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Giro dirt roads divide opinions

Mud or no mud, the strain begins to show on weary faces

Mud or no mud, the strain begins to show on weary faces (Image credit: Sirotti)

The Giro d'Italia stage to Montalcino will be remembered as one of the legendary days of racing. It recreated the heroic days of pre-war racing when most roads in Italy were dirt rather than asphalt. The 220km was designated the Gino Bartali stage and the former Giro winner and pugnacious fighter on all terrains would surely have loved to race on his home roads south of Florence.

However, not everyone shared the same opinion. Most riders were just happy to have survived in the terrible conditions and to have made it to the finish.

Friday's stage winner Matt Lloyd was a rider who was not so happy. He made huge effort to win in Marina di Carrara and finished in the gruppetto, 24:10 behind fellow Australian Cadel Evans (BMC).

"I can understand that they want a spectacular stage, but something like what we've just done is ridicoulous if you ask me," he told Cyclingnews after pulling on the green climber's jersey again.

Lloyd is a featherweight pure climber and is hoping for better weather later in the Giro d'Italia.

"I'm still on top of the world after my stage win and I still feel good. I've got great form. I'm just waiting for some reasonable weather and maybe some sun to go on the attack again."

Most of the riders were probably quietly cursing race director Angelo Zomegnan for including the dirt roads in the finale of the stage. He carefully played down comparisons with the epic stage over the Passo Gavia in 1988 when riders battled through the snow and Andy Hampsten set up overall victory. But he knows that today's stage was spectacular enough to earn a place in Giro d'Italia history.

"Today was just a day of rain. The riders had to ride through the snow over the Gavia," Zomegnan told Cyclingnews.

"It's right to race on the dirt roads. The memory on my mobile phone is full of messages from people saying that it was a great stage. The riders took it well and so this stage will become part of the history of the Giro d'Italia."

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.