Would it surprise you to know that my title refers to a person, not a food?
We’re celebrating Taco Tuesday in honor of Giro d’Italia Stage 3 winner, Taco Van der Hoorn of the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team. Greatest name ever, right? Gabe and I thought so, too. We cheered him on throughout the long stage, expecting his lone escapade at the head of the race to result in inevitable capture by the peloton.
With each passing kilometer, Taco pedaled in a desperate attempt to stave off the hungry (sorry, couldn’t resist) hive of riders edging ever closer. Most days, the peloton uses its collective energy to sweep up those who dare forge ahead, erasing dreams of a stage win just before the finish.
Every once in a while, though, the cycling gods intervene, keeping the front runner out of reach just long enough for him to cross the line first. That’s what happened Monday. In all my years watching bike races, I’ve never seen anyone so shocked and overjoyed to win a stage. See for yourself. I dare you not to smile along with Taco!
Tuesday brought Stage 4, a miserable day for all involved: cold, windy, and rainy conditions plagued the peloton as it maneuvered narrow roads that got hillier as the day went on. Most of the challenging climbs were stacked at the end of the course, encouraging a large group of riders to break away early in the race.
The overall contenders huddled among their team members, intent on surviving the day. Filippo Ganna, still in the maglia rosa, switched into domestique mode, supporting his capo, Egan Bernal. He drove the pace at the front of the peloton until his legs were spent, then dropped to the back, his mission complete. Yes, he ceded the jersey, but in the interest of the greater goal: a grand tour win for his Ineos Grenadiers teammate. We’ll see in three weeks’ time if it was a successful strategy.
Just when it seemed the day would never end, American rider Joe Dombrowski of UAE Team Emirates went on the attack on the final climb. Despite a late challenge from Alessandro De Marchi of Team Israel Startup Nation, Dombrowski persevered, saving enough energy to ride to victory. De Marchi came in second, earning himself the maglia rosa.
Here’s a peek at the highlights from Stage 4:
Wine for Stage 3: Langhe DOC Rosato of Pinot Nero from Massimo Rivetti
Monday’s race took us across the rolling hills of the Langhe region, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I loved looking at the vineyards as the peloton pedaled past, imagining the delicious wines to come. We don’t often think of Pinot Noir from the Piemonte region, but it does grow there. This wine made from organically grown grapes, comes from Massimo Rivetti, better known for his Nebbiolo-based wines. But along with the Barbaresco and Barolo in his portfolio you’ll find Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and a few other international varieties. All are bottled under the Langhe DOC. This rosato is a high-acid cherry-berry bomb, perfect for summer dining – or for drinking on its own, complementing a juicy conversation.
Wine for Stages 4 and 5: It’s Lambrusco Time!
Tuesday and Wednesday take the riders south, into Emilia-Romagna, home to Parma ham, ragu Bolognese, and balsamic vinegar from Modena. It’s considered the gastronomic capital of Italy, and that’s saying something. Lambrusco is the iconic wine of the region and perhaps the most misunderstood wine in the world. Decades ago, the US market was flooded with cheap, cloyingly sweet, cherry-scented fizz marketed under the generic name Lambrusco.
But, as with most things, the truth is more complicated. Did you know there are at least 10 different grapes under the Lambrusco family umbrella? And that there are five DOC designations for the wines, depending on where the grapes were grown and how the wine was made?
The traditional style of Lambrusco is dry or off-dry, high in acidity, and low in alcohol: perfect for pairing with the hearty, rich fare native to the region. Here is one wine that will shake up your perceptions of Lambrusco:
Francesco Vezzelli Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Rive dei Ciliegi (11% abv; $19)
Also known as Lambrusco Castelvetro, for the town where it grows most prevalently, Grasparossa prefers hillside vineyards and clay-based soils. Favorable placement at higher elevations allows this variety to ripen fully even in the coolest years. Wines made from Grasparossa are noticeably more tannic and concentrated than other Lambrusco wines, and many of its fans consider them superior in quality to others. These deeply colored wines, with their heady aromas of black cherry and fuller bodies are perfect accompaniments for robust meat dishes and hearty stews. Give it a try with a homemade sausage pizza.
My friend Susannah from Avvinare lived in this area of Italy and has penned a few thoughts on the region – and Lambrusco. Check out her post for an insider’s view on Modena and a great sip-along suggestion.
What’s Ahead in Stage 5?
After Tuesday’s misery, the peloton is in for a treat: a totally flat stage running east from Modena to Cattolica on the Adriatic coast. Wind could be a factor, and I expect there will be an early breakaway group that will be caught before the finish. With so few pure sprint stages in this year’s race, this one will be too juicy for the fast guys to ignore. Look for Bora-Hansgrohe to ride for Peter Sagan, Jumbo-Visma to assist Dylan Groenewegen and, in what may be the best bet for the stage win, Lotto-Soudal to guide Caleb Ewan to the line.
See you tomorrow for more sip-along suggestions. Cheers!