Giro Stage 5 Preview

Another day, another stage that sweeps along the coast before heading inland with some climbing to spice up the finish. But each day is subtly different and instead of long drags, Stage 5 includes a short, sharp climb near the end followed by the climb into the unique town of Matera.

These climbs could be just enough to ruin the day for some sprinters… but not all of them. Here’s a preview of the day plus a look at the phenomenon of the thousands of unfinished construction projects, from simple houses to giant bridges, that blight Italy, especially the south.

Yesterday’s Stage: the Stage 4 preview named Battaglin as one of the potential winners but he’s no surprise, he was climbing well on Stage 3 only for a late crash on the descent to stop him from contesting the sprint for second place behind Paolini. Now he got his revenge.

It was symbolic too as the ageing Danilo Di Luca was caught in the final kilometre only for a 23 year-old hope of Italian cycling to win. It suggests teams like Bardiani-CSF can invest in the future, in contrast to Vini Fantini’s policy of hiring ghosts from the past. Talking of the past, Enrico is no direct relation to Giovanni Battaglin, the framebuilder and winner of the 1981 Vuelta and Giro, only a distant cousin it seems.

There was also a moment when Wiggins was delayed by a crash but despite the three kilometre rule, lost time. For more on the three kilometre rule see the piece from February but here’s the rule itself (my emphasis):

2.6.027 In the case of a duly noted fall, puncture or mechanical incident in the last three kilometers of a road race stage, the rider or riders involved shall be credited with the time of the rider or riders in whose company they were riding at the moment of the accident. His or their placing shall be determined by the order in which he or they actually cross the finishing line.

The Route: the race sweeps around the Gulf of Taranto, the arch of Italy’s boot. The early climb of Cipolletto shouldn’t bring a tear to anyone’s eye and then it’s back to the coast where the race passes through Sibari, once Sybaris, the Greek city famed for its hedonism. Tarantino describes someone from Taranto but for most of the day the race has nothing of Hollywood’s Tarantino, instead it promises a long predictable procession with few changes in pace, cutaway climbs or violent descents.

Even the climb to Montescaglioso with 25km to go is linear but it’s here the plot could change. Once upon a time the road snaked up the hill but they’ve built a new road straight up which slices across the old sections of road to make a long ramp that is shorter but significantly steeper. It’s listed at 4km at 6.3% but actually has two kilometres at solid 9%. Vehicles descending the other way get a warning sign for the gradient and how it’s dangerous for trucks.

The Finish: the profile above shows the final 4.5km but this only comes after a climb into the town of Matera. This climb is ok, it’s about 4-5% most of the way which is suitable for an-inform sprinter who is well sheltered on the wheel of others but could see some ejected, especially as they’ll be tired from the previous climb.

The race rides anti-clockwise through Matera, descending to a left turn before the flamme rouge, then another left turn and then it’s slightly uphill to the finish line, although don’t let the profile fool you, it’s almost flat.

The Scenario: Katusha have every interest to defend Paolini’s lead again so a sprint finish is possible but only for those able to sit tight on wheels as the race rushes over the climbs. The climb to Montescaglioso is steep and long enough to cause trouble for the sprinters but not enough for the GC riders to try.

So far we’ve seen Mark Cavendish ejected as soon as the road rises, his red points jersey stylishly matching the commissaire’s red Skoda. Perhaps he’s been pacing himself but we’ll see if the sprinters can fight the gradient as the finish suits them if only they can cope with the climb. Matthew Goss and John Degenkolb could have an edge given the climbing? This is a test for the sprinters, after all the finish is on the via Dante Alighieri so it’s fitting that the winner goes through hell and purgatory before reaching the podium paradise.

Poets aside, I suspect the sprinters will be thinking of tomorrow and the pizza-pan flat finish to Margherita di Savoia. Battaglin could strike again today whilst Radioshack’s Danilo Hondo has been climbing well, the same for Movistar’s Fran Ventoso who got stuck on the final climb yesterday by accident.

TV: if you can’t find it on TV, and are the go-to sites. The live feed starts at 3.10pm Euro time, but the action is probably only for the last 45 minutes. The  finish is expected around 5.15pm although this only indicative.

Weather: sunshine and showers but with the temperatures picking up, at least to 21°C (70°F) although it’ll drop when it rains. There will be a slight crosswind on the final section between Montescaglioso and Matera where there are exposed roads but it’s not forecast to be strong enough to split up the field.

