Phew! What a day!
Stage 5 started out slow and uneventful, pitched against a gloomy background of dark skies threatening the peloton. One of the longest stages, it seemed to take hours to go nowhere: this hill looked the same as the last; the riders looked resigned to a miserable day in the saddle. Even I multi-tasked as the replay aired on my TV.
At one point I considered turning it off and going online to read the results.
Boy am I glad I persevered.
I’ll let you enjoy the highlights via the video clip but let me just say: Wednesday’s race came down to a battle between the OG of Italian cycling, Vincenzo Nibali (three-time winner of the Giro) and the Piemonte Phenomenon, Filippo Ganna (current world time trial champion with one Giro 2020 stage win under his belt).
All day long the riders slogged it out in the cold, rainy conditions. The break-away seemed destined to succeed because no one seemed eager to rein it in. Filippo Ganna, one of the biggest guys in the peloton, stuck with them even over the early climbs, eventually making a move that left them behind.
As the kilometers passed by, the skies got darker; the rain got angrier and came down in torrents. At the top of the last climb, visibility was so poor that I worried for the safe descent of all the riders.
Ganna summited first and proceeded to hurl himself down the mountain, about a minute ahead of the peloton. Guess who was leading the charge to intercept Ganna? Vincenzo Nibali, one of the best descenders in cycling (and one of the wiliest competitors in all of sport.)
I watched Ganna attack the turns in the fog, yelling to him through the TV, “Be careful, Filippo! You can’t see where you’re going!” My eyes darted between the black-clad cyclist almost indiscernable from the scenery and the time clock showing the position of the chasing peloton.
Fifty-three seconds; 50; 45. Nibali attacked the road like a raptor swooping in on prey, narrowing the margin between them. As Ganna went past the 5K to Go banner, the skies cleared a bit and the roads dried out. He seemed to get a second wind, pedaling furiously toward the line.
He kept looking over his shoulder because he had no idea how far back the peloton was! Again, I yelled at the screen, “Stop looking back! Go, go, go, go, go!”
And he did, winning the stage after spending the last third of the race on his own, hauling that big body over the climbs with no assistance. He beat the best of the best today, and deserved the win. He also took home the maglia azzura as best climber, thanks to the points he accumulated over the day.
What a fabulous day of sport! And an exciting glimpse of cycling’s future. I can’t wait until later in the Giro, when the race runs through Piemonte, Ganna’s home turf. I’m sure he’ll be on the podium again before this Giro is over.
What’s Ahead on Stage 6: Another Hard Day but Easier than What Awaits
There’s been so much climbing already in this Giro, it’s hard to imagine that we haven’t gotten to the “hard” parts yet: on deck in the coming weeks are passes through the Apennine Mountains, which make up the “spine” of Italy; and some difficult days in the Alps.
Thursday may suit the break-away again but, if Stage 5 showed us anything, it’s that the GC guys are hungry. They’d like to get rid of the pretenders to the throne, relegating riders like Ganna to the periphery. The sooner this becomes a strictly GC competition, the sooner they can start attacking each other and accumulating distance from their rivals.
So I’m on the fence on this one. It’s anyone’s game. Can’t wait to watch though!
Matera DOC in Basilicata and the Wines of Cantine Taverna
Given appellation status in 2005, Matera sits on a bed of tuffeau into which a labyrinth of caves (sassi) has formed. Indeed the city of Matera itself is carved out of the rock, giving it an ethereal, almost eerie appearance.
The DOC includes 32 hectares and gives rise to all styles of wine: still reds, whites, and rosati; white and pink spumante; and sweet passito-style wines. Basic requirements for each category are as follows:
- Matera Bianco: at least 85% Malvasia Bianca plus other approved nonaromatic white grapes
- Matera Greco: at least 85% Greco Bianco plus other approved nonaromatic white grapes
- Matera Rosato: at least 90% Primitivo plus other approved red grapes
- Matera Rosso: at least 60% Sangiovese; at least 30% Primitivo; less than 10% other approved nonaromatic red grapes
- Matera Moro: at least 60% Cabernet Sauvignon; at least 20% Primitivo; at least 10% Merlot; less than 10% other approved nonaromatic red grapes
- Matera Primitivo: at least 90% Primitivo plus other approved red grapes
About Cantine Taverna
The Lunati family runs things here, with the third generation now in charge. The estate’s 20 hectares overlook the Gulf of Taranto from their viewpoint atop the Pollino Massif. Winemaker Emiliano Falsini and CEO Pasquale Lunati have joined forces with the Institute of Enology in the Veneto region to research both native and international grape varieties and their potential in the Matera DOC. Check out the short video below, for a peek at the landscape:
A sampling of their wines includes:
Maddalena Basilicata Primitivo Rosato IGP, a fruity, fresh rosato made via a scant hour of skin contact, then fermentation in stainless steel vats where the wine remains for five months. It rests another three months in bottle before release.
San Basile Matera Greco DOP, a white wine that spends four weeks resting on the fine lees, then ages for five months in stainless steel. It also remains in bottle for three months before release.
I Sassi Matera Primitivo DOP, a red wine that undergoes a long fermentation including maceration on the skins for 20 days. It remains in stainless steel for six months then is transferred to third-use barriques for three months. As with the others, it rests for three months in bottle before release.
I hope you enjoy Thursday’s race. Look out for Peter Sagan, who’s now wearing the maglia ciclomino (sprinters jersey); he was out of sight most of Wednesday but today’s race might suit him. Also keep your eye on Vincenzo Nibali; the wily veteran is always a threat – and he’s fun to watch.
Cheers! See you tomorrow.