Stage 10th: San Salvo-Tortoreto Lido

De Gendt-Ciccone, breakaway in two in Abruzzo

Tortoreto Lido, 19th May 2020

From our correspondent Antonio Ruzzo
artwork by Lucio Schiavon

«Tra le nuvole e il mare si può fare e rifare
e con un po’ di fortuna si può dimenticare.
E di nuovo la vita sembra fatta per te.
E comincia domani…»                            Artisti per l’Abruzzo

“Amidst the clouds and the sea you can try and try once more
And with a bit of luck you can forget.
And again life seems made for you.
And tomorrow begins anew ….”           “Artists for Abruzzo”

Time ago those lines were composed for the people of Aquila. Sung to help them soothe the wounds inflicted by the earthquake which had devastated their lives. A time when the hotels along this coast were thronged, not with the usual carefree holidaymakers, but with refugees. People fleeing their flattened homes and their mountains. Mountains that just wouldn’t stay still.

Over time and together, the strong hands of those same people rebuilt their lives, brick by brick. They got themselves and their land back into the saddle and back on the road. 

And today those people want to party.

Slap bang in the middle of the Tortoreto seafront, from the balcony of the Hotel Ambassador, a huge banner hangs, on which is written:


The crowds are here and waiting for him – their hero. To a man they have faith. They believe. Even the turtle doves, which gave the town its name, await his victory. Giulio, known to all as Ciccone, has taken the impressive biking record of local hero, Vito Taccone, onto his slender shoulders. It is an expectation as massive as Il Gran Sasso itself, (at 2,912m the highest peak in the Apennines). And the boy from Abruzzo, a Team Trek rider, believes too. He knows these roads better than his own hands but will that be enough? 

Everything kicks off when Ciccone, slipstreaming the Belgian Thomas de Gendt, makes a move. It’s a move which he knows he shouldn’t make, he mustn’t make, but in a flash he makes anyway. He breaks ranks and like a bolt of lightening he short circuits the accepted balance and hierarchy of his team. His is not just any team but the one with Vincenzo Nibali at its head. The one who leads The Giro and the one who holds a 26-second advantage over him.

But when Thomas and Giulio exchange a look, an understanding is forged. These two are made of the same mettle. They share a perhaps old-fashioned, rather romantic view of the racing of bikes: where it’s the heart that rules and where courage means never giving up, never feeling fear, and always being ready to turn a ‘blind ear’ to any unwelcome commands that might come over the radio. Where you don’t let the “job” grind you down to a mundane, well-paid routine. Where time is not only synonymous with trial, or a placing, but includes the hours spent cycling with a friend.

So, get your head down and pedal hard, and ask yourself no questions – that’s what always works. 

Well, almost always.

Because in the end there is the rule, the unwritten rule, which must break this understanding, this pact, this alliance, this mad adventure – but that’s for the future.

In the present, the kilometres are speeding away fast and furious but still all can be lost in a second. It only takes a momentary hesitation, a doubt, or a misunderstanding and all is over and back you are, back where you came from, back in the middle of that chasing group which is just seconds behind, but this time, back with your mouth open and gaping as wide as a whale’s.

But not today.

It’s just Giulio and Thomas, Thomas and Giulio, once again Giulio and Thomas and then, once again, Thomas and Giulio.  The perfect couple, more friends than rivals, are exchanging places, pulling for each other, not thinking of the finishing line. There will be time for tactics but not yet….

However that time must arrive and arrive it does.

The two breakaways glance at each other and the look in their eyes says: “Thanks for everything and good luck”.

Thomas pulls his racing shoes tight and grips his fists harder on the handlebars. Giulio does likewise, as do, in spirit at least, the thousands of his Abruzzi fans massed behind the barriers on Viale Marconi.

At the foot of the stand nearby, the band pauses for a moment, some spectators cross their fingers, whilst others send up a silent prayer to the local saint.

In a seemingly never-ending sprint to the line the chasing group suddenly appears on their tails, threatening to swallow them up like Pinocchio’s whale. 

Just three hundred metres remain. 

Shoulder to shoulder, they race, at elbow-touching distance, their stiffening muscles stretching to the limit hoping that a final agonizing spurt will be enough to gain the half a millimetre needed to guarantee glory.

Ciconne goes again. On Etna, a few days previously, it had worked. On the rim of that southern volcano, which had reminded him of an Alpine pass, he had reached the finishing line alone.

But not here. 

Instead he’s half a millimetre behind, half a millimetre  immortalised in a photo-finish he would happily tear to pieces. It’s said that in cycling no one ever really loses – but today the only important thing was –  to win.

For failure means suffering sleepless nights, spent twisting and turning, tormented with the thought that after 212 km of road and 3,000 metres of climbing, everything was decided in an instant. Because thanks to that photo of two wheels crossing a white line, practically instantaneously, all that went  before counts for nothing.

Nout. Nix. Niente. 

It means it was a total waste of time leaving your soul on the Tricalle ramp climbing towards Chieti; a total waste of time risking your neck in the downhill charge of Colonnetta; a total waste of time challenging the coastal winds raging from Silvi to Pineto all the way down to Giulianova. 

All a total waste of time.

Meaningless were those three exhausting circuits from the Harbour up to the Old Town and back – a steep, never-ending ramp that left you breathless almost to the point of vomiting and made your muscles feel like they were about to explode. When going at full throttle the slope seemed to be taking you straight to hell and not the gentle climb taken by tourists looking for a few snaps of the Adriatic, or a restaurant serving lamb kebabs or fish soup. 

And all this effort goes unrewarded because wherever you go, or sit, or wander, you are treated with the same quiet, gentle respect and you feel at home. Such is the magic of this land of friendly people who, yes, had been waiting for The Giro, but above all had been waiting for their hero.

And, you, Giulio, you were only half a millimetre behind Thomas, but it was that nothing which counted for everything.

“Pazienza” “Patience” 

There’s nothing else to do but put up with it.  

As for all other riders, arriving just an instant later – but showing no enthusiasm for sprinting or jersey exchanging – things remain more or less the same. 

In fact everything stays just as it was – like in the song:

 “…after the tempest has passed the ship’s wake remains”.

And rather than a rainbow on the horizon there’s Nibali’s face, as black as pitch.


Ordine d’arrivo tappa 10

1Thomas De Gendt 
2Giulio Cicconest
3Caleb Ewana 3”
4Arnaud Démarest
5Mike Teunissenst
6Giacomo Nizzolost
7Sonny Colbrellist
8Fabio Jakobsenst
9Vincenzo Nibalist
10Luka Mezgecst

Classifica Generale tappa 10

1Vincenzo Nibali 
2Tom Dumoulina 2"
3Giulio Cicconea 17”
4Davide Formoloa 24”
5Jakob Fuglsanga 36”
6Miguel Ángel Lópeza 45”
7Tim Wellensa 51”
8Wilco Keldermana 53’
9Richard Carapaza 54”
10Simon Yatesa 01'05”
Rafał Majkaa 01’11”
Romain Bardeta 01'12”
Chris Froomea 01'14”
Damiano Carusoa 01'18”
Remco Evenepoela 01'31”
Tejay Van Garderena 01’47”
Il’nur Zakarina 01’54”

Maglie tappa 10

Maglia Rosa:Vincenzo Nibali
Maglia Ciclamino:Elia Viviani
Maglia Azzurra:Giulio Ciccone
Maglia Bianca:Remco Evenepoel



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