Got out into the sunshine this weekend? Here's what you missed:
It's like a bad British holiday film set in southern Italy. Ending is very predictable: Mark Cavendish wins a sprint; Team Sky wins a time trial. Not that conventional wisdom was the only attendee; there were minor upsets like lightly-regarded Vini Fantini dropping a mere 22 seconds and favorites Garmin-Sharp 25. But the leaderboard looks about like you'd have expected:
- Salvatore Puccio, Sky
- Bradley Wiggins, Sky, s.t.
- Sergio Henao, Sky, s.t.
- Dario Cataldo, Sky, s.t.
- Rigoberto Uran, Sky, s.t.
- Benat Intxausti, Movistar, at 0.09
- Vincenzo Nibali, Astana, at 0.14
- Mauro Santambrogio, Vini Fantini, at 0.22
- Michele Scarponi, Lampre, at 0.22
- Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Sharp, at 0.25
- Robert Gesink, Blanco, at 0.28
- Samuel Sanchez, Euskaltel, at 1.01
And so forth. Two leftover points: the time gaps mean almost nothing at this stage of the race. Even Sanchez' 61 second deficit, while humiliating, isn't a problem just yet. Historically riders had been known to drop tens of minutes in the first week, only to come roaring back in the mountains. And as for Sanchez, everything imaginable has gone wrong this year for Euskaltel, so of course a Basque riding for their rival team has to be sitting up so high.
Another predictable outcome of this Giro is the spectacular scenery, on display from the beginning. OK, Naples is spoken of as a cross between Venice and Detroit, lovely but decrepit. But hey, they're behind on the upkeep, so what? You wouldn't sit around happily planning your future either if you lived in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.
Anyway, today might be the most beautiful postcard from the entire Giro, apart from the mountains, as the race ambles 212km from Sorrento to the famous Amalfi Coast, then down the peninsula to Marina di Ascea. In the closing 30 minutes the race summits the San Mauro Cilento and Sella di Cantona climbs, not terribly difficult ascents but the final 20km is a nosedive to the line. The sprinters (or a few of them) might hang around if the stage isn't pursued in earnest, but they almost always are, leaving the door open for a variety of riders, including the major climbers and a great descender like Vincenzo Nibali.
Tune in to the last hour or so, you should see some interesting racing. Stop by the Podium Cafe for full coverage.
Photos by Fotoreporter Sirotti