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Giro d’Italia 2021, Stage 19: Busto Arsizio – Alpe di Mera A real victory


Giro d'Italia 2021, Tappa 19: Busto Arsizio – Alpe di Mera. Una vittoria vera

Stage 19: Busto Arsizio – Alpe di Mera A real victory

The penultimate stage of the 2001 Giro, from Busto Arsizio to Arona, took place on 9 June. That year, the race was tarred by the doping scandal. Three days earlier, on the night between 6 and 7 June, on the eve of the stage that would run from Imperia to the Sanctuary of S. Anna di Vinadio, the anti-fraud squad of the Carabinieri (NAS) burst in the teams’ hotels to conduct a surprise search. Dario Frigo, second in the general classification, paid the price. In his room, the squad found substances of concern, and the rider was disqualified. The following day, the entire peloton refused to race the stage. After Cipollini’s sprint win in the Alba-Busto Arsizio, the Giro would be decided by a double ascent of the Mottarone, the mountain between Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta that has been a favoured destination for adventurers and skiers since the early 1900s. Gilberto Simoni was in the leader’s jersey. As the NAS had gotten his most dangerous opponent (who was trailing a mere 15” behind him) off his tail, the Spaniard Olano was his closest chaser, 4’12” down on him. But Gibo wanted to prove that his victory would be a real one – more powerful than any nighttime raid by the Carabinieri, than any notice of investigation.

In the foul weather, that 9 June almost looked like 9 November. Low, rain-swollen clouds were numbing the riders.

Simoni was advancing/progressing alone, as he was about to tackle the second passage on the Mottarone ascent, taken from the western side of Armeno. In the peloton, nobody managed to keep up with him. In that dark afternoon, the four breakaway riders (Bruseghin, Figueras, Di Luca and Kessler) disappeared into the clouds and the rain. At the summit, where the view on bright sunny days includes seven lakes (Lake Orta, Lake Maggiore, Lake Mergozzo and the four lakes of Varese) and dozens of Alpine peaks (from Monviso to Monte Rosa), the KOM banner was hardly visible that afternoon. Simoni was one and a half minutes ahead of his immediate chasers, and Olano was nearly three minutes down. Gibo flew down along the descent, towards the Verbano, and then tackled one final impediment in Arona – a short yet punchy climb leading to the ‘San Carlone’. The giant statue of Carlo Borromeo, the guardian archbishop, with its hand out, seemed to tell the rain to stop, and to show Simoni his way to landing stage and overall victory. The rain stopped, but Simoni carried on, storming to the finish line in his short-sleeve jersey, 2’25’’ ahead of Savoldelli and over 3 minutes ahead of Olano.


The Busto Arsizio-Alpe di Mera stage of 28 May 2021 will take the Giro d’Italia to the Valsesia for the first time. 


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