Where are we?: Riding from Sassano to Montecassino. Today's route takes us from Campania to Lazio.The stage is in homage to the Battle of Montecassino, one of the pivotal moments of WWII. The battle was a series of four assaults by the Allies against the Winter Line held by Axis forces. You can read more on the battle here or here.
On a gastronomic note, Campania may be best known as the possible home of pizza (Naples). It is also the home of the San Marzano tomato, of sauce fame.
As for Lazio, the fascinating "Popes, Peasants, and Shepherds: Recipes and Lore from Rome and Lazio" by Oretta Zanini de Vita tells me that "the food of Rome and its region, Lazio, has always been redolent of herbs, olive oil, ricotta, lamb, and pork." Famous foods include Roman artichokes, spaghetti alla carbonara,and arrabbiata sauce.
The route: They've added 10 kilometers today to avoid a landslide, leaving us with the longest stage of the race at 257 kilometers. Podium Cafe calls it a likely "long slog." (By the way, if you are a race fan, come join the live threads there.) Best guess is for a finish much like the one we saw yesterday.
The race: The weather? Windy with a 50% chance of rain at the finish. Our doomed break of the day Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli), Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocattoli), Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani) and Rdolofo Andres Torres (Colombia). Note though that a break did stay away at the Tour of California yesterday, so it is always possible, if not likely. Their gap went out to a maximum of fourteen minutes, but with 100 kilometers to go, it had been brought down to a more manageable five minutes. Hey, Sky at the front of the peloton. Working for EBH again? Time would tell.
82 kilometers to go and on went the rain jackets. At the sprint point, the gap to the break was 5'43".
The Giro passing the "Reggia Di Caserta"... Botanical Beauty. Break far ahead in the sun, it's raining on the Peloton pic.twitter.com/XBE2OHcOFl
— Europcar Ireland (@Europcar_Ire) May 15, 2014
Ahead, news of a storm at the finish area, with strong winds and heavy rain.
Under 60 kilometers to go and the gap was back around six minutes. Long slog indeed. 45 kilometers to go and the gap was down to 3:50. 30 kilometers remaining and it was under three minutes. 20 kilometers left and it was just about one minute.
Some fine dancing by a policeman on course to avoid a crash:
Hero!! #giro pic.twitter.com/HFfpNJCiO0
— ProCyclingStats.com (@ProCyclingStats) May 15, 2014
12.2 and the break was caught. Right after that catch: crashes. Many off their bikes. Some scary pictures of riders on the ground, especially of Giampaolo Caruso. Dear tv camera-people, there are things we do not need to see.
Ahead, eight men remained at the front, including Cadel Evans and Michael Matthews. Behind them, some regrouping, but there were many splits on the road. Ahead, Cadel and Mathews and their small group continued on, finishing with a sprint easily won by Matthews.
Kelderman leads chase group across at 48sec - polemic aside, big day for Evans, bad day for just about everyone else
— Andrew Hood (@EuroHoody) May 15, 2014
There will be a lot of talk , some of it likely to be rather angry, about this stage on twitter and elsewhere through the day. Plus, of course, injury reports.
Stage and Pink: Michael Matthews
2 [Australia] C. Evans BMC Racing +21
3 [Colombia] R. Urán O.Ph.-Q-Step +1:18
4 [Switzerland] S. Morabito BMC Racing +1:25
5 [Italy] M. Rabottini Neri Sottoli +1:25
6 [Italy] I. Santaromita Orica +1:47
7 [Italy] F. Aru Astana +1:51
8 [Belgium] T. Wellens Lotto +1:52
9 [Italy] I. Basso Cannondale +2:06
10 [Colombia] N. Quintana Movistar +2:08
Wine: Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso 'Gelsonero'
$25 at Biondivino:
From Biondivino: 80% Piedirosso and 20% Aglianico, organically grown: broad reddish-black color; smoky aroma with a hint of tar (notes I often find in red wines grown in volcanic soils); aroma and flavor of black fruit (blackberry, black cherry) and woody herbs (thyme, bay, rosemary); medium-weight but light on its feet. It is aged in puncheons for about a year. Drink now with red meats or cellar.
From the importer: Volcanic soils make for interesting wines, and many of Campania's famous terroirs are of volcanic origin. Mount Vesuvius is an active volcano just east of Naples, and the organically farmed vineyards of Villa Dora are on the lower slopes of the volcano, inside the national park that surrounds it. The soil, ground-up pumice really, looks like black Grape-Nuts, and the wines are strikingly flavorful and distinctive. There is no known scientific reason why certain minerals in the soil would affect the flavors of the wines grown in that soil, but I have to think there's a connection. I hope you like these wines as much as I do.
I say: Clearly, cat approved. Deep red. Full bodied and flavorful, but with enough acidity to keep it from feeling heavy. Black cherry and herbs.