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Giro d’Italia 2021, Stage 13: Ravenna – Verona. The ‘supreme poet’ of cycling


Giro d'Italia 2021, Tappa 13: Ravenna – Verona. Il Dante del ciclismo

Stage 13: Ravenna – Verona , The ‘supreme poet’ of cycling

On the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, the 2021 Giro d’Italia pays special tribute to the author of the Divine Comedy with stage 13, from Ravenna to Verona. Dante died in Ravenna in 1321, after a 17-year long exile from his hometown Florence. His burial site is still a pilgrimage destination at the heart of the city. Before fleeing to Romagna, where he spent the last years of his troubled life as a fugitive, he stayed in Verona from 1313 to 1318. There, he settled at the court of Cangrande della Scala, the lord of Verona, to whom he dedicated the third cantica of his Divine Comedy, the Paradiso, along with an epistle to explain how to interpret the text through a literal and a philosophical lens.

Verona and, particularly, the Arena, have crowned overall champions the likes of Battaglin and Moser, Basso and Carapaz, and welcomed stage winners such as Girardengo and Binda, Van Steenbergen and Poblet, Darrigade and Gualazzini. To provide a comprehensive picture of this ‘Dantean’ stage – medieval and austere, emotionally intense and ranting –mention must be rightfully made of Gino Bartali, a fellow citizen of the ‘fugitive Ghibelline’.

Ginettaccio took stage victory in Verona in 1940 but was defeated overall, as he witnessed the ascent of his bitter rival for the years to come: Fausto Coppi

Following a nasty crash at the start of the race and the unexpected rise of his novice domestique, he had to settle for the role of a sensible guardian, reluctantly. His support and encouragement helped the young Fausto succeed. On the Pieve di Cadore-Ortisei stage, his protégé bonked along the steep ramps of the Pordoi, during a two-man breakaway. Gino prompted him to carry on, rubbed some snow on his neck and then took him all the way home. Gino finished in first, Fausto finished in second, and Legnano retained the leader’s jersey.

Two days later, the Giro landed in Verona for the second to last stage. Bartali still wanted to leave his mark, just to disprove whoever had thought the Giro that year was a handover for the old ace. Within sight of the finish in Verona, the short climb of the Torricelle, just a minor impediment, was enough to spark his flair for climbing. So off he went, controlling all his opponents. «The king of the mountain aimed at winning on this small, emotional climb as well. That was no major effort: he struggled as little as a weightlifting world champion would do when picking up a hardboiled egg. Not only did he conquer the Dolomites, the French Alps and the Pyrenees, but also this climb – where the local parish priest goes for a walk, holding his breviary in his hands», Oriani wrote. Two days later, on 10 June 1940, Italy entered the war, and the fate of Coppi, Bartali and everyone else was bound to change forever.

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