You’re familiar with the “boot” of Italy, I presume?
Where Puglia is the heel, and Calabria is the toe, kicking the football of Sicily?
Good. Then I’ll continue with my description of Stage 7 of this 2018 Giro d’Italia.
It started from Pizzo, a town on the Metatarsal of Italy, before wending its way suggestively up the Ankle, and finishing at the base of the Tibea – the Shin, in fact – in a town called Praia a Mare.
The route presented a wide highway running along the Mediterranean coast. This was our scenery for the day. Perfectly pleasant. Very little in the way of hills or other obstacles.
After the exertions of Mount Etna on Stage 6, followed by a tricky transfer across to the mainland, it’s fair to say the main contenders saw Stage 7 as a chance to take things easy and recharge the batteries.
In lieu of anything particularly interesting to report, I thought I would share a mid-afternoon entry from the live text commentary on cyclingnews.com as a kind of summary of the day:
78km remaining from 159km
The riders are enjoying lunch on the road, eating rice cakes and small sandwiches.
We can see Ballerini drinking a small soda.
I trust this gives you a flavour of the day’s proceedings.
I, of course, put my mortgage on Elia Viviani to win a standard sprint finish.
Because why wouldn’t I?
He’s Italian, which makes him motivated. He also happens to be the class sprinter in this race, and his team drive a pretty formidable lead-out train; they’ve propelled him to win the two sprint stages thus far.
I didn’t tell my wife about this little wager. I didn’t need to. She has absolute faith in my pro cycling knowledge.
The inevitable sprint finish arrived, and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Irish sprinter Sam Bennett timed his effort to perfection to outflank both Viviani and his compatriot Niccolo Bonifazio and take the win.
His first in a Grand Tour.Embed from Getty Images
A stunning finish from Bennett, upsetting Viviani’s ruthlessly efficient applecart and, unfortunately, rendering me homeless.
Which is a bit of a setback.
I mean, I’m happy for Bennett, really I am. And the mortgage company agreed that they had fully expected Viviani to win too.
Which makes me feel a bit better.
My wife is being cagey about whether she too had pinned her hopes on Viviani. Her mind is on other things. She’s out in the garden at the moment burning my cycling kit.
Stage 8 takes us back to the mountains for the second summit finish of this Giro d’Italia.
I’m off to find a bus shelter to bed down for the night.
(Map Image available to buy: https://www.etsy.com/listing/398032563/italy-map-art-custom-map-paper-art)