After Simoni, Garzelli and Popovych, it’s time for their “younger brothers” to rock the roads in Italy. The 33rd edition of the “Baby Giro”, officially known as “Giro d’Italia Under 26”, a competition whose palmares (featuring past winner such as Moser, Baronchelli, Ugrumov, Belli, Pantani, Simoni, Di Luca, Casagrande and many other future stars of the professional peloton) says it all, sets off on Friday with a 6.1-km. ITT at Maerne di Martellago, in the outskirts of Venice. The race will end in the Molise region of Central Italy after nine days, ten stages (prologue plus nine more legs) and 1358 kilometres over a route that, unlike its “pro” counterpart, doesn’t seem that appropriate for climbers.
168 riders belonging to 28 different teams are set to take to the startline on Friday afternoon, in a difficult moment for amateur cycling, with a couple riders (Tosoni, Moletta. The latter’s Team Manager Daniele Tortoli even resigned as – in is own words – he was ”disappointed by the behaviour of some riders” that betrayed his trust) involved in the “Operazione Bike” inquiry one week ago, and four more whose positivity to anti-doping tests carried out a few weeks ago has been made known in the last hours, and whose names are Antonio Quadranti (Pagnoncelli, a former member of Italy’s national team) Guido Balbis (Team Olio Vezza Brunero Boeris), Andrea Rinaldini (GS Cotto Ref) and Gabriele Barengo (Team Aurora Named Ocim Virtual Image).
After Friday’s “race of the truth” the baby “Girini” will head to the Northeastern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia for the completely flat Stage 1 finishing into Azzano Decimo (Pordenone area) and covering 151.5 km,, with three final laps of a urban circuit.
On Sunday, June 15th, the race gets back to Veneto, with a 153.4-km. stage getting underway in Azzano and finishing into Colle San Martino, whose route encompasses five different ascents of the same Guietta climb (330 metres above sea level) in its last part.
Then back to to the flat roads of Veneto and Lombardy for Monday’s fourth leg, the largest one in the race, covering 179.2 kms. between Fiesso D’Artico (Venice) and Asola (Mantua).
The following leg, taking riders from Asola to the city of Parma over 156 km., is a bit more nervous, in its second half at least, with two different climbs (Barbiano, Stadirano) to be tackled.
Stage 6, going from Langhirano to Casalecchio di Reno near Bolonia, is 162.4-km. long and, just like the previous one, features two KOM primes, located at Montemaggiore (305m ASL) and Monte Capra (419m) respectively.
Thursday’s seventh leg, covering 131 km. between Casalecchio di Reno and Dozza, features and completely flat route in the first 100 km., but no less than 5 ascents of the Dozza climb in its final part, with the last ascent taking the peloton all the way to the line.
One week into the race, the “queen stage” comes: on Friday, June 20th, riders will have to tackle a demanding 161.4-km. ride from Montegranaro to Tolentino, in the Marche region, with the Montegranaro climb (270m) coming soon after the gun, and the Serrapetrone (510m) and San Giuseppe (420m) ascents to be tackled two and three time respectively, the last one peaking at about 10 km. from the line. The maximum gradient in this stage goes up to more than 21%.
Stage eight is divided in two halves, the first one being a 20.2-km. ride both starting and finishing in Giuglionesi town, the second being a probably decisive 36.4-km ITT from Sepino station to Sepino Terme, with a KOM prime (at 650m ASL) peaking at halfway point .
The 33rd Tour of Italy for U26 riders will end on Sunday, June 22nd, with a 160-km,. stage around the Molisean town of Casacalenda near Campobasso. A helluva stage, featuring an uphill finish at the end of a 5-km. climb, which comes at the end of a route continuously going up and down, with almost no flat piece, in what’s more or less the same parcours as in the “Giro del Cigno”, a race traditionally held in the area. A zone that was badly affected by the earthquake of the past October 31st, such that the coming of the Baby Giro in town has got a high symbolical meaning too.
Talkimg about teams, one of the best squads attending this competition is the Mantua-based GS Bottoli Artoni, fielding experienced riders such as sprinter Luca Cappa (winner of the Milano-Mantova race), Daniele Callegarin (first place getter in Castenedolo six days ago), Italy’s national track Champion Marco Cattaneo, plus Stefano Bonini, Aristide Ratti and Giovanni Cortinovis.
