Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Road

Giro’s Belgium start honors Italians killed in mining disaster

When Danilo Di Luca and the other 197 starters in the 89th Giro d’Italialine up for the first road stage in Belgium on Sunday, they will standfor a moment of silence. Their thoughts will reach out to 262 coalminers,more than half of them Italian, who died 50 years ago in the Bois de Caziermining disaster at Charleroi-Marcinelle, where Sunday’s stage finishes.Di Luca will be particularly affected because more than one third of theItalians who lost their lives in that 1956 tragedy were from the Italianracer’s home province of Pescara. Choosing to start the 2006 Giro in the heart of Belgian’s

Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.

50th anniversary of Bois de Cazier disaster

By John Wilcockson

Di Luca with Savoldelli in the 2005 Giro

Di Luca with Savoldelli in the 2005 Giro

Photo: AFP (file photo)

When Danilo Di Luca and the other 197 starters in the 89th Giro d’Italialine up for the first road stage in Belgium on Sunday, they will standfor a moment of silence. Their thoughts will reach out to 262 coalminers,more than half of them Italian, who died 50 years ago in the Bois de Caziermining disaster at Charleroi-Marcinelle, where Sunday’s stage finishes.Di Luca will be particularly affected because more than one third of theItalians who lost their lives in that 1956 tragedy were from the Italianracer’s home province of Pescara.

Choosing to start the 2006 Giro in the heart of Belgian’s industrialWallonia region was triggered not only by the disaster’s 50th anniversarybut also by the fact that 200,000 Italians live here. They were part ofa post-World War II mass emigration by unemployed workers from Italy’simpoverished south to take jobs in the mines and steelworks of Belgium’sSambre-Meuse valley. In all, 50,000 men came to work in the mines — and867 of them died in various disasters between 1946 and 1963.

Expect to see hundreds of Italy’s tricolor flags during the four daysthat the Giro traverses the hills and valleys of Belgium’s southeast corner.The biggest concentration of Italian fans will probably be in the steeltown of Seraing, just south of Liège, which hosts the stage 1 timetrial (not called a prologue this year).

Stage 1
The point-to-point TT is only 6.2km long but is highly technical. Itopens with 1.5km alongside the Meuse River before turning left up a twisting2.5km hill that has a steepest pitch of 10 percent and a 330-foot elevationgain. It descends more steeply through the town until the last 500 metersback on the river’s right bank.

The course should suit most of this Giro’s protagonists, who range frompast champions Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital)and Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir), to hot favorite Ivan Basso(CSC), to last year’s fourth-place finisher Di Luca (Liquigas).

Can Savoldelli repeat?

Can Savoldelli repeat?

Photo: Graham Watson

Basso used his recent trip to the Liège-Bastogne-Liègeclassic to inspect the course at Seraing, saying: “It’s a tough littletime trial and I think it will be good for me.” The course should alsosuit defending champion Savoldelli, who won the prologue TT at last week’sTour de Romandie before gastroenteritis spelled the end of his race.

Two former Giro prologue winners, Brad McGee (2004) and Rik Verbrugghe(2001), also have a chance of winning this opening stage. Verbrugghe (Cofidis)will have the backing of his home crowd and the confidence of riding thecourse several times in training, while McGee (Française des Jeux)sees this as his best chance of a stage win.

Stage 2
Di Luca won’t be contesting the probable mass finish of the flat, 197kmstage 2 from Mons to Marcinelle, so look for the pure sprinters to enjoytheir first rendezvous. Milram’s Alessandro Petacchi will be looking forhis 20th Giro stage win in four years, but his perennial rival Robbie McEwenwill be even more eager to win in front of his team’s Belgian sponsors,Davitamon and Lotto.

Other sprinters expected to be in the mix are Gerolsteiner’s RobertFörster, T-Mobile’s Olaf Pollack, Phonak’s Fabrizio Guidi, Rabobank’sGraeme Brown, Panaria’s Luca Mazzanti and Bouygues Télécom’s Sebastien Chavanel. Several of the best sprinters have been left out of their teams because of other priorities — these include Lampre’s Danilo Napolitano, Panaria’s Paride Grillo and AG2R’s Alexandre Usov.

Stage 3
This 202km stage from Perwez to Namur loop through the hills, suchas the Côte de Ahin, used in the Flèche Wallonne classic,which Di Luca won in 2005. But instead of a finish up the ultra-steep Murde Huy, the Giro stage climaxes on the more gentle, switchback slopes ofthe Citadelle climb at Namur.

Di Luca and Paolo Bettini, who both rode the last 30km of the stagewhen they were in the region for the Ardennes classics, said they are highlymotivated for this stage. Bettini’s Belgian team, Quick Step-Innergetic,would love to see the two-time Liège-Bastogne-Liège championwin in Namur.

“It’s a perfect finish for me,” said Bettini after he inspected theCitadelle hill, which is 2km long and climbs almost 400 vertical feet ona road surfaced with small cobblestones. To help him, Bettini consultedwith his Belgian teammate Nick Nuyens, who has won the past two editionsof the GP de Wallonie that finished at the Namur Citadelle.

Stage 4
This 193km stage from Wanze to Hotton traverses the Ardennes and includestwo Liège-Bastogne-Liège climbs, the Côte deWanne and Haute-Levée. But the climbs come before half-distance,and the rolling roads over the final 80km favor a regrouping and a probablemass sprint. Another Petacchi-McEwen duel?

Following these four days of racing in Belgium, the Giro participantswill fly by chartered jet to Milan, Italy for the event’s first rest dayon May 10, next Wednesday.


2006 Giro stages and distances
These are the 21 stages of this year’s 3526.2km Giro, with the distancesmodified after final course inspections by the organizers.
89TH GIRO D’ITALIAMay 6 Stage 1 Seraing (B) TT 6.2kmMay 7 Stage 2 Mons (B)—Charleroi-Marcinelle (B) 197kmMay 8 Stage 3 Perwez (B)—Namur (B) 202kmMay 9 Stage 4 Wanze (B)—Hotton (B) 193kmMay 10 Transfer and rest dayMay 11 Stage 5 Piacenza—Cremona TTT 38kmMay 12 Stage 6 Busseto—Forli 227kmMay 13 Stage 7 May 13 Cesena—Saltara 236kmMay 14 Stage 8 Civitanova Marche—Maielletta (Passo Lanciano)171kmMay 15 Stage 9 Francavilla al Mare—Termoli 127kmMay 16 Stage 10 Termoli—Peschici 187kmMay 17 Transfer and rest dayMay 18 Stage 11 Pontedera—Pontedera TT 50kmMay 19 Stage 12 Livorno—Sestri Levante 171kmMay 20 Stage 13 Alessandria—La Thuile 218kmMay 21 Stage 14 Aosta—Domodossola 223kmMay 22 Stage 15 Mergozzo—Brescia 189kmMay 23 Stage 16 Rovato—Trento (Monte Bondone) 173kmMay 24 Stage 17 Termeno—Plan de Corones 133kmMay 25 Stage 18 Sillian (A)—Gemona del Friuli 210kmMay 26 Stage 19 Pordenone—Passo di San Pellegrino 224kmMay 27 Stage 20 Trento—Aprica 211kmMay 28 Stage 21 Ghisallo—Milan 140km
TOTAL DISTANCE: 3526.2km

Photo Gallery