Saturday was a good day to be in the breakaway, as proven by Victor Campenaerts, perpetual escapee of Team Qhubeka Assos. Leading by as much as 12 minutes, the large group was given a long leash by the enforcers in the peloton, which seemed content to ride comfortably amid the sun-dappled vineyards of Friuli and Slovenia.
But nothing comes easily in the Giro, and Stage 15 was no exception. Dark clouds on the horizon warned of worse conditions at the finish and, of course, that’s exactly what happened. I watched Campenaerts and his sole companion (Oscar Riesebeek of Team Alpecin-Fenix) descend from the final climb on the very edge of my seat. Please, no more crashes!
Note: Before the live coverage began, there was a major crash at kilometer 0, temporarily nullifying the start of the race. As yet, I don’t know exactly what occurred; on-air commentators mentioned that the road had to be cleared to allow for ambulances to access injured riders and transport them to hospital. One casualty of the incident was Emmanuel Buchmann of Team Bora Hansgrohe, who was sixth overall. I hope all involved are recovering and have suffered no major injuries.
In a fight to the finish, Campenaerts and Riesebeek crossed the line just ahead of the chase group. It was wonderful to see Campenaerts take the victory, especially after watching him work tirelessly for Giacomo Nizzolo a few days prior. And in his interview, he spoke mostly about the charity behind Team Qhubeka Assos, which provides bikes to poor people in Africa.
Their tagline, featured prominently on their jerseys, is “Bicycles change lives.” He also spoke about the team’s mission of ubuntu, which translates to “I am, because we are.” Feel-good moment, for sure.
Aside from the departure of Emmanuel Buchmann from the race, the GC leaders remained the same. Expect them to come under pressure tomorrow.
Stage 16: Cortina d’Ampezzo, Here We Come!
Called the queen stage of Giro2021 (yes, apparently there is one stage even more difficult) Sunday’s race includes four category 1 climbs. Cold weather (including snow) is expected, and it will be an arduous test of the GC contenders’ fitness, mental stamina, and team support. I expect Simon Yates to shadow Egan Bernal throughout the day, alert to any perceived weakness along the way.
The high altitude and long climbs won’t bother Bernal, who trains in Colombia and probably does training rides harder than this one. And his team has shown that they are up to the task of defending the maglia rosa. But this is the third week of a very tough race; peril lurks around every corner. With a rest day on Tuesday and an individual time trial to conclude the race next Sunday, the GC battles will be concentrated over just a few days. Much excitement to come!
A Sip of Grappa to Warm the Bones
With cold temperatures and the possibility of snow in the forecast, we could do with a glass of hearty red wine. But let’s fortify ourselves with something stronger, shall we? I’m thinking grappa will do the trick.
Grappa is made from pomace, the “cake” of grape skins, seeds, and stalks that remains after fermentation and pressing during the winemaking process. The best grappa comes from the freshest pomace (with a high moisture content) and, as with wine, high-quality fruit results in higher-quality spirit. The pomace is pressed and the liquid obtained is then distilled, resulting in a spirit between 40%-50% alcohol. (For a more detailed narrative on how grappa is made, including some great photos, please check out this article in Difford’s Guide. It’s fantastic!)
The Nonino Family of Ronchi di Pavia
Back in 1897, Orazio Nonino realized his dream of opening a grappa distillery in the hills above Gorizia in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region of Italy. For years he had moved from town to town with his “distillery on wheels,” offering service to small producers.
In 1940, Silvia Nonino, one of Orazio’s descendents, lost her husband and became the first woman in the region to manage a distillery. Her expansive knowledge of botanicals prompted the creation of the Aperitivo Bianco Nonino, what the company calls “a drink for the pleasure of the palate and the spirit.” Silvia was just the first in a long tradition of women distillers at Nonino. If you’d like to learn more about the family’s history, check out their website and also this article from Life in Italy. Lots of good stuff there!)
Let’s offer a double toast for Monday’s race: here’s to the peloton staying safe (and warm) as they climb to Cortina. And cheers to the women behind one of Italy’s historic grappa distilleries.
Rest day on Tuesday; I’ll be back with a preview of Wednesday’s race.