By Dede Barry
After the second Giro d’Italia rest day, the competitors were eager to race in stage 16. From the start, the pace was very high and groups of riders were flying off the front.
Race leader Paolo Savoldelli’s Discovery Channel teammates had their work cut out for them, as they could only afford to let riders go up the road if they posed no threat to the maglia rosa. The team was forced to chase, and with the help of Fasso Bortolo, which preferred to keep the bunch together for sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, they managed to keep the riders in check until Discovery allowed a group with the right chemistry to slip away and Fassa abandoned its hopes for a field sprint.
A big group of riders rode away together, none of its members a danger to Savoldelli’s lead. They gained more than 20 minutes on the peloton and wound up racing for the stage victory, while Discovery kept the maglia rosa protected from the wind, riding tempo at the front of the bunch.
As the racers made their way from Lissonne to Varazze on the Mediterranean coast during stage 16, I stayed up north in Lombardy to ride to the Madonna del Ghisallo cycling church with a group of American cycling tourists. The Madonna del Ghisallo is perched up on a mountain between Como and Bellagio, overlooking Lake Como. Around the outside are statues of Italian cycling legends like Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi. Inside are jerseys, bikes, statues and other memorabilia of many of the best cyclists in world throughout the past century. A few pictures are posted below.
I was honored to make the visit with the 1984 Olympic gold medalist, Connie Carpenter-Phinney, who is the sole American cyclist to have a jersey hanging in the church. I was also moved by the sight of Fabio Casartelli’s bicycle, which he was riding the day he died in the 1995 Tour de France. It hangs on the wall and conjures up much emotion for those who witnessed his horrific accident descending the Col de Portet d’Aspet.
Traveling with groups of North American bicycle tourists, I have watched the Giro d’Italia the past two weeks and have also had the opportunity to explore Italy by bike. I have been a part of Connie and Davis Phinney’s annual bike camp; we are hosting our second group this week.
Having been a racing cyclist the past 16 years, it has been interesting to view this race from a different perspective, to have time to take in the sights, enjoy the regional foods, see the race with no pressure to compete, and most of all, be able to cheer on my husband, Michael, and his teammates.
After a long ride through the countryside, we will be rooting for our home team as they tackle the next difficulties of the Giro, the mountains in the Piedmont region of Italy. Savoldelli has continued to gain strength in this race, but he does have some competition breathing down his neck, so we’ll see how it goes.
Dede Barry is a former professional cyclist, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist and a contributor to “Inside the Postal Bus,” a book by her husband, Discovery Channel rider Michael Barry.