Giro d’Italia Begins Saturday in NW Sicily, Home to the Organic Vineyards of the Spadafora Family

Normally the Giro d’Italia, or Tour of Italy, takes place in May and is the first of cycling’s grand tours each year. With COVID-19, however, nothing is as usual: organizers postponed all three of the big races, mixing up the traditional schedule.

As we know, the Tour de France was contested in September, and what a race it was! Over three weeks we watched a new super-team (Jumbo-Visma) exert its dominance over the peloton, and welcomed a new class of young riders who are certain to be the sport’s next superstars (Roglic, Pogacar, Hirschi). It was the most wide-open competition in years, with each jersey – even the green one – up for grabs.

If you missed it or would like to relive the most exciting moments, here’s a video of the TDF2020 highlights:

Giro 2020: Who’s In?

Many of the top finishers in the Tour have opted out of the Giro, probably setting their sights on the Vuelta a España, which begins at the end of October and overlaps the Giro by a few days. No Roglic, Pogacar, or Porte, all of whom stood atop the podium in Paris. No Julian Alaphilippe, who won the road racing world championship just last week.

But fear not! Miguel-Angel Lopez (aka Superman) who finished in sixth place, will be at the start in Sicily, as will his Astana teammate Jakob Fuglsang. Expect both to be competitive when the race hits the mountain stages. Other all-around contenders are Ilnur Zakarin from Team CCC, Simon Yates of Mitchelton-Scott, Geraint Thomas of Ineos Grenadier, Steven Kruijswijk of Jumbo-Visma, and Vincenzo Nibali of Trek-Segafredo, who will be racing on his home turf as the race heads northeast to Messina.

As for the sprinters, Peter Sagan will be eager to reverse his poor fortunes at the Tour de France. I imagine Elia Viviani of Cofidis and Michael Matthews of Sunweb will have something to say about that. Should be an exciting contest.

The climbing title could go to any number of riders and will likely change hands multiple times over the three weeks of racing. Peloton veterans will face off against the newcomers and it’s anyone’s game. We spectators are the only clear winners at this point.

Some Quick Facts about the Giro

Richard Carapaz of Ecuador, last year’s winner of the Maglia Rosa (photo: Cycling News)

The overall winner wears the maglia rosa, or pink jersey. Why? Back in 1909, the Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport (which is printed on pink paper) founded the Giro d’Italia and the winner’s jersey was made in a similar shade.

The points classification (commonly known as the sprinters’ contest) awards the maglia ciclomino, or purple jersey. I love that they named this jersey for the cyclamen flower and its bright fuchsia petals. Gotta love the Italian flair for color!

Pascal Akermann, winner of last year’s sprint competition (photo: Cycling News)

Climbers seek the ultimate maglia azzurra, a jersey whose bright blue hue represents the sky – and the sky-high mountains they will scale in their quest for glory. And the best rider under 25 years of age will wear the maglia bianca, a white jersey, as in the Tour.

Lupo Wolfie, mascot of the Giro d’Italia (photo: http://www.giroditalia.it)

The Giro has a mascot, Lupo Wolfie. He represents a social responsibility project that’s a joint venture between race organizers and the World Wildlife Foundation Alpine Programme. One of the project’s goals is to reintroduce and support the native wolf population in the mountain regions of Italy. As residential development has expanded into wooded areas, these animals have become endangered, with consequences for biodiversity and balance in the ecosystem. Look for Lupo Wolfie to make appearances throughout the Giro.

Stage One – the Individual Time Trial

Profile of Stage 1 (www.giroditalia.it)

Do you remember how the ITT shook up the GC race in this year’s Tour? Well, this probably won’t be as exciting as that, but it will give us a lovely look at the coast from Monreale to Palermo, and a chance to watch some of the world’s best time trial specialists go at it.

Tony Martin, who dominated the discipline for years, will be in the mix, for sure, as will Rohan Dennis (who now rides for Ineos). It’s a short race, and relatively flat, so probably not a lot of fireworks on order. All the more reason to pour a glass of something tasty and enjoy the scenery.

Azienda Agricola Spadafora – Eschewing DOC Labels in Favor of Terroir-Driven Wine

The Spadafora family traces its lineage in Monreale back to 1230. The winery was founded a bit later, when Don Pietro Spadafora inherited the family farm from his uncle, who bred racehorses. In 1988 Francesco Spadafora took the reins, turning the focus to growing grapes, realizing his first harvest in 1993.

Virzî, home to Spadafora Wines (winery photo)

Since then, he has embraced the potential of the terroir, making wines that highlight the unique promise of native grapes grown organically. His approach in the cellar reflects this philosophy: he adds no sulfur dioxide to the wine, uses indigenous yeasts only, and allows the grape must to ferment at its own pace.

Spadafora believes the yields permitted under the local DOC regulations are too high, giving rise to wines that are less concentrated than is desirable. Not wanting to be lumped into such a category, he has decided to label his wines under the Terre Siciliane IGT instead. Check out this series of cartoons illustrating his vineyard and cellar practices, as well as his thoughts on the DOC.

Everything at Spadafora is done with an eye toward sustainability: energy comes from renewable sources; bottle weight has been scaled down; and corks are made from organic sugarcane polymers. (There’s much more information available on Francesco’s blog.)

Hillside vineyards at Spadafora (winery photo)

The winery makes several lines of wines, most from autocthonous (native) grape varieties. I love the idea of this crisp, citrus-scented white made from Catarratto (87%) and Inzolia (13%). Grapes come from northwest-facing parcels at 300 meters above sea level. The wine ages in concrete vats for two months, then spends another two months in bottle before release.

So, let’s toast to the peloton and the first stage of the 2020 Giro d’Italia. To three weeks of all-out racing, tricky tactics, and beautiful scenery.

And wine; lots and lots of delicious Italian wine!

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