Stage 11: Lucera - L'Aquila
Thursday, May 6, 2010 11.00pm
In the wake of last year's earthquake centred on L'Aquila, Italian president Giorgio Napolitano encouraged race organisers RCS to take the Giro to the town. They are doing so via the corsa rosa's longest stage for a decade. Even more than the day before, this stage will suit breakaways, and might even shake up the overall, although probably not as much as it did in 1914 when race leader Giuseppe Azzini never reached the finish in L'Aquila and was found the next day, racked with fever, taking shelter at a country house near Popoli, 50km away.
Procycling's favourite to win:
In need of a new sponsor, Saxo Bank's riders will be active. Classics specialist Matti Breschel (right) is on good form so far this year and won't be daunted by this epic stage. Watch for Acqua e Sapone too, whose jerseys carry the ‘Forza L'Aquila' logo of the group formed by local sports stars to build a new sports complex in the earthquake-damaged city.
"Stage 11 will be a very long and emotional day, as we visit some of the areas devastated by the earthquake last April. The course itself is very hard and lends itself to breaks and also attacks on an uphill finish in L'Aquila. There won't be big gaps between the very top riders, but someone between fifth and tenth place on GC could make a big move."
Flashback The longest stages
If you think racing 256km through the Apennines in peak summer sounds ridiculous, spare a thought for the riders in the 1914 Giro. Like the pre-World War One Tour de France, the Giro in that era circled the country in little more than a handful of stages. Eighty-one riders started the 3,162km race that year. Just eight finished.
Costante Girardengo was among those who dropped out. He did, though, win the stage between Lucca and Rome. At 430km, it remains the longest in the event's history. At 428km, stage six was almost as long but far tougher. Running from Bari to L'Aquila, Luigi Lucotti was first home in 19:20, the longest ever finishing time.
In 1935, Gino Bartali claimed his debut Giro stage win in L'Aquila. Victory in the same city a year later gave him the pink jersey for the first time, which he held to the finish.
Vertical climb: 3,930m
Highest point: 1,277m
Terrain: Medium mountains
Category: Road Stage