The north is the cycling heartland of Italy – every great Italian cyclist either came from the north, or moved to the north.
Take the town of Isola della Scala, in the region of Veneto.
A small place, home to around 10,000 inhabitants, but the birthplace of two world-class Italian sprinters in the past fifty years. Not a bad strike rate for a small town. Especially since each of the two also happen to be winners of multiple Grand Tour stages.
Fifteen between them, to be exact, at the time of writing.
Fourteen, four hours prior to the time of writing, because Elia Viviani was yet to win today’s Stage 13 – a largely flat rumble from Ferrara to Nervesa della Battaglia.
Also in Veneto, co-incidentally, only a hundred miles or so up the road from Isola della Scala.
Nicola Minali, our other Isola-born sprinter, has presumably already won the last of his Grand Tour Stages. If he wins any more at the age of forty-eight I imagine the drug testers will pretty swiftly be turning up with a bottle and a urine-thirsty* look in their eyes.
If you can imagine such a thing.
Minali, you’d imagine, would’ve fancied a win today. Viviani, after being well beaten on Stage 12, was clinical, and has a tight grip on the Maglia Ciclamino.
We had a classic sprinters finish.Embed from Getty Images
In the final ten kilometres the pace got faster and the peloton got longer and straighter. Largely down to Tony Martin, who strung things out with an archetypical Tony Martin impression. After which each team took turns to line up their lead-out and have it swallowed again.
All the while Viviani and his Quick Step crew sat tight.
Positioned beautifully down the left hand side of the road.
With a couple of hundred to go Viviani sprung from his saddle and threaded a very high speed length of cotton through the eye of a particularly erratic needle.
He went past everyone, is what I’m saying.
Sam Bennett missed the moment. Viviani won by a country mile (about three bike lengths).
The local boy done good.
*As far as I’m aware, this is the first recorded use of the phrase “urine-thirsty” in an English speaking publication. You’re welcome.