21 stages, 21 Italian words – 21 tappe, 21 parole

by Richard Williams

Words by Robyn Davidson | Photo: SWpix.com

The 2021 Giro d’Italia told through Italian words of the day.

Stage 1. Turin – Turin.
Inizio (noun. start, beginning)

Anticipation heightened the atmosphere. Riders ready to add to their palmarès, those ready to experience a first Grand Tour, and spectators ready to watch it unravel. Schrödinger’s Giro. Everything and nothing could happen. The possibilities were endless, ready to be explored.

Stage 2. Stupinigi – Novara.  
Debutto (noun. debut)

For Alpecin-Fenix, Tim Merlier’s win meant more. He crossed the line with his fingers in the shape of a W – not only had the Belgian sprinted to victory on their debut at the Giro d’Italia, but he had done so on the 10th anniversary of the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt.

Stage 3. Biella – Canale.
Fuga (noun. escape, breakaway)

Everyone loves a breakaway. Taco van der Hoorn’s surprise win in Canale was markedby the astonished look plastered across his face, hands clasped over his mouth in disbelief. The peloton were quickly closing in during the final kilometres, like a spider ready to engulf prey stuck within its tangling web. There were moments of doubt. Anticipation of heartbreak. But Van der Hoorn kept pedalling. He dared to dream and reaped the rewards.

Stage 4. Piacenza – Sestola.
Pioggia (noun. rain)

The Giro d’Italia decided to bestow more heart-warming scenes when Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) secured his first Grand Tour stage victory in the pouring rain. The maglia rosa swapped shoulders to an emotional Alessandro De Marchi – who had never achieved such a feat in his 11-year professional career.

Stage 5. Modena – Cattolica.
Sfortunato (adjective. unlucky)

But just as the Giro d’Italia giveth, the Giro d’Italia taketh away. In the blink of an eye, the beautiful race crushed riders’ dreams. A high-speed crash left Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) and birthday boy Dombrowski sprawled on the floor. Both were forced to abandon. Ewan won the sprint finish ahead of an unlucky Giacomo Nizzolo, marking his 11th second-place finish at the race. 

Stage 6. Grotte di Frasassi – Ascoli Piceno (San Giacomo).
Scontro (m noun. crash, collision)

A day after his team leader crashed out of the race, Bahrain-Victorious’ Gino Mäder survived from the breakaway. But behind was Deceuninck–Quick-Step’s Pieter Serry, taken down by the Team BikeExchange car. Chaos ensued on social media yet a valid question remains. Should drivers only be focused on driving and nothing else? You would like to think so. A look inside the Trek-Segafredo car later through a picture on social media solidified this. The route map was stuck onto the steering wheel, which was surrounded by an iPhone and a tablet.  

Stage 7. Notaresco – Termoli.
(noun. rocket)

Pocket rocket Caleb Ewan hit an almighty speed to claim his second victory of the race so far. He would receive a nicer response than when he abandoned the race the next day.

Stage 8. Foggia – Guardia Sanframondi.
Finalmente (adverb. at long last, finally)

It was victory for Victor Lafay from the breakaway, who claimed Cofidis’ first win in the Grand Tour for eleven years. Meanwhile, Lotto-Soudal lost sprinter Ewan on the way to Guardia Sanframondi. The 26-year-old had stated his intentions to win a stage at every Grand Tour this year, and with a mountain-packed final week it was clear that he would pull out before the final in Milan. Knee pain forced Ewan off his bike, and social media soon lit up with criticism. One of the loudest voices being Eddy Merckx.

Stage 9. Castel di Sangro – Campo Felice (Rocca di Cambio).
Ghiaia (noun. gravel)

Ineos’ Egan Bernal not only won his first Grand Tour stage, but also took the maglia rosa after his explosive attack on the dirt road finish at Campo Felice. The Colombian didn’t celebrate as he crossed the line – was he so committed to time gaps or exhausted from his effort? No, he simply didn’t realise he had won.

Stage 10. L’Aquila – Foligno.
Guerra di logoramento (war of attrition)

Bora Hansgrohe set a blistering pace on the Valico della Somma climb into the flat finish in Foligno, a war of attrition dropping rivals Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos) to help lessen the competition for winner Peter Sagan.

Stage 11. Perugia – Montalcino.
Questione (f noun. question, problem)

Confusion arose on the white gravel roads through Tuscanywhen Quick-Step’s co-leader Remco Evenepoel was left isolated. The 21-year-old was finally making his Grand Tour debut after suffering a fractured pelvis from a horrific crash at Il Lombardia in 2020. But fellow leader João Almeida was the man in the group of favourites up ahead while being almost five minutes down on the general classification. Conspiracy theories flew faster than Remco’s earpiece as he ripped it out in frustration. Like Ewan after stage eight, the Belgian faced a barrage of abuse online from others lambasting his cycling ability despite his return from such serious injury.

