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26 May 2016


Giacomo Nizzolo was second yesterday, for the second time this Giro. He was second twice last year, and second four times the year before, and once the year before that. He has finished in the top ten in Giro stages 28 times – and never taken a win. And, of all the stages he has not won, yesterday’s was special. “I wanted to win at home today, but I just didn’t have the legs.” Nizzolo lives at Muggio, 30km from the stage finish at Cassano d’Adda. For the local rider, yesterday, it just wasn’t to be.

The scene shifts to Eisenhüttenstadt, literally “ironworks city.” It doesn’t sound promising, even if, in everyday language, it is shortened toHüttenstadt (Cottage City) or simply Hütte (hut). Founded in 1950 as Stalinstadt, the town was renamed in 1961 during the process known as de-Stalinization A socialist model city with a massive steel mill, sport gave Eisenhüttenstadt another life. It was the birthplace of a large number of Olympic athletes: hammer thrower Detlef Gerstenberg, 400m runner Frank Schaffer (bronze medallist in 1980), the colossal track sprinter Sören Lausberg, 4th in the Kilo in 1996 and 2000, and plenty more.

On 30 January 1989, another future Olympian was born there. Roger Kluge, the points race silver medallist at Beijing in 2008, is proud of his hometown and region. “I live in Berlin now, but I’m a Brandenberger. My local identity is important to me. I grew up in Eisenhüttenstadt, then I moved to sports school at Cottbus when I was 12 or 13.” Cottbus, a university town and the second-largest city in Brandenburg, is where Tony Martin was born, although he moved westwards as a child.

Eisenhüttenstadt is in decline now. After German reunification in 1990, the steel works were privatised. Most of their 12,000 employees lost their jobs. The factory currently employs around 2,500. The town’s population plummeted from 50,000 to under 30,000.

But today there is something to celebrate, because, guess what? The local rider won.