The first thing to remember is that your legs are going to hurt as soon as you get out of bed. So it’s mind over matter. Some will fold, but the ones who say, “Well everyone’s in the same position and I want to race,” will be fine. If you don’t, and if you feel sorry for yourself, you’ve had it here.
That’s partly why it’s so important for the team to have a goal. If you have a jersey to defend it’s a major advantage psychologically. If you don’t, or if you’re just willing it to finish, it can be desperate on days like this. That’s why the DS is so important at this stage. He has to give everybody a clear objective and to make them want to race.
There’s very little left in the tank and the last climb is extremely hard. It’s going to be a battle of wills and only the best can win today…
Moment in time
By the time Verbania hosted its first stage finish, in 1952, Gino Bartali was almost 38. He still placed fifth on GC, but he couldn’t hope to live with a rampant Coppi. Nor, for that matter, could anyone else. Runner-up Fiorenzo Magni shipped over nine minutes and the Swiss Koblet and Kübler were hammered out of sight. Koblet had been ill while poor Kübler, the reigning world champion, found himself in double trouble. Back then Switzerland had two cycling federations, which meant that Swiss professionals could ride for two different teams. When, therefore, Ferdi rode in Italy, he did so for Frejus, a Torinese bike manufacturer.
The problem was that at the Trofeo Baracchi the previous year, he’d shown up on the wrong bike. He’d ridden his Swiss Tebag and now Frejus filed a lawsuit demanding that he repay the whole lot, plus damages. Not good…
While Kübler contemplated his navel (or his bank balance) it fell upon Switzerland’s very own ‘third man’, little Fritz Schaer, to uphold national honour. He did so on the penultimate stage to Verbania, of 293km. The peloton departed Aosta headed for Switzerland and an ascent of the giant San Bernardo Pass. With the Giro effectively done and dusted, however, they called a truce. They rode the stage as tourists and nothing whatsoever happened until the final hour. By the time Schaer sprinted home from a breakaway group of five, he’d been on his bike for over 10 hours. The Swiss had salvaged a stage win, but theirs had been a wretched Giro…
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