Stage 12. Siena – Bagno di Romagna.
(m noun. dispute, quarrel)

A quarrel between George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma and Trek-Segafredo’s Gianluca Brambilla as their two breakaway companions rode on ahead to compete for the stage victory themselves was certainly not in anyone’s Giro predictions. Neither was the ensuing relegation for Brambilla, who deviated from his sprint line in front of Bennett at the finish.

Stage 13. Ravenna – Verona.
Primo (adjective. first)

It was almost another case of always the bridesmaid, never the bride for Nizzolo. A last-ditch attempt at a breakaway from Jumbo-Visma’s Edoardo Affini in the final kilometre could have forced the Italian to 12 second-place finishes in the Giro d’Italia, but a sudden surge of power from the Qhubeka Assos sprinter finally produced victory in Verona. He even made sure to celebrate with his own fan club.

Stage 14. Cittadella – Monte Zoncolan.
Fortunato (adjective. lucky)

As Lorenzo Fortunato crested the feared Monte Zoncolan summit first, elsewhere manager Alberto Contador was screaming on social media. It was Fortunato’s first professional win – and EOLO-Kometa’s too.

Stage 15. Grado – Gorizia.
Neutralizzata (verb. neutralised)

The riders had barely passed the official kilometre zero start before the stage was neutralised. Thankfully so; every member of medical staff was dealing with the aftermath of a massive crash. Half an hour later, the race was underway again.

Stage 16. Sacile – Cortina D’Ampezzo.
Congetture (noun. guesswork, speculation)

Extreme weather conditions cut out two of the biggest mountains and also live television images on the way to Cortina D’Ampezzo. Guesswork was used to fill in the gaps. In the end, it was Bernal who emerged from the mist, expertly taking off his rain jacket on the cobbles to win the stage in the maglia rosa.

Stage 17. Canazei – Sega di Ala.
Attacco (m noun. attack)

Simon Yates attacked on the final climb, Sega di Ala, as Bernal showed his first signs of weakness. MVP candidate Dani Martínez quickly dropped back to encourage his team leader while Bernal struggled to hold his wheel. Martínez spurred on his teammate, producing one of the most iconic images of the Giro.

Stage 18. Rovereto – Stradella.
A casa (adverb. at home)

Italian Alberto Bettiol was embraced by his EF Education-Nippo staff after his win on the streets of Stradella, emotions flying high. He dedicated the win to his former agent Mauro Battaglini, who sadly passed away last year, and the victims of the Mottarone cable car crash.

Stage 19. Abbiategrasso – Alpe di Mera (Valsesia).
Tentativo (noun. attempt, the act of trying to do something)

Once again Yates attacked without Bernal. The man third on GC attempted to reduce the deficit to second-placed Caruso, winning on the Alpe di Mera and securing the bonus seconds that came with it. Yates finished the day sitting just twenty seconds behind Caruso on GC.

Stage 20. Verbania – Valle Spluga-Alpe Motta.
Coraggioso (adjective. courageous)

The final stage for the GC contenders to battle for the maglia rosa didn’t produce the fireworks some expected, largely down to Martínez’s determination to help Bernal to a second Grand Tour victory. But Pello Bilbao managed to bridge to the break with team leader Caruso on his wheel; later the Italian patted his exhausted teammate on the back as he raced ahead in search of time. Caruso put in a courageous performance to secure second on GC – remarkable when you reflect on the fact he was there initially to help team leader Landa.

Stage 21. Senago – Milano.
Finito (adjective. finished, completed)

The final stage of the 2021 Giro  didn’t go as smoothly as expected. World time trial champion Filippo Ganna was predicted to take the victory just as he had on the opening stage, but needed a bike change after a puncture. Quick-Step’s French TT champion Rémi Cavagna could have challenged Ganna, but took the wrong line into a corner and ended up on the floor. He was quickly on his feet but Ganna was quicker to finish, winning on the day as teammate Bernal won the overall.

Now we look towards the Tour de France…

Robyn Davidson is a cycling journalist who has worked with teams such as Drops Le Col and Canyon dhb SunGod. She was the Social Media Manager for the Women’s Tour of Scotland, and is driven to promote equality within the sport. You can find her on Twitter: @robynjournalist, Instagram: @gunsnrobyns and her website at robyndavidson.com.

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