The Giro d’Italia riders, teams, race staff and media transferred safely from Hungary to Sicily on Monday after the Grande Partenza and three days of racing in eastern Europe. The riders face little chance for rest and recovery, with the first rest day in Sicily also the prelude to the first mountain stage atop Mount Etna on Tuesday.
The racing will switch from the flat stages and short time trial of Hungary to a hilly 170km ride in the rugged Sicilian countryside and then the 22.8km climb to the finish at the Rifugio Sapienza at 1892m. The battle for overall victory will begin in earnest, with 18 stages left to race before the final time trial in Verona on May 29.
A number of riders highlighted on social media that Monday was far more of a transfer day than a rest day.
Indeed, most riders had a 6:30 or 7:30 wake-up, a quick breakfast and then a two and half hour flight from the small airport of Sarmellek at the end of Lake Balaton to Catania airport in Sicily, with the wide slopes of Mount Etna in view as they landed.
The Grande Partenza forced the teams to make major logistical decisions, with most opting to have different team buses and mechanics trucks in Hungary and Italy. The race bikes travelled with the riders on the charter flight but a whole new fleet of vehicles and equipment was waiting for them in Sicily. The time trial bikes and other time trial equipment will arrive back on the race for the final time trial around Verona.
Stage 4 starts in Avola, an hour south of Catania, with some teams staying in the city for two nights, while others were close to the start for a single night.
Immediately after landing in Catania, the second team buses picked up riders and staff and took them to their hotels. As soon as the mechanics had built-up the bikes, the riders headed out for a training ride, trying to avoid the rain showers circulating around the east of Sicily and engulfing the Mount Etna summit in low cloud.
While the sprinters and domestiques opted for a quiet spin or time on the rollers, Simon Yates and a number of the overall contenders and their teammates opted for a more serious ride, riding the final part of stage 4 to study the road and gradients of the 22.8km climb to the finish on Mount Etna.
Mount Etna has featured in the Giro d’Italia several times in recent years but this year’s climb takes a slightly different route from the one used in 2018.
“Together with Lucas Hamilton, we did the whole climb, first in dry conditions and in the last part under the rain. It’s a climb that I know well because we did it almost all on the same route at the 2018 Giro and then during a training camp in 2020,” Yates said.
“We decided to do it again because it is useful to refresh your memory. The climb is challenging with the first part very regular and a very demanding central part.”
The rest day also included time an afternoon massage, a nap and then an carbo-loaded dinner before the racing resumes at 12:25 local time in Avola on Tuesday.
“Tomorrow, we’re back to work, today is about resting and recovery,” race leader Mathieu van der Poel told Belgian television channel Sporza on landing in Catania.
“We were up at half past seven but that was okay. It'll be nice to also take a ride in Italy in the pink jersey," Van der Poel said.
Van der Poel is expecting to lose the pink jersey on the long climb up Mount Etna but will finally got a chance to eat some Italian pasta in Sicily.
A video posted on social media caught him carrying a crime against Italian cuisine by adding tomato ketchup to plain pasta.
“That was in Belgium before a cyclo-cross race,” Van der Poel admitted during the weekend, insisting that he would make amends in Italy.
“When I have the chance to have tomato sauce I choose it above ketchup,” Van der Poel promised.
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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.
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