Five stages in to the Giro d’Italia and we’re still in the honeymoon phase. That magical early promise hangs in the air. Those quirky habits and stock phrases are still cute and endearing, and yet to grate.
The bride and groom, of course, is early race leader and wearer of the Maglia Rosa Rohan Dennis (yes, he’s both of them…go with me on this).
Tom Dumoulin flirted with pink on Stage 1 – an ill-advised fumble with an old flame – before Dennis made his move and decided to settle down. And now, on the roads of Sicily, he’s busily consummating the relationship.
In front of a world-wide TV audience.
Friends smile and make nice.
The pretence is maintained but few, of course, think it will last. Some predict the romance will unravel on Stage 6, on the slopes of Mount Etna. The main contenders will surely flex their muscles and a pure climber will head up the road.
Dennis will be digging out the pre-nup, and on the phone to his lawyer, even as the Maglia Rosa makes eyes at another man. Whether on Stage 6 or 16 the pink jersey will move on and the likes of Dumoulin, Froome, Yates, and co. will fight over it at the business end.
Rohan Dennis’s job, right now, is to ride like a contender and stay in pink for as many days as possible.
For the romance and the glory.
Stage 5, meanwhile, gave us a second, less frantic day in Sicily. On a short stage with a relatively gentle first half, riders were spotted signing on late and sauntering around in the shade at the start.
With one eye on Mount Etna – literally, a lot of the time – legs were being saved and powder kept dry.
Until the (traditional? Can two consecutive occasions be a tradition?) uphill sprint finish in a Sicilian town.
Forty-odd sprinters-who-can-climb and climbers-who-can-sprint strung themselves out on the ramps of the finish – not the quite the power-fest we saw on Stage 4, but a slightly more nuanced affair.
Enrico Bataglin, the Italian, found prime position and picked his moment to sweep past Giovanni Visconti for the win. Coming not-so-hot on the heels of his last Giro stage win four years ago.
And what of those potential suitors for pink?
Froome looks eminently human, drifting backwards from the sharp end towards the finish. “Superman” Lopez took a dive into a grass verge, and looks anything but. Pinot is Pinot, so who knows? Yates looks perky and strong. And defending champ Dumoulin looks calm, composed, keeping his head down and biding his time.
And Sicily itself peaks tomorrow with the ascent of Mount Etna.
A big day in pink for Rohan Dennis.
(Top Image: via http://www.giroditalia.it)