L’A Q U I L A
The gruppo will be glad L’Aquila hosts a stage start this year rather than a finish. There is no easy way in, given that L’Aquila is perched amid the hills that shelter beneath the Gran Sasso d’Italia, and the Giro has usually taken the long road there to boot. Luigi Lucotti spent more time on his bike than any other stage victor in Giro history when he won on the race’s first visit in 1914, taking almost 19 and a half hours to cover the 428km of rocky road from Bari.
L’Aquila hosted another mammoth stage in 2010, when the early break was allowed to gain almost 13 minutes on a day of driving rain, propelling David Arroyo towards an unlikely podium finish. The city’s impression on the collective psyche was enduring.
When the Giro returned two years ago, the bunch belied the rugged terrain to clock an average speed of over 45kph: nobody dared allow an escape ghost clear on the road to Abruzzo’s regional capital.
The Giro came to L’Aquila in 2010 as an act of solidarity after an earthquake had killed 309 people in the city the previous year. While the medieval and baroque core was damaged, the worst destruction took place in modern buildings outside the city walls. The Giro’s return in 2019 was designed to showcase the recovery, even if it also shed light on how tortuous the rebuilding process can be.
But while the scars left on the cityscape a decade previously were still evident that afternoon, the restaurants and bars dotting the narrow streets were gently humming by the time the barriers had been packed up and evening was draping itself gently over L’Aquila. “This finish has a very high symbolic value,” race director Mauri Vegni said then. “We’re starting to see a living city again.”