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11 May 2016

Diego's Odyssey

Calabria, the region that forms the toe of Italy, is washed by two seas: the Tyrrhenian, where the African and Eurasian Plates meet, and the Ionian, which includes the deepest point in the Mediterranean, Calypso Deep, at −5,267 m (−17,280 ft).

The stage started from the regional capital, Catanzaro, hometown of the extraordinary Giusy Virelli, Giro director Mauro Vegni‘s right hand woman these 7 years past, and a woman with an astonishing eye for detail, logistical talent and memory for names and faces (who else can put a name, and much more, to every face in the race organisation, the local organising committees, and all the riders…).

Yet there are things about Catanzaro not even Giusy knows: according to scholars, Ulysses was shipwrecked on the Gulf of Squillace, in the Ionian Sea, just off Catanzaro. But did Ulisses or Odysseus really exist? Were they same person, two separate people, or many? And where precisely was Scheria, or Phaeacia, the shore on which he washed up, was rescued by Nausicaa (who had just “had her joy of food” and then played one of the first ball games in human history, on the beach with her handmaids), and later began to narration of the story that is the Odyssey? But enough of ball sports for the next three weeks.

Il golfo di Squillace dove il vento mai tace, goes the saying (“The wind always whistles on the Gulf of Squillace”). But the problem today wasn’t the wind but the heat and the climbs. Diego Ulissi is a Tyrrhenian, not an Ionian. He grew up in Cecina on the Tuscan coast, 700 km north of Catanzaro, and along the coast. He boarded the breakaway group of eleven inside the final which led at the foot of the final climb. Valerio Conti, a key member of Ulissi’s crew, pulled so hard, he probably had the sirens’ song ringing in his ears. Ulissi, started the climb tied to the mast, but unleashed a brilliant attack which swept him to victory on the shore at Praia a Mare.

For Tom Dumoulin, a homecoming of sorts. Marcel Kittel’s will be remembered for two magnificent stage wins, and two days in the Maglia Rosa – yes, two, even if one was a rest day. Dumoulin’s sprint was too late to catch Ulissi, but brought him second place and returned him to his Ithaca, the Maglia Rosa.