Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Book: The Story of the Giro d'Italia, Vol II

Bill & Carol McGann write to inform that "The Story of the Giro d'Italia, Volume Two, 1974-2011", has been completed and is available for purchase. It continues the year-by-year history of the Giro from Volume One which covered 1909 to 1970. It arrives just in time to get caught up on Giro history before this year's edition begins on May 5th.

Volume Two describes the growth of the Giro into a modern, vital international race that is followed by cycling fans all over the world. Along the way, the stories and races that have excited the public over the last forty years are told, including the Francesco Moser/Giuseppe Saronni rivalry, the tragic tale of Marco Pantani and the Alberto Contador affair that left the Spaniard stripped of his 2011 Giro championship.

The book is available in paperback, and Kindle e-book via Amazon (as is Volume One). Details:
Paperback: 314 pages
Publisher: McGann Publishing LLC (March 30, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0984311793
ISBN-13: 978-0984311798
Product Dimensions: 9 x 6
Availabe from Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

Attention: Bill & Carol McGann will be providing an autographed book set to the winner of a 10 question contest. The questions will be posted between now and Friday. The rules are simple: first 10 correct answers (which Bill has provided) receives the books. Email replies to my address below. Past contest winners excluded.

This is an excerpt in the book from the 1988 Giro:

"There seemed to be a consensus among a wide range of racers, managers and writers as to who was most likely to win the 1998 Giro. Alex Zülle, who had left the Spanish ONCE squad for the powerful Festina team, was the man to beat. He was an outstanding time trialist and the 80 kilometers of racing against the clock in the 1998 Giro certainly played to his strength. Ivan Gotti thought Zülle had a built-in four-minute advantage over the climbers that would have to be overcome in the high mountains. Easier said than done, because Zülle was also an excellent climber and capable Grand Tour rider, having won the 1996 and ’97 Vueltas.

Others proposed the last two winners, Gotti and Pavel Tonkov. Only a couple of experts thought Marco Pantani could prevail on what was said to be a time trialist’s parcours.

Zülle certainly lived up to expectations when he won the 7-kilometer prologue on a rainy day in Nice (the sixth time the Giro had started in a foreign country). The Swiss rider had the maglia rosa by 1 second over Serguei Gontchar.

The first stage returned the Giro to its home country with what was expected to be a sprint finish in Cuneo. Cipollini’s lead-out train was late getting organized and two of his Saeco teammates went down as the peloton wound its way around the traffic circles. The loss of momentum was perfect for a clever and strong opportunist to try to slip away in the last kilometer. Mariano Piccoli’s burglary in plain sight was perfectly executed. Piccoli got the stage while Zülle remained the leader.

Going from Cuneo to Imperia on the Italian Riviera with the Capo Berta ascent coming just five kilometers from the end, stage two’s racing said this Giro was going to be a fight from the very beginning. Before the Capo Berta started to rise, Pantani sent his entire team to the front to bring up the pace. As the road rose, Paolo Bettini leaped out of the field with Pantani hot on his tail. Soon Michele Bartoli clawed his way to the duo. Bettini couldn’t take his fellow escapees’ supersonic speed and sat up, but Bartoli and Pantani screamed up the hill. Back in the pack, this was a four-alarm fire and the peloton strung itself out over the hill, desperate to retrieve the two gifted racers. Near the summit the catch was made and Zülle’s lead was preserved.

The next day Zülle lost the Pink Jersey when he was caught behind a crash (not unusual for Zülle) near the finish, giving the Pink Jersey to Serguei Gontchar.

Again Bartoli and Pantani slapped the field around a bit. The last six kilometers of the fourth stage had a rugged sawtooth profile where Bartoli tried to get away. He was instantly marked by Pantani and Enrico Zaina. This trio could not be allowed any freedom and were painfully pulled back. Both Pantani and Bartoli were racing the Giro as if each day were a one-day Classic, not worrying about saving energy for later. After the big guns were caught, Nicola Miceli took advantage of that moment of relaxation that almost always occurs after breaks are caught and scooted off for the stage win. Bartoli, having a seemingly endless well of energy, took second, and with the attendant time bonus was 1 second short of becoming the Giro’s leader.

