Fourteen Tours of Italy, not so much as a stage win. At first glance Marostica's Gianni Faresin doesn't appear to have set the world alight, but statistics can be deceiving. Faresin was, in point of fact, one of the best in the business between 1988 and 2004, but his business wasn't winning. Every good team needs a high quality road captain, a man capable of reading the race and marshalling those around him in the heat of the battle. That was the role he fulfilled for champions like Maurizio Fondriest and Gianni Bugno, and that's why he's such a revered figure.
He won the Tour of Lombardy in 1995, but he doesn't view it as his greatest victory. That came when his team mate Pavel Tonkov won the 1996 Giro, and that's the measure of the man.
SEE, HEAR, FEEL...
The Basilica Palladiana is the jewel in Vicenza's renaissance crown. Andrea Palladio himself hailed from nearby Padua, and started out as a humble bricklayer. Patronized by the poet Gian Giorgio Trissino, he was sent to Rome to study architecture, and the rest, as they say, is history.
His creative footprint is to be seen all over the world. Characterized by Greek and Roman temple-inspired facades, Palladianism became the pre-eminent architectural movement in 18th century Britain and Ireland. Woburn Abbey is perhaps the best known European example, but as it fell from favour over here it attracted new disciples amongst well-to-do North Americans. The provincial town of Vicenza is very far from indeed from Washington D.C., but through Palladio a direct line may be drawn. How so? Just take a close look at the White House.
MOMENT IN TIME
When the great Belgian sprinter Freddy Maertens broke his wrist at the 1977 Giro, his roommate and soul mate Marc Demeyer packed his bags. Only Race director Vincenzo Torriani somehow got wind, and whispered sweet nothings into the ear of Flandria DS Lomme Driessens. Demeyer was told he'd been "promoted", and that he'd be risking life and limb in the maelstrom which was the Giro's sprint stages.
Stage 14 concluded at Vicenza, home of a fearsome velocista named Marino Basso. A former world champion, he'd earmarked the stage in this, his swansong season. He was building a swanky new hotel, and figured both the cash and publicity would come in handy. Maertens had trounced him during the opening week but now, before a big TV audience on the third Saturday, he'd have his pound of flesh.
Problem was that big-mouth Basso made a pig's ear of it. He got himself all carried away, and then "died" 50 yards from the line. The winner? You guessed it…
There's no escaping the fact that Monte Grappa is very, very hard, and they've 45 minutes flat out. Obviously it's about character and class at this point, but ultimately grand tours are about how you manage the race and your own physical resources.
People always say the Giro doesn't start until the mountains, but those first twelve days or so are critical. They will have a major effect on performance here, because every drop of energy they have wasted needlessly will cost them double. It's about the cumulative effect of all the silly little mistakes, all the stress, all the missed sleep, the pressure to succeed. Those things make a big difference psychologically as well as physically, and they are the things which decide the Giro…