Word of the Day: incompiuto meaning incomplete or unfinished. The finish town of Matera is famous for its sassi or stones, which are cave-like homes cut into the rock and often fronted with a plastered façade complete with a door and arched window, a modern touch on caves that have apparently been inhabited for 9,000 years. This area had become dilapidated but is being protected and improved as part of a heritage effort. The look is unique and the town was used for the filming of Mel Gibson’s “Passion of Christ” film.

Spotted en route with 22km to go but hardly unique

But the sassi are not the only crumbling buildings. The further south you go in Italy you go, the more you find unfinished buildings, empty shells where rusting steel reinforcements poke out from poured concrete. Nature struggles to reclaim these places and you’ll see many incomplete houses along the route, often without a roof, windows or doors but also incompiuto hospitals, schools, bridges and roads.

The film clip from Sicily but it applies to today’s regions of Calabria and Basilicata too where they are especially prevalent too. Why so many unfinished buildings in Italy? There explanations are as inconclusive as the constructions themselves. Maybe the owners ran out of cash or with larger projects that promised subsidy never came through? Sometimes it’s organised crime, the ndrangheta pocketing the contracts and funds for big schemes before the job is done. Or just general lawlessness where people begin building the shell on land reserved for agriculture, knowing the local authorities probably won’t act. Either way these incomplete buildings are a feature of the landscape, some are even landmarks.

In Sicily the town of Giarre has even started a festival to celebrate these barren buildings, celebrating its 20,000 seat polo stadium – nobody plays polo in Italy – and its 49 metre swimming pool, where construction was halted because the regulation 50 metre pool was found to be a metre short. At least the Giro is sure to complete the 203km route today.

32 thoughts on “Giro Stage 5 Preview”

  1. Should be a day for sprinters who can climb and don’t require a lead out train. Perhaps Ventoso or Pipo. Definitely an odd situation in Southern Italy. Sounds like contractor scams to extort money from the Feds with no guarantees to finish. Why would anyone build a polo stadium in a place where no one plays polo ? Even where they do, I have never heard of such a large facility for a sport the wealthy choose to pursue in the privacy of their secluded estates.

    It’s been an exciting Giro thus far. Looks like Paolini will hang onto Pink until the stage 8 ITT.

  2. Excellent Giro so far, even if the major contenders are still waiting. Not sure how Wiggins was distanced whilst two team mates were present in the leading group. He needs to pay a little more intention to his position in the final. That De Luca was swamped also helped the image of the event, with a young Italian taking the victory for the home country.

    Todays stage looks as though it will give more opportunities to those not expected to feature in the final overall – but one can never be sure. Thanks’ for the previews INRNG – they are as usual very well researched with some interesting background notes.

  3. I visited Tunisia 20 years ago, and there were lots of incomplete buildings. The reason given was that there was a building tax payable on completion of the building. As a result, it looked like much of the population was living in a building site.
    Nice to see Cuddles going well (if quietly) with some good positioning near the head of affairs.
    I’m hoping Matthew Harley Goss can get up for this stage!

      • I don’t understand why Simon Gerrans is not at the Giro. Stages 3-5,7,9 seem perfectly suited to him. Instead Orica send their sprint train to a very hilly Giro. And most of the lumps, bumps and hair raising descents occur near the finish.

        Outside of stage 1 this Giro has been entertaining and unpredictable.

          • The comment is a fair one though – it seems really odd that some of the punchy classic riders are not at the Giro with this parcours. The last two stages and the one tonight seem to have been created for a Gilbert / Gerrans type of rider and yet no teams seem to have brought them along? Why on earth did OGE not bring Albasini for example?

  4. I enjoyed watching Di Luca attacking. He might do it again or it could be Garzelli this time around. People know those old war horses and like them. It’s a good marketing tactics from Vini Fantini. Today’s stage looks like riders will try to take it as a rest day. Katusha will do the work in the peloton and a breakaway will get several minutes in the front. Cav gets dropped on the first 6th cat climb (he’ll be out of the race before the mountains).

  5. How is Goss earning so much money and still not getting rebuked for his performance is beyond my imagination. He should be up there today to contest for the sprint although I doubt he has any kind of winning form. It could be Ventoso’s day today or some other Italian young rider like Modolo.

    • His salary is largely based on his Milan-Sanremo winning ride and the ranking points he got from it. He’s in awkward spot because he’s not the fastest sprinter but if it’s too hilly there are others who can win. What’s notable this year is that many sprinters have few wins.