Still headed south, the Giro had passed through Tuscany and was now rolling by Rome to the stage five finish in Frascati. At ten kilometers to go it looked like a typical Saeco lead-out-train finish with nearly all of Cipollini’s team at the front, but by the final kilometer he had only one teammate left. It didn’t matter. Cipollini led the sprint out himself, riding the final 200 meters on the brake levers with no one able to come around the powerful Tuscan. Bartoli had managed to gain some bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints and was now the Pink Jersey.

As the Giro rolled into Campania with its stage six finish at Lago Laceno, three rated climbs confronted the riders. Things were still together by the time they reached the final hill, the Valico Villagio-Laceno, with its short stretch of 21-percent gradient. When the peloton reached that steep part, Bartoli did a sharp attack that caught Pantani’s attention. Pantani closed up to Bartoli and not being content with Bartoli’s speed, ratcheted up the pace. Alert to the danger, Gotti and several others moved up to Pantani. He looked back and went still faster and then he was gone. Or was he? This day Pantani didn’t appear to have his normal sharp climbing snap and first Bartoli went after him and was able to keep the small climber in sight. Then Luc Leblanc and finally Zülle were able to latch onto Bartoli.

Zülle lit the jets, gunning for and catching Pantani, but he wasn’t content. He put in another dig and Pantani was able to stay with him for a few hundred meters, but Zülle was on fire. Even Pantani couldn’t hold his wheel that day and he went over the crest of the hill eight seconds behind the Swiss superman. The final three kilometers were on flat road, happy hunting grounds for one of the world’s foremost time trialists. Zülle extended his lead, won the stage and retook the maglia rosa. Bartoli, Leblanc and Pantani followed in 24 seconds later.

The General Classification now:

1. Alex Zülle

2. Michele Bartoli @ 13 seconds

3. Luc Leblanc @ 50 seconds

4. Pavel Tonkov @ 56 seconds

5. Paolo Savoldelli @ 57 seconds

6. Marco Pantani @ 1 minute 2 seconds

By the stage eight finish in Lecce, the 1998 Giro’s southernmost point, the General Classification hadn’t changed. The race turned north and headed for the Dolomites and the Alps. The route followed the Adriatic shoreline, making flat stages for the sprinters. Cipollini’s win in Macerata in Le Marche was his 25th, tying Eddy Merckx’s postwar Giro stage-win record. Although Bartoli had managed to take a few bonus seconds in sprints, there was still no change to the General Classification.

Stage eleven’s climb to San Marino was the real start of the Giro. At the sign of the day’s first gradient, José “Chepe” González decided to go for a long, lonesome ride. Andrea Noè initially spoiled his plans, but González was able to temporarily drop the Italian.

Back in the peloton, Pantani’s Mercatone Uno team massed at the front. San Marino was Mercatone Uno’s hometown, giving the team extra motivation for a stage win. As the road got ever steeper, Pantani attacked again and again. His relentless accelerations kept thinning the herd but there were tenacious contenders who were determined to stay with the Pirate. Up ahead, González had run out of gas. Noè, who was unhappy with the little Colombian’s refusal to work with him, steamed right on by.

Tenacity wasn’t enough. With a kilometer to go Pantani was able to get away from his followers and had Noè in his sights, but at the end of the stage still lacked 7 seconds to catch the fleeing Italian.

The General Classification:

1. Alex Zülle

2. Michele Bartoli @ 5 seconds

3. Luc Leblanc @ 50 seconds

4. Marco Pantani @ 51 seconds

5. Pavel Tonkov @ 52 seconds

The next stage, coming down from San Marino, was on a wet, sloppy day, perfect for letting a break of non-threatening riders get away......" (continued in the book).

Volume One cover:
Read the preface and excerpt here.

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Stories for the Italian Cycling Journal about rides, granfondos, touring, having a good time cycling in Italy, Italian cycling history, etc. are always welcome. Contact me at veronaman@gmail.com. There are more than 2,300 stories in this blog. The search feature to the right works best for finding subjects in the blog. There is also a translate button at the bottom so you can translate each page .

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