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CALTAGIRONE, Italy (VN) — The Italians were happy to return home after the start of the Giro d’Italia in Israel, but warned of the technical conditions that the race will throw at the peloton over the coming week.
Sicily offers plenty of delicious plates and sandy beaches, but the roads — where not repaved by local workers — are often littered with potholes and cracks. The conditions and stress typically continue through the lower-half of the famous boot of Italy. This year, the race passes the regions of Calabria, Basilicata, Campania, Molise, and Abruzzo heading north.
“I enjoy being back in this paradise, Sicily. I think that everyone already had his granita, cannoli, and arancini. I think everyone is smiling this morning!” Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) told VeloNews.
“The roads are more tricky here, left and right, dangerous, you have be award of the kicks coming, small roads make it more stressful, but with good teammates we can manage this.”
The race entered Italy after a historic start in Israel. The Giro d’Italia was the first of the three grand tours to travel outside of Europe for its “Grande Partenza” (Big Start). After Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Eilat, the 175 riders turn to more familiar roads in often-visited locations.
“It was something strange for everyone, something new,” added Formolo, “but I hope that some years we’ll be able to start from [outside] of Europe, because it’s good for cycling’s movement.”
The three stages through Sicily are technical, up and down all the time over narrow roads. This year, for the first time, the Giro climbs the west side of Mount Etna to finish stage six. Afterwards, the riders transfer over to the mainland to Calabria.
“Here we are in Sicily, I was born here,” Salvatore Puccio (Sky) said. “Tomorrow we go close to my place, so that’s a motivation for tomorrow’s stage. Most of my family still lives here. My grandfather and cousin will be there at the finish in Santa Ninfa.
“Here all the roads are different compared to the centers in the north, you have to be careful in every town you go through. They are small roads and you always find something, so we have to stay in the front.
“Etna? I think that they changed the climb from last year, this side is harder and the main GC leaders will try to gain time on each other. I don’t know if Froome will want to attack but we’ll see on that day.”
Children ran beside the riders as they rolled to sign in and start the fourth stage of the Giro in Catania, a city under the shadow of Mount Etna. They yelled “borraccia, borraccia!” trying to get a water bottle from one of their heroes.
“The atmosphere’s nice, especially in the south of Italy,” Fabio Sabatini (Quick-Step Floors) said. “This year the race doesn’t pass Tuscany, my home, but here in the south it’s really nice and they are truly excited for us. They are the true ‘tifosi.’
“I think that in the south of Italy, the race doesn’t come through here often. Sicily is an island so it’s really different when we are here. The people don’t see the riders often, so it’s nice.”