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Heartbreaking Naples

11/05/2023

Today’s finale was worthy of an Alfred Hitchock script: uncertain, enigmatic, moving and painful on one hand, thrilling and unpredictable on the other. The exceptional setting of Naples seafront did the rest: the epilogue of the Neapolitan stage will certainly remain one of the most symbolic of the 106th Giro d’Italia.

There was a general fear among the athletes of yet another day of heavy rainfall. Instead, a mild sun allowed the riders to “enjoy” a beautiful afternoon in the saddle and, above all, for fans and television viewers to admire the countless natural beauties encountered on the way: from the warmth of Piazza del Plebiscito and the Neapolitan suburbs to Pompei, the Valico di Chiunzi and its panoramas, passing by the Amalfi Coast, with Amalfi, Positano and Praiano, and then Sorrento, before returning to the Naples seafront.

It was a great feast, a worthy continuation of the post-scudetto celebrations, with the crowd accompanying the race along the entire route. And the riders made the whole stage even more memorable. The breakaway with Francesco Gavazzi (Eolo-Kometa), Simon Clarke (Israel-PremierTech), Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco AlUla), Charlie Quarterman (Team Corratec-Selle Italia) and Alexandre Delettre (Cofidis) not only animated the race, but strongly influenced it until the very last few metres.

After the Picco Sant’Angelo climb, only the old guard was left in front, De Marchi and Clarke, both 36 years old, both former Maglia Rosa but never stage winners at the Giro. These two solitary heroes cherished the dream of outfoxing the peloton all the way to the very end: unfortunately for them, with 500 metres to go, they began to look at each other, De Marchi because he knew he would be beaten in the two-man sprint, Clarke because he did not feel like launching the sprint from too far back. “For the first time in my career I didn’t give a change, but you have to race to win,” De Marchi said bitterly. “To lose like that is devastating,” added Clarke, tearfully.

In fact, with 300 metres to go, the peloton swept past them like a tsunami: Fernando Gaviria (Movistar) took off at a very long start, it seemed to be a done deal, but instead, he drastically slowed down in the last 50 metres, opening the way for Mads Pedersen. The Dane took his first Giro victory, and the first in Italy of his career. We can bet he will try to score a few more between today and Rome.

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