Giro d’Italia

May 04, 2013-GiroCavSprint-6348

May 04, 2013-GiroCavSprint-6348
The Giro d’Italia is an annual multi-stage cycling race that takes place in Italy.  Similar to the Tour de France, the race is comprised of 21 stages that take place over 23 days, making it one of the Grand Tours.  This year’s Giro will travel around Italy in a counter clockwise fashion, going south, traveling up the eastern coast, through the alps, and finishing in Brescia.  In last year’s 95th edition of the Giro, Ryder Hesjedal was the first Canadian to win the Maglia Rosa (Pink Jersey, or overall general classification winner).  This year’s first stage was held in Naples, Italy (see the course map below):

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Like American football, baseball, and basketball rank in American sports, cycling is a very popular sport in Europe.  When I first came abroad, I wanted to make sure I’d be able to see at least one UCI World Tour race – and the first stage of the Giro d’Italia worked out perfectly!

A lot of Americans unfortunately think cycling is boring, simple, and ‘not a real sport.’ I’m going to preface this post by saying that I dragged along three of my roommates (who had virtually no knowledge of the sport) with me today for them to check out the race.  While they may have had shared initial connotations as many other Americans, they left Naples with a new respect for the sport and happy that they had made the trip!

We got on an Intercity train destined for Napoli around 9:30am.  When we got to the city, our first mission was to try and find a restaurant a few of us had gone to during a field study.  The restaurant (which we figured out was called Bellini’s) had some amazing Neapolitan pizza.  See my post from Naples about that trip.

After a delicious pizza, we headed towards Piazza del Plebiscito, where the opening presentations for the Giro had been the night before.  The start of the race was about to happen as well, but I wasn’t entirely worried about seeing that.  Today’s stage was special because they would be doing a good number of circuits near the water – perfect for spectators!

May 04, 2013-GiroCannondale-6082 Team cars on team cars – all clean and shiny for the 23 day race.

Wandering near the course, the riders went by for the first time roughly 20 minutes in the race.  I was surprised to see that a small break had formed with a few riders (no particular top contenders though).  The stage was very flat, so these riders were working for a little bit of pride and sponsor airtime.

May 04, 2013-GiroOmega-6108Within the first 20 minutes of the race, Cavendish and his team members had a good hold on the peloton.

May 04, 2013-GiroWiggins-61142012 Tour de France winner, Bradley Wiggins, is also a top contender for the Maglia Rosa.

May 04, 2013-GiroCastel-6167There was plenty of Pink in Naples today

May 04, 2013-Giro1kmMerica-6192 The 1km from the finish banner (‘Merica)

May 04, 2013-GiroCav-6147Cavendish sitting in early on in the race – Omega Pharma Quick Step sat on the front of the peloton for the majority of the race.

May 04, 2013-GiroPellizotti-6153Italian Road National Champion, Franco Pellizotti, wearing his country’s colors proudly.

May 04, 2013-GiroRocks-6123Some Italians just wanted to hang out by the water.

We shuffled down towards the finish of the race and watched as the riders flew by each lap.  A Cannondale rider, Cameron Wurf, had gone on a flyer by himself and initially stretched his gap to about 2 minutes.  Once the final eight circuit laps started, his lead quickly diminished and was caught with around 19km to go – after spending just over 50km on the front by himself.

May 04, 2013-GiroCameron-6176The lone Aussie flyer – Cameron Wurf

May 04, 2013-GiroPeloton-6231 The peloton in full force with roughly 60km to go.

May 04, 2013-GiroCadel-6267Cadel Evans (BMC) is one of the favorites for the race.

May 04, 2013-GiroRyder-6291Plenty of spectators near the finish (Ryder Hesjedal a few riders back on the right)

May 04, 2013-GiroRyder1-6310Ryder hung out towards the back of the Peloton all day trying to stay safe – but got to enjoy wearing the Maglia Rosa since he was last year’s winner.

The pace quickened in the last few laps of the circuit, and it had seemed like Cavendish was in a great position with his teammates going into the last lap.  There was a small crash in the last lap that shook up the peloton.  Cavendish lost his teammates due to the crash and a small mechanical issue, but hung on to the front of the peloton.  As they came through the last kilometer mark, the sprint began to open up.

May 04, 2013-GiroFinish-6247The last 100m.

May 04, 2013-GiroCopter-6402Media Helicopters were flying around all day.

 I was standing between the 100m and 150m markers, and saw that Cav was coming around the right side as they flew by.  The finish was so close, I had to listen to the announcers yell out that Cavendish had made the unbelievable comeback around the outside and edged out a Cannondale rider from Italy, Elia Viviani.  After 130km of racing, the Manx Missile got his eighth win of 2013!

May 04, 2013-GiroCavSprint1-6349 Cavendish coming around the outside

We squeezed our way in front of the awards stage to see him receive his Maglia Rosa AND Maglia Rossa (for points classification).  Forza Cavendish!

May 04, 2013-GiroCavAward-6358 Mark “Cannonball” Cavendish accepting his stage win victory, with the help of his daughter, Delilah Grace.

May 04, 2013-GiroCavAward1-6370A little champagne for the crowd

May 04, 2013-GiroCavAward2-6384Accepting the Maglia Rosa for being first in the GC

May 04, 2013-GiroCavAward3-6390 A little confetti to go along with the champagne.

Our train home was in about two hours, so we slowly made our way back to the train station.

May 04, 2013-GiroFinishline-6406 Finish line archway after the race.

May 04, 2013-GiroCerverlo-6427Garmin-Sharp’s team car waited behind near the finish line – stacked with R5’s.

May 04, 2013-GiroWater-6420The weather couldn’t have been any better (except cooler for the riders).

It almost didn’t seem real that I got to watch the race!  I’ve been watching World Tour races streaming on my computer or the TV for so long that it’s weird to see them in person.  An amazing start to the last seven days of my time here in Italy!

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