American musician Tom Lehrer once observed that “the weather always looks worse through a window.” I would add that it can also look pretty bad when viewed through a TV screen. Whether Lehrer was a pro cycling fan is a moot point.
Any scenery today, on the stage between Frascati and Terracina, was lost behind a misty mizzle. Grim expressions were worn. Riders aquaplaned and moto headlights reflected back dramatically off the road.
[Insert generic ‘California Dreamin’ joke here]
I hear the hotels are nice too.
If you’re going to withdraw from the Giro with a (no doubt genuine) knee injury, as Tom Dumoulin did in the opening kilometres, then today would definitely be the day.
The finish was to feature two laps of Terracina, but the desperate conditions convinced the organisers to neutralise the race after lap one. All time gaps were taken at that point leaving the sprinters to attack the final lap for the stage win.
Well, I say attack. They tiptoed for much of it. Desperate to stay upright. Negotiating standing water and spray. Wishing they’d had chance to exchange their skinsuits for team issue wetsuits.
Whoever won today would get extra points for bravery.Embed from Getty Images
It was a nervous, twitchy run in. The likes of Viviani, Ackermann and Gaviria picked their way from wheel to wheel, threading their way between great ponds of standing water, evading water fowl and wary of strong currents.
And then, for the finale, the Colombian Gaviria broke cover and burst for the line. Pedalling, paddling, and cranking his outboard motor.
But, it appears, we have a new star.
Pascal Ackermann, winner of stage two and flagged as a pre-race also ran, took Gaviria’s wheel, nudged past, and took it.
Celebrations were wild.
Hugs were received and backs were slapped.
A second Grand Tour stage win for the young German. A career launched. Nowhere else he’d rather be.