With the Giro d’Italia back on Italian soil after three highly successful stages on the island of Ireland, the focus will switch to the home riders.
Many have taken to Twitter today to express their relief at reacquainting themsleves with the Italian sunshine after three rain-soaked days of racing on the Emerald Isle.
The Giro peloton has more than its fair share of Italian riders, and some of the biggest names in the race hail from Belle Italia. Five of the ninteen teams contesting the race are Italian, including three of the four invited from the Pro Continental ranks to compete against WorldTour opposition by race organisers, the RCS.
We got up close to some of their machinery to bring you this gallery, featuring the steeds of Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi, Franco Pellizotti, Manuel Belletti, Enrico Battaglin, Gianluca Brambilla and Domenico Pozzovivo.
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Due volte campione
Twice a Giro winner, Ivan Basso will contest the 97th edition on this Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-MOD, dressed in a colour-coded green edition of SRAM's flagship Red 22 groupset with Cannondale's own Hollowgram SISL2 cranks.
While Lampre-Merida's Damiano Cunego is officially the WorldTour peloton's Piccolo Principe, or 'Little Prince', Ag2r-La Mondiale's diminutive leader, Domenico Pozzovivo, runs him pretty close, in stature, and in climbing prowess. The 5'5" Pozzovivo rides a 48cm Focus Izalco Max. Italian brand Fizik supplies his seating arrangements. A short section of Cyrano seatpost is visible above the frame, topped with a pan flat Arione saddle, recommended for riders with narrow hips. Pozzovivo fits the bill.
Manuel Belletti Tweeted his relief on arrival today in sun-kissed Bari to start what he described as “the real Tour of Italy”. The Italian crashed heavily on stage three into Dublin, but climbed back on to finish twelfth in the bunch sprint. His steed, Bianchi's Inifinito CV, is an unusual choice for a sprinter. It is the Italian brand's 'endurance' bike, and used by WorldTour counterparts Belkin Pro Cycling only for the cobbled races of spring. Belletti has chosen it in preference to the Sempre Pro offered to his colleagues on the Italian Pro Continental team, Androni Giocattoli.
Bianchi has two racing bikes in its range - the Oltre XR2 and the Sempre Pro. The former is supplied to the Belkin Pro Cycling squad, competing in the UCI WorldTour, and the latter to the second-tier Androni-Giocattoli Pro Continental squad. Bianchi insiders refer to the Sempre Pro as the 'baby Oltre', and the geometry is only subtly different. We tested two Sempre Pros last year, and found them lively and responsive. The machine pictured belongs to former Italian road race champion, Franco Pellizotti.
Four-arm chainsets are quite the thing. Shimano began the trend with its Dura-Ace 9000 turbine, and has since allowed the design to trickle down to its Ultegra 6800 and 5800-series 105 groups. Campagnolo displayed a similar design on an unbadged and yet-to-be-released carbon chainset ridden by some of the Europcar squad at the Giro, and FSA has included the design in the latest iteration of its flagship K-Force offering - another design rendered in carbon. It's another component that gives Pellizotti's machine a distinctly Italian flavour. FSA provide the bars, seatpost, and brake calipers, while Fizik supply the saddle, and Campagnolo, the Super Record 11 shifters, mechs, and cassette. Wheel supplier Vision is a subsidiary of FSA. Pellizotti rolled out from Belfast on Metron 55s for the Giro's second stage.
Specialized sponsor three teams in cycling's elite UCI WorldTour peloton, including Belgian super team, Omega Pharma-Quickstep. Several of the riders rolled out for stage two on the Morgan Hill firm's new Tarmac racing bike, including 26-year-old climber, Gianluca Brambilla. One of the more notable changes from its SL4 predecessor is the space freed up at the foot of the seatpost by the integration of the seat clamp with the top tube. Additionally, carbon lay-ups have been tweaked to ensure consistency of handling across the size range. The 5'7" Brambilla rides a 52cm frame. We'll bring you more on Brambilla's bike, and the new Specialized Tarmac, in subsequent articles.
Italian sprint legend, Mario Cipolloini, terrorised the peloton of the nineties and noughties. The RB1K is his brand's flagship model and made from a weave containing Toray's flagship T1000 carbon, as the name suggests. The machine pictured is the property of Bardiani-CSF’s Enrico Battaglin, winner of the fourth stage of last year’s Giro. The 174cm Battaglin rides an RB1K in the 53.5cm 'small' frame. His team-mates ride a selection of RB1K and the round-tubed RB800. Cipollini is also supplier to the Nero-Sotoli team, the second of the three Italian teams to receive wildcard invitations to the Giro.
The MCipollini RB1K's enormous downtube and seat-tube give the promise of stiffness. They meet at a bottom bracket from Italian neighbours, FSA. The 386 press fit unit was designed by FSA with Cipollini's rivals, Wilier, supplier to Team Colombia, for the Trieste brand's flagship Zero 7, but it has found widespread use. The '3' refers to the spindle's 30mm diameter and the '86' to its length.
Battaglin's perch of choice is Pro Logo's Scratch Pro with an optional Ti rail. The curious pattern on the upper surface is the Italian brand's Connect Power Control (CPC) technology: a serious of tiny plastic cylinders claimed to aid grip and comfort, and found beneath the rear ends and on the gloves of a host of WorldTour pros, including Alberto Contador. The Scratch Pro has a rounded profile, making it a competitor to the likes of San Marco's Concor and Fizik's Aliante.
Astana's Italian leader, Michele Scarponi, was another who rolled out on Specialized's new Tarmac. His machine wore the number one, inherited from his team-mate, Vincenzo 'The Shark' Nibali - last year's winner, but absent from this race. Scarponi is in the habit of inheriting Giro prizes. He was declared the winner in 2011 after the disqualification of Alberto Contador, but sportingly has always recognised the Spaniard as the true champion.
Scarponi's machine is equipped with Campagnolo's latest groupset, its flagship mechanical offering, Super Record RS. The lauded Italian component manufacturer believes the limits of mechanical shfiting have yet to be reached. Scarponi would also have been offered the company's flagship electronic components, but has chosen a mechanical drivetrain. The 34-year-old has been a member of cycling's elite UCI WorldTour peloton since 2002, and is perhaps more comfortable with established technology.
Cannondale sprinter, Elia Viviani, has opted for FSA's Plasma integrated handlebar and stem. The Italian's choice is unusual for a sprinter. The fast men of the peloton usually opt for a brick-like clamp to withstand the tremendous wrenching forces applied during a full-gas effort in the last 200 metres - see PRO's Vibe Sprint stem, or the ZIPP SL Sprint stem for two units used at various stages of his career by Mark Cavendish. Viviani was comprehensively beaten by Marcel Kittel on stages two and three of the Giro, but his handlebars at least have remained in place.