Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Stage 17: Brunico to Peio Terme

Today it's another mountainous stage in the Alto Adige—this time, a road race rather than a mountain time trial like yesterday. It was nice to see Stefano Garzelli take the stage at Kronplatz. He did so well in the Giro last year, and he hasn't been so dominant this year. But then, he is a mountain goat. Evans and Basso seem to be clawing their way to the top. Most of the sprinters have dropped out of the race by now. It's climbers and peaks from now on, all the way to the final day in Verona.

When Mussolini's Italy took over this area from the crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire, some 90% of the people spoke German, and he tried to force them to learn Italian and encouraged Italian speakers to move in. But about 30% still speak German as their native language, and you can eat Germanic desserts like "kaiserschmarren" above, and drink wine, like the above Alois Lageder Pino Bianco. The grape is familiar, but the style of winemaking will feel more German.

I think in America we tend to think of Italian and German culture as very different from one another, but one thing we know less about is this Alpine culture that crosses the mountains and embraces the multilingual Swiss, the Germans, the Italians and the Austrians of the highlands. Borders have changed so often in this area, that folks must be more likely to identify themselves by their home villages rather than by their country. This is true in most of Italy. The views of this area shows high mountain meadows striped with vineyards and fields of hops. Roofs of the houses here have deep eaves. Wow, this is a pretty stage!

For those just starting to read this blog, yes, the Giro takes 3 weeks! So does the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espagna. This is the definition of a Grand Tour in cycling—It is 21 days with 2 rest days per week, usually, and it includes time trials, possibly a team time trial, flat days for the sprinters, mountain stages, "cronoscalate" or combination mountain and time trials stages like yesterday's, and circuits. Just imagine how tired the riders are! No sporting event lasts longer, and, in my opinion, requires more endurance! It is brutal, and that makes it exciting.

Someday I'll go snowboarding up there! Can't wait to go someplace in Europe to see what it's like. I'd love to ski Mount Etna, but there are no trees. I bet around Bolzano it's just gorgeous, and the cheese is amazing. Yes, peanut butter is the ultimate mountain super food, and I'm pretty sure they don't have it there, but I'll live.

Viva il Giro! Viva Italia!

A domani!

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