Monday, May 18, 2009

Stage 10: Cuneo - Pinerolo, 262Km

Ed. note: the official stage description, below, unfortunately will not reflect the actual route for Tuesday, 19 May, 2009. The route for Tuesday will be as above.
From the outset of the Giro d'Italia presentation there were questions whether the Stage 10 route was possible due to a landslide on the French side of the Maddalena climb (which also could not be used in the Tour de France last July for the same reason). The organizers had wanted to use the original Cuneo-Pinerolo route because of it's place in the history of the Giro d'Italia. Unfortunately, the Maddalena is not usable and an option to use the Colle dell’Agnello to bypass the Maddalena to rejoin the original route had to to be rejected because of the likelihood that the Agnello would be closed because of snow. Another problem that was outstanding was a conflict with Italian race radio frequencies interfering with French radio based services. So, Coppi's epic route will not be replicated this year. In Italy the general opinion of the new stage is that although almost nothing remains of the epic stage it will still be spectacular. This is the route that was originally planned, passing into France, and is described in the text that follows.

Tuesday, 19 May, 2009, Stage 10 official description:
After the first rest day, the Centenary Giro d’Italia steps back in time to repropose the legendary Cuneo-Pinerolo route raced on the 17th stage of the 32nd Giro on 10 June, 1949: a truly memorable moment in the race's history. Then (the first time this route was raced), as now, course comprised five major climbs in a row through the Italo-French mountain passes: Colle della Maddalena (Col de Larche in French), Vars, Izoard, re-entry into Italy via Monginevro and, finally, Sestrière before arriving in Pinerolo. Two hundred and fifty kilometres, much of which on dirt roads as they were then. “Campionissimo” Fausto Coppi’s performance is legendary, his 190-kilometre solo ride beginning halfway up the Colle della Maddalena and concluding at the finishing line in Pinerolo. He won by 11 minutes and 52 seconds from his historic friend and rival Gino Bartali in second, with Alfredo Martini third – but first among the “mere mortals” – on 20 minutes 40 seconds. A solitary ride among the great mountains with their distinctively majestic and changeable landscapes that Coppi’s legendary performance imprinted into the history books forever. It was, and always will be, one of the great moments in cycling folklore.

The stage has been raced again on two other occasions. In 1964 Bitossi came in just ahead of Adorni and Motta, while in 1982 Giuseppe Saronni sprinted home ahead of pink jersey winner Hinault. There was no Fausto Coppi…. The most recent finish in Pinerolo was a completely different story with Alessandro Petacchi winning a stage for the sprinters. This stage also differs from the originally designed route, now completely raced on Italian soil because of the impossibility of going over the Colle della Maddalena. The start and finish lines are still in Cuneo and Pinerolo but the altitude profile is necessarily gentler, even though there are a number of notable climbs. The course passes through the noble town of Saluzzo before going on to Pinerolo, the climb at the Colletta di Cumiana, Giaveno, Avigliana - an ancient home to the Savoy princes and known for its two distinctive lakes -, Susa and then the climb at Moncenisio with the characteristic village of Novalesa and the well-known Benedictine Abbey of the same name. Another descent at Susa and then Sestrière with its rich sporting and tourist tradition, where cycling has enjoyed some important moments. Another climb at Cesana Torinese and then a long descent into Villar Perosa, whose name evokes the Agnelli family and, along with it, that of football club Juventus. The sprint at Pramartino then precedes the finish in Pinerolo.

Cuneo, which takes its name from the triangular plateau (the 'cuneo') on which it lies, is a noble looking city dominated by the peaks of Monviso, the Argentera, the Rocca dell’Abisso and the Bisalta. The town centre is notable for its low porticoes, part ogival, and the extremely large, centrally-located Piazza Duccio Galimberti, with its neoclassic buildings and the tree-lined avenues that follow the ramparts of the city walls. It is an important centre for various industrial activities and agricultural trade thanks to the varied production in the surrounding area which, even in recent times, has enjoyed major development in every sector. The town’s passion for cycling can be seen in the numerous competitions that take place here. A number of important moments in the Giro d’Italia have taken place here, even in modern times. In 2008 a stage of the Tour de France was held here, as well as a rest day.

Pinerolo, rich in history and tradition and steeped in the traditional elegance of Piedmont, includes among its most distinctive architectural landmarks the Cathedral, with its singular and majestic bell tower, and the 14th century ‘Casa del Senato’, as well as various other buildings of great style. It has also always been connected with the military (it was also a fortress during French reign, designed by the greatest French military engineer Vauban), as evidenced, for example, by the National Cavalry Museum. It is an important industrial, commercial and agricultural centre (with relative culinary specialities) located at the mouth of the Val Chisone that enjoys a pleasant climate thanks to the protection provided by the majestic and picturesque chain of mountains that surrounds it. The economy of the Valdese Valleys and the surrounding territories is dependent on Pinerolo.

Historically speaking, Pinerolo was the site of the 1821 insurrection movement led by Santorre di Santarosa that preceded the Risorgimento. In the mid-1800s the first mutual aid society in Italy was founded here. Relating to events of around three hundred years ago, the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask, half historical and half legendary figure, is celebrated once a year here. The first woman lawyer in Italy, Lidia Poët (1855-1930), was from Pinerolo.
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