“ADIEU ADRIATICO” – Ned Boulting
March 20, 2019
I’ve been to San Benedetto del Tronto for the last four years to commentate for RCS on the final time trial of Tirreno Adriatico. The last day’s racing has, since I’ve been lucky enough to be on the race (and way before that), always been in the same place, over the same course. So, it has a kind of ritual familiarity about it.
Like most Italian seaside resorts, including Lido di Camaiore, which hosts the opening team time trial of the race over on the Tyrrhenian coast, it is pretty much shut down in March, only reluctantly and partially coming to life to welcome the bike race and its attendant courtesans. These are wistful places, whose shuttered windows stare blankly out over green-grey seas. Palms sway in the wind, occasional passers-by walk briskly along the esplanades, muffled up in scarves and woolly hats. Summer is their language. Right now, they remain mute.
Yet, this is where the bike race ends. From this point the riders and the staff disperse in a thousand different directions. Some are already several hours down the motorway to Bologna, Rome or Ancona before the race has even ended. No one hangs around. And with those departures, the cycling world rushes on, and the attention drifts quickly to the next race, and the next race, before the last one is even over.
For most of the riders on the start list, those names who have kept us entertained over a week of hard and unpredictable racing, there is little at stake in the final time trial. Who will recall the exploits of Mirko Maestri in a year’s time? There are the specialists in their craft, most of whom went off early in the time trial and finished long before the astonishing finale. None of them could better the time of Victor Campenaerts. But theirs is a separate race.
Twice now, over the space of the last four years, the final day of the race to the Adriatic has decided the fate of the blue jersey and the understated Neptune’s fork by a single, solitary second, after well over twenty hours of racing. The first time this happened was in 2016, when Greg van Avermaet held off Peter Sagan by just such a fractional margin, in an unusual edition of the race, shorn of its Queen Stage courtesy of snowfall at higher altitudes.
And then, three years on, we witnessed this duel between Adam Yates and Primož Roglič that was scintillating to the last. Roglič is surely within touching distance now of a Grand Tour victory, and Yates, when his disappointment has dissipated, will understand how much closer he is to emulating his brother and taking that final, huge step.
An hour or so after the final jerseys had been handed out, and the champagne soaked tarmac had already been brushed free of damp confetti, the race had all but disappeared for another year, and San Benedetto was pulling down the shutters again as a North wind blew in.
We got in our car, to head for Rome, and, as we pulled away, I noticed Roglič, standing by the side of the road with a few friends, still in his blue podium jersey, eating a sandwich. No one seemed remotely interested. There was no one left to be remotely interested. We’d all moved on.
Anyway, here’s a minute and half of (more!) music by Alfredo Catalani, and some images from the day. Enjoy.