugo Koblet, had got in two breaks in the opening week and led the favourites by half an hour. The Giro, the highlight of the sporting calendar, had been hijacked by an anonymous Swiss gregario. By now rumours were rife that Coppi, the reigning champion, had taken a (married) lover. That was scandalous enough in Catholic Italy – he had a six-year-old daughter at home – but the tifosi would forgive him just about anything if he delivered a sixth maglia rosa. Only he seemed distracted and disinterested, a pale imitation of his magnificent self. His apparent indolence in letting Clerici go was unforgivable, the more so because he seemed, frankly, not to give a damn.
Today, however, the race would reach the Apennines for a finish atop Abetone. Coppi would doubtless make his move and finally we’d see the big stars toe-to-toe. Wouldn’t we? Not quite. Three GC deadbeats tried their luck, among them a promising 22-year-old rookie named Mauro Gianneschi. He came from Ponte Buggianese, an hour or so south of here, and many saw in him a future champion. Today was a chance to show his stuff and somehow, as the favourites played cat and mouse behind, he stayed away.
The following week the riders, whistled and jeered by an indignant public, went on strike. Clerici easily won the Giro, but it was not the race’s finest hour. And Gianneschi? He never won another bike race…