The “Raimondi F.lli Costanzini Simec Tosi GB Paletti” team is a newcomer to the race, but nevertheless they are going to the Giro with the ambition of winiinibg astage and the Young Rider classification, maybe with team leader Riccardo Riccò. The 20-year-old cimber won the GC in the Giro delle Pesche Nettarine a few weeks ago, and this past Sunday he dominated a world-class field in the “Coppa della Pace” (“Peace Cup”) race. Other team members are Ricco’s 19-year-old fellow townsman Luca Iattici, 21-year-old mountain goat Matteo Frodati from Pavullo del Frignano (Modena province), Sicilian Roberto Gennaro (22), Uzbekistan’s Dennis Shkarpeta (along with Gennaro the most accomplished rider in the roster) and Italy’s Mattia Vaccari.
The above mentioned guys are not the lone rangers though. Thanks to its 17th placing in the Italian teams ranking, also the Viris Vigevano Eurothermo goes Giro for the first time (in past editions of the race, when it was reserved for regional teams, a few Viris members rode for the Lombard squad), not to make up the numbers but with the ambition to win a stage and do well in the GC too. “We’ve got the rigt guys to do well in each stage, and their morale is high” says Viris’ experencied Team Manager Leonardo Pirro “We could say many things in the race, and got a man in the top 10 places. Sure that also Lady Luck plays a fundamental part in such long races of course”.
And Lady Luck recently wasn’t on Matteo Gregianin’s side though. The Viris man for the GC was a serious overall contender in the recent Giro delle Pesche Nettarine, but a crash dashed all of his hopes. He can take revenge in the Baby Tour of Italy.
Their man for the sprints is Giacomo Vinoni: the 25-year-old from Varese has got a few wins so far this season, along with several placings, Vinoni's main rival is one of the fastest guys around, Pagnoncelli's Paride Grillo, winner of "Trofeo Bazzigaluppi" in May (stage report and results here , full photo gallery here . Their duel will continue on the Giro roads.
Russian Andrei Karpatchev, the only foreign riders in the roster, could either do well in some hilly stages, or be of help to Gregianin, while 21-year-old Massimo Boglia is an excellent time trialer, that could get into any successful breakaway too. And the same could do both 25-year-old climber Antonio Marotti and young Diego Vailati Facchini, the latter being also Giacomo Vinoni’s leadout man though.
All winners of the 32 previous editions:
32 - 2002 Giuseppe Muraglia (Ita)
31 - 2001 Davide Frattini (Ita)
30 - 2000 Raffaele Ferrara (Ita)
29 - 1999 Tadej Valjavec (Slo)
28 - 1998 Danilo Di Luca (Ita)
27 - 1997 Oscar Mason (Ita)
26 - 1996 Roberto Sgambelluri (Ita)
25 - 1995 Giuseppe Di Grande (Ita)
24 - 1994 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita)
23 - 1993 Gilberto Simoni (Ita)
22 - 1992 Marco Pantani (Ita)
21 - 1991 Francesco Casagrande (Ita)
20 - 1990 Vladimir Belli (Ita)
19 - 1989 Andrei Teteriuk (URSS)
18 - 1988 Dimitri Konyshev (URSS)
17 - 1986 Alexandre Krasnov (URSS)
16 - 1985 Sergej Uslamin (URSS)
15 - 1984 Piotre Ugrumov (URSS)
14 - 1983 Vladimir Volochin (URSS)
13 - 1982 Francesco Cesarini (Ita)
12 - 1981 Sergej Voronin (URSS)
11 - 1980 Giovanni Fedrigo (Ita)
10 - 1979 Alf Segersäll (Swe)
9 - 1978 Franco Stiz (Ita)
8 - 1977 Claudio Corti (Ita)
7 - 1976 Francesco Conti (Ita)
6 - 1975 Ruggero Gialdini (Ita)
5 - 1974 Pizzini Leone (Ita)
4 - 1973 Gianbattista Baronchelli (Ita)
3 - 1972 Giovanni Battaglin (Ita)
2 - 1971 Francesco Moser (Ita)
1 - 1970 Gian Carlo Bellini (Ita)