“Fancied a nice bicycle ride, did you? What were you thinking!?” It’s a thought that must have crossed the minds of more than a few of the e-cyclists in the Giro-E, especially today, as the 2022 makes its first foray into the Apennines. It was all looking so easy, perhaps too easy…. and then, the road snakes skyward, the battery boost isn’t quite cutting it, and there you are, out of the saddle, stamping on the pedals and punishing those quads! Cycling, pure and simple: which is why we love it.
The Viggiano – Potenza stage
Perfect weather, the Lucanian Apennines, an intriguing route: 1900 m of elevation gain, 69 km long. The stage kicks off with the first Grand Prix de la montagne, Montagna Grande di Viggiano (1,405 meters asl). Then, a rollercoaster of a road, peppered with a mix of climbs, keeps the pressure on as far as Sellata, the second and last big climb of the day. To finish, the riders swoop down to Potenza, the capital of the Basilicata Region, and pass through the town itself. The final stretch is reminiscent of those killer competitions on countryside roads: 350 meters of elevation gain at an average gradient of 8 percent and a peak of 13 percent.
The start town, Viggiano, is definitely worth coming back to as a tourist. Lying along the western ridge of the upper Val d’Agri, it has a musical tradition that goes back to the Kingdom of Naples and its craftsmen are world-renowned harp makers. The town also hosts the Santuario della Madonna Nera, one of Southern Italy’s most iconic centres of devotion to Mary. Must-sees: the Santuario della Madonna Nera del Sacro Monte, the main church, Piazza San Giovanni with its gorgeous Fountain of Music, and the villa of the Marquis Sanfelice, former prince of Viaggiano, now home to the Gesualdo da Venosa conservatory and the Viaggiano harp school.
Rider of the day – Andrea Greco
We like journalists who are willing to put in the miles, grab their suitcases and head off adventurously like the famed Italian journalists Luigi Barzini and Curzio Malaparte. And on today’s Giro-E starting grid, Andrea Greco, a correspondent with weekly magazine Oggi (recently revamped thanks to the famous editor Carlo Verdelli), was indeed set to eat up the miles. No less heroic than his predecessors, Greco (who will start covering the Giro d’Italia in Hungary and follow it all the way to Verona), is getting a taste of the pedal-assist e-roads used in the Giro-E without ever having used quick-release pedals, the norm on all modern racing bikes. That takes some nerve.
“Bikes? I love them!”, blurts Greco. “I used them a lot as a young man… my parents wouldn’t buy me a moped, so I had to pedal around. In the early 80s I really got into cycling. I still own the bike I rode back then, a Peugeot that’s now forty years old. These days, I like to tinker with them: I buy ‘em, take ‘em apart, fix them up, always vintage stuff. I ride then around town and sometimes take a longer trip, but I don’t, let’s say, have a ‘proper’ bicycle. The thing is, I’ve never used a racing bike with quick-release pedals before: I reckon I’m gonna hurt myself. Bikes, I think, are the perfect vehicles: they weigh just 12 kilos and carry 70. A car weighs 2 tons and most of the time just carries 70 kilos! A bicycle is simple, light, fast, super-ecological, and repairs couldn’t be easier. A perfectly designed product. Perhaps because he knows I like cycling, Mr. Verdelli assigned me to cover the entire Giro, which sweeps through so much of provincial Italy. He wanted me to convey the spirit behind the race, so I thought I’d do a stage of Giro-E, and experience the road like a ‘real’ cyclist. It should, I hope, help me give the readers a better idea of what it’s all about”.
PS Andrea crossed the line safely, albeit a bit frazzled by the climbs. We have yet to learn whether his first Giro-E experience will also be his last.
Next update tomorrow, stage 5 of Giro-E, Naples (Mostra d’Oltremare) – Naples (Procida, Italian capital of culture).
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