    • Highest paid on OGE and has delivered just 2 wins since riding for them. Very poor return for team. Its not just that he gets beaten by Cav, Griepel and Kittel – its the tier 2/emerging sprinters too. I think he’s on a 2-year – unless things dramatically change, good luck on negotiating favourable contract terms for renewal with OGE. OGE management very sensitive to the need to get at least a stage win at this year’s Tour, after nothing last year.

    • That’s a bit harsh maybe. I’m sure it’s crippling for Gos’ morale to always be pipped to the post by everyone and their wife. Especially as he often has the best leadout, and just gets mobbed at the final, crucial moment – where it’s all about HIM.

      Nonetheless, it’s surprising Orica have been sticking with the same strategy.

      • I do actually like Goss – I’d rather see him win than almost all of his rivals bar Cav. I guess the problem is that sprinters are paid to finish off the job at the end of the day, and I can imagine that getting pipped each time creates a downward spiral on the morale front. Tyler ‘speedbump’ Farrar has similar problem – but Goss is the far superior rider IMO.

  6. Nice preview. Matera is truly striking, I’m sure we’ll get plenty of helicopter shots of it. Most of it has become gentrified in the past years with hotels and ristoranti bringing visitors into what was once a ghetto. There are plenty of unfinished buildings in the north of Italy too, it’s not just a southern thing. Our friends tell us a lot of the unfinished homes are the result of the Italian unwillingness to go into debt – they save up enough to get to “phase 1” which is like the photo you showed – something that can sit there pretty much unfazed until they get the money to continue. Of course you don’t see the ones that are eventually finished, just the ones that are still (sometimes for what seems like an eternity) incomplete. Most of their buildings are “built to last” unlike, say the USA where so many folks live in houses made from 2 X 4 lumber covered with chicken wire and stucco. Our Italian friends laugh at these when they see these construction techniques, saying, “that will fall down in a very short time, why do they build them so poorly?” The concept of time here in Italy is vastly different than in so much of the “new” world…just another reason we like it here so much.

    • A friend from the states, smitten by a beautiful blonde from northern Spain, proudly told her that he restored historic buildings in New England (100-200 years old) when she asked him what he did to make a living. She replied, proudly as well, that every building on her families vineyard was at least 1000 years old.

  7. Good preview. I think a large breakaway can succeed today. On the 3km rule (a.k.a. the much more useful and less controversial former 1km rule), I think the jury had it that it was no crash that delayed Wiggo, therefore it couldn’t apply.

    • I agree, I also think a large breakaway can succeed. I think Katusha is likely to let a large breakaway ride with no one dangerous men for his pink jersey because Paolini is not likely to win the sprint today . Yesterday he was in the perfect position en wasn’t able to finish.

  8. Matera also features in the book “Christ stopped at Eboli” by Carlo Levi, I hope with the bumps at the end of the stage we don’t have a case of Cav stopped at Montescaglioso today.

    • Forgot about that one! Thought about Carlo Levi back in January as I whizzed past Eboli on the autostrada on my way down to Sicily. Basilicata is a great region, big steaks, big wines and Matera might just have the best bread on the planet. Just another example of why Inrng is the best thing out there – comments and stories related to things other than the usual frame materials, tire pressures and all that “bikey” stuff. How fortunate we are!

      • Are “gluten free” food items a possibility in Italia? I am contemplating a visit, but have that dietary restriction. I will obviously conduct my due diligence via web research, but it is also nice to hear an opinion from someone who lives in country. Cheers.

        • If you plan and pick the right places you can be ok. Because there is so much pasta in Italy it means those with gluten intolerances are discovered more easily, it’s not just a dish you might eat once every 10 days, you can have gluten every day so any problems are seen early. It could be chance but the only people I know with this condition are Italians. One friend carries some gluten-free bread in her handbag and this is enough to help support most choices on a menu. Remember it’s not all pasta, there’s meat, fish, polenta, rice and more.

  9. Interesting finish today, certainly Degenkolb’s lead-out train, Luka Mezgec crashing at 800 meters reduced the potential stage winners dramatically. If Marco Canola had not been a few meters ahead of everyone , it may have been a tough choice for Degenkolb give it full gas or ease-up and wait a few seconds.

    • I felt bad for the kid. He ran out of gas with 400 meter to go and it was uphill. Even JD had to get out of the saddle three times in the last 300m. Without the crash, Degenkolb was probably the strongest sprinter today. No way Goss wins on a 2.5% rise over the last k

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