Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Giro d’Italia 2011, Stage 7: Maddaloni – Montevergine di Mercogliano 110km

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HomeDiariesGiro d'Italia 2011, Stage 7: Maddaloni - Montevergine di Mercogliano 110km

We’re on the percorso early, today.

Montevergine di Mercogliano
Remember we said yesterday where not to book your holidays?

Montevergine is the destination – the first real mountain top finish of the Giro.

At the top it’s 1,260 metres above sea level, it’s 17.1 K long with a total altitude gain of 856 metres, average gradient 5% and maximum gradient 10%.

Montevergine di Mercogliano
We’ve got altitude.
Montevergine di Mercogliano
It still doesn’t seem real that Wouter is not in the bunch.
Montevergine di Mercogliano
Ricordano con affecto, for sure.

It’s always good to ‘work the start’ – get some pictures and quotes in the 90 minutes or so between the team buses arriving and the roll out but today we just don’t have time.

Due to the nature of the percorso this year – a headlong breenge down the western seaboard of Italy, with the odd ‘squiggly bit’ into the dirt or hills – there are significant distances between the finish of one stage and the start of the next.

Montevergine di Mercogliano
We pass a shrine to Padre Pio; the saintly, late priest has a strong connection with our last port of call, Cassino.

Our game plan has been to hole up half way – drive a bit after the stage, then drive a bit before the stage, next morning.

This has worked well enough, but today there’s an added complication up at Montevergine – essential vehicles are the only ones allowed up there.

Team cars which are following the race and Giro organisation cars.

The T-shirt sales vans aren’t even allowed – that shows how serious it is.

When the race passes through Mercogliano there are 15 K to go; for anyone not on a bike or on foot, there are around two K to go – by funicular.

Montevergine di Mercogliano
The funicular can be anything but fun with a huge crowd.
Montevergine di Mercogliano
The guy from Farnese Vini who has the riders’ capes in musettes for the drop off the summit, ain’t happy about having to wait, and now everyone knows.

Dave and I did this a few years back; and whilst getting up the hill was fine, getting off it was horrific – the queue for the funicular was solid back up the access stairs to the main road and there were some ugly scenes.

This year we resolved that we couldn’t wait the 15 minutes that the gruppetto would be down – we’d watch the leaders from our vantage point at 600 to go, then make for the funicular.

Montevergine di Mercogliano
The cops on the race are great bike handlers.
Montevergine di Mercogliano
Local clubmen hang on our every update SMS from home.
Montevergine di Mercogliano
The riggers attach the advertising banner strips to the barriers; the last time we were up here, the fans were tearing it back off and wrapping themselves in it because of the cold.

It worked well, we had good chat with the locals; got our shots of Bart De Clerq en route to glory; the Lampre chase with the favourites in tow and a few of the stragglers.

Montevergine di Mercogliano
First to appear is De Clerq, tall, skinny, revving – that rare bird, a Belgian climber.
Montevergine di Mercogliano
Scarponi is keen to finish the catch and the group are flying.
Montevergine di Mercogliano
The other capi know it’s not the day for unnecessary effort. Nibali…
Montevergine di Mercogliano
…and Sastre, who seems less able than previous years…
Montevergine di Mercogliano
Bert is the first rider to head back down to the team bus, 11km away.
Montevergine di Mercogliano
Some riders take good care to avoid a chill.
Montevergine di Mercogliano
Others are happy to chat with old teammates.
Montevergine di Mercogliano
A lot of riders have ridden down before Peter Kennaugh rides up.

No pictures of the gruppetto, though – we had to get on that Funicular before things got messy.

Montevergine di Mercogliano
We chat to Scarponi’s mum, dad and sister on the ride down.
Montevergine di Mercogliano
It takes all sorts, we suppose.

* * *

And now it’s Saturday and we’re driving down the Campania coast – it’s beautiful.

I’ve never been this far south on the Tirreno side of Italy before, last year, Martin and I were way down to Bitonto – but that’s on the Adriatico side.

The road is hugging the cliff tops, the sun is splitting, the sea is like a mill pond and the roadside folks are cool.

Not much more you can ask for.

Best get writing! Ciao, ciao.

Montevergine di Mercogliano Gallery