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Giro d’Italia 2021, Stage 10: L’Aquila – Foligno. A messy parade

16/05/2021

Giro d'Italia 2021, Tappa 10: L'Aquila – Foligno. Un carosello sconclusionato

Stage 10: L'Aquila – Foligno. A messy parade

I wonder if either Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli or, most likely, Ennio Flaiano – who was born and raised in Abruzzo – happened to be one of the lucky viewers who saw the history of cycling being written on the finish line in L’Aquila in the late spring of 1954. If so, the three of them would have witnessed the most important career win for Carlo Clerici – born and raised in Switzerland, where his father was confined by the fascists, to an Italian family (this could be the life of one of the characters of a storyline that they have written). On top of that, they would have witnessed one of those rare moments in the history of a sport in which a single event – specifically, a successful 224-kilometre three-man breakaway, from Naples to L’Aquila – would become a milestone in the narrative of that sport for the following decades. 


For the first time ever that day, a term was used to describe an apparently harmless breakaway that escapes with no particular expectations, a bit by chance, a bit out of boredom, but which causes a large time gap that becomes a threat to the main GC contenders, with an innocent-looking attacker stealing the limelight from the race favourites (and indeed, Clerici eventually took overall victory at the Giro that year). Briefly, an unpredictably successful breakaway, a swindle, a so-called fuga bidone. It was probably just a coincidence that, less than 12 months after Clerici’s surprising win, Fellini, Pinelli and Flaiano wrote the script of a film titled Il bidone (The Swindle). And it was just a coincidence, indeed, that the spectators of the Giro that year angrily commented on the laziness of the favourites after that stage by hanging a banner that read ‘Forza vitelloni’ (‘Come on, layabouts’), with reference to a film directed by the three of them.

When L’Aquila features in the route of the Giro, a cheery spirit seems to pervade the race, causing the peloton to fool around

However, that fuga bidone was not just the responsibility of Coppi, Koblet and the likes, who didn’t bother that much to stop it. Oftentimes, in fact, when L’Aquila features in the route of the Giro, a cheery spirit seems to pervade the race, causing the peloton to fool around, and overturning certainties, as it happened in 2010, when a group of over fifty riders decided to shake up the Giro, putting up a savage and successful breakaway. The overall contenders – including Vinokurov and Basso – were jettisoned 15 minutes behind. It took them eight stages, nearly the remainder of the race, to strip the leader’s jersey off the shoulders of David Arroyo.

 

When the Giro meets L’Aquila and the madness of a fuga bidone goes wild, chance becomes king, and all roles are messed up. The race gets out of control, like water flowing into the 99 spouts of the city’s fountain – one for each square, each district and each church. Those who normally escape end up chasing the others. Those who usually trail behind end up pulling away, and the race becomes a bizarre, incoherent and messy parade, which could be the closing feature of a movie directed by Fellini, Pinelli and Flaiano.

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