Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Giro Stage 4: Bouhanni Wins on a Neutralized Day

Where are we: Back in Italy! To be exact, in Puglia heading from Giovinazzo to  Bari. Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordered by the Adriatic Sea to the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto to the south. Its southernmost portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy.

The route: 112 flat kilometers. A very short stage that will end in eight laps of the city of Bari. The question of the day will be how do the riders react after the very long transfer from Dublin and the very early rest day. 

The race: The big news coming out of the race day is the early departure of Marcel Kittel, due to a fever. He was dominating the early sprints and would have been the favorite for today's stage. My fantasy team is hoping for Ben Swift. 
Our morning started with a rider protest due to unsafe conditions. A neutralized stage? Rain and slick roads had the riders very concerned about the technical finish laps and they started the day as a leisurely ride. It is an interesting situation as the race clearly wanted them to race, but the riders decided as a group that it was not worth the risk of injury. Lucas Paolini seemed to be the chief negotiator on the road.

So it went. With the roads looking a bit more dry, the speed picked up, but would anyone attempt a break?

Some dissension became visible in the peloton as they ambled through Bari. Some riders clearly wanted to race, others disagreed. Hey, look, Bernie Eisel! He appeared annoyed. Word finally came down that there would be no bonifications (bonus seconds) at the finish of the stage, thus Matthews will remain in pink. 

35 kilometers to go and suddenly, racing. An intermediate sprint, won by Viviani. It appeared that there would be no bonus seconds awarded, but that the points would still count towards the red points jersey. Maybe.

Around and around they went, giving the teams time to practice their sprint leadouts. A mechanical for Bouhanni. The most excitement of the day came as he struggled to get back to the peloton in time for the sprint. Bell lap and there went many of the riders. Sprint trains to the front. And then bedlam. Crash after crash after crash. At the end, a very impressive sprint from a very small group from Bouhanni.

Stage: Nacer Bouhanni
Pink: Michael Matthews

The wine: Leone de Castris Salice Salento 2010
This wine was a sample provided by Winebow. 

From the importer
Founded in 1665 by the Spanish Duke Oronzo, Earl of Lemos, in the Italian region of Puglia, Leone de Castris has been exporting wine since the beginning of the 19th century.
Leone de Castris specializes in traditional Apulian wines. This exceptional wine commemorates the winery's 50th anniversary vintage, or "vendemmia," which has been featured on the label since 2004. This wine is made from hand-harvested, select grapes from the Salice Salentino DOC, a picturesque wine region dotted with ancient watchtowers and old farmhouses, just north of the village of Lecce. 
Tasting Notes: Intense ruby-red in color, concentrated aromas of black cherries and baked red fruits complement undertones of plums, spices, vanilla, and anise. On the palate, velvety tannins and a full body frame the long, delectable finish of stewed strawberries and vanilla beans. 
Food Pairing: Pair this wine with well-aged steaks, demi-glaces, barbecue, and farsumagru.

I say:  Back in Italy and back to the wine. The Salento is a blend of Negroamaro, the most common grape in the region and and Malvasia Nera di Lecce. Very dark and purple in the glass. Sweet black cherries, some nutmeg, notes of roasted blackberries, not nearly as heavy as it looks. Very smooth. I had this bottle over the course of three nights and thought it held up beautifully. 
To stay regional with the suggested food pairings above, maybe orrecchietti with a strong meat sauce. I opted for a meat lasagne from Matarello.

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