If you’ve watched your share of pro cycling over the last decade, you know Alessandro De Marchi. Flat of back, long of limb, he’s the Italian breakaway specialist formerly of teams Cannondale and BMC, who now plys a trade with Israel Start-up Nation.
He’s a man who believes firmly that if you don’t buy a ticket you don’t win the raffle, spending much of his working life battering away thanklessly off the front of the nearest bike race, and occasionally bagging big, crowd pleasing wins. Three individual stages at the Vuelta Espana over the years, for example.
And today, he claimed second place on a wet, cold, grim mountain schlepp through the Apennines and the most glorious consolation prize in all of Italian cycling: the Maglia Rosa of the Giro d’Italia race leader.
“I’m going to cry if I think about it,” confirmed De Marchi, post stage, “this is small reward for the thousands of attempts I made during my eleven-year career…it’s for me and my wife Anna.”
I think we’re all feeling a little teary after that, Alessandro me ol’ mate.Embed from Getty Images
His route to pink came via a big twenty-five-man breakaway group that took this big, wet bull of a stage by its cold, windswept horns; a break that had the ‘we’re-gonna-get-a-random-race-leader’ klaxon going off the length and breadth of social media from the moment it formed. A group of such size always having a great chance of delivering a stage winner.
Current man in pink Filippo Ganna, no mountain goat, would not retain the jersey on a day like this.
Between Piacenza, and the precipitous finish town of Sestola, tucked amongst the picturesque folds of Emilia Romagna, the break co-operated, at times, and cat-fought, at others, to whittle the situation into something resembling a finish. The slopes were steep and numerous. The wind blew. The rain fell sideways. The riders suffered.
By the time lanky American Joe Dombrowski swept gingerly through the finishing curves to take the stage, all manner of plot twists, attacks, and counter attacks had played out. That this was his first pro win outside America seemed hard to believe. De Marchi, close behind, knew the jersey was his.
Meanwhile, a race within a race: a select group of overall contenders, a kilometre back down the road, had snuck clear of a notable batch of rivals to snaffle eleven precious seconds. Egan Bernal, Hugh Carthy, Alexsander Vlasov and Mikel Landa eeking a minor morale boost over Dan Martin, Simon Yates, Romain Bardet and Remco Evenepoel.
Vincenzo Nibali rolled in a further twenty-odd seconds back. Others – George Bennett and Joao Almeida – lost minutes.
Tough, brutal, epic; pick your cliché from the bike-racing bingo board. The Giro d’Italia does weather like no other Grand Tour – we know that. It also, thankfully, does dogfight breakaway stage winners and tear-jerking home-roads Pink Jersey wearers.
(Top Image: By filip bossuyt from Kortrijk, Belgium – 16-7_2 de marchi, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61303262)