His colleagues say that Alberto Bettiol – chubby, smiling, bulging eyes, mustache, alopecia on the head that contradict his 27 years – is not a cyclist but a tour guide with a colored jersey who gives them the turra telling them stories of each people that they cross in the squad, from each mountain, each tree, each vineyard, and on the way to Stradella the squad slowly descends like the Po that accompanies them through the Padana plain. Bettiol is not with them, he is with the break of 23 that no team of sprinters wants to catch and marches 10, 15 kilometers ahead.
On the run, surely, Bettiol sings rather than talks, sings Paolo Conte, perhaps, who sings the towns of and the traffic lights of the road through Broni to Stradella, and among the vineyards on the slope of Broni, the town of Bombini in the that his Berzin has set up a car shop, he makes the companions a now you see me, now you don’t see me, and he launches himself, as he launched years ago in the surprising Tour of Flanders that he won, towards Rémi Cavagna, the barbarian, that he had jumped before, climbing the Castana and gets confused with the motorcycles, climbing, such is his strength, and he eats the curves going down, such is his stubbornness in not stopping pedaling. Bettiol reaches out to the Frenchman from Averno, one who only knows how to go full throttle until he dies, as if the psyche never gave him to calculate the relationship between effort, expense and gasoline in the tank, and he arrives only at Stradella, where the sun shines and sounds the accordion in his honor, happy.
Bettiol has already fulfilled his contract and is envious of those who still have everything to do in a Giro d’Italia that is ending, and all travel to the quiet tran tran of the Ineos train, which arrives at the station with more than 23 minutes of delay, and Egan Bernal, tenth day in pink, sighs, feels recovered and says he is prepared for the next three days and for the attacks he expects from Simon Yates, the most lively of his rivals (third overall, at 3m 23s). “I have to know how to manage this advantage, run with head, not with passion and grit. And this time I will not be wrong. If he jumps, I will not go fast to his wheel, I will not change my rhythm abruptly so as not to burn myself as in Sega di Ala, I will exploit the team, if anyone accompanies me ”, promises the Colombian, who goes on explaining that in the Giro one day bad can change everything, but he very briefly answers the usual question about whether his back is okay. “Yes, yes,” he says. No more.
The Giro returns to Piedmont from which it started three weeks ago and Yates awaits Egan on Friday at the Alpe di Mera (1,531 meters, 10 kilometers at 9%), which he knows so well because he went to study it a few weeks ago and climbed it twice, and it will have little influence, he believes, that the Mottarone planned as a sign of respect and homage to the 14 fatalities of the inhuman greed of the managers who manipulated the brakes of the cable car that plunged last Sunday in the mountain above Lake Maggiore. “It’s not as hard as Sega, it’s more sustained,” explains Bernal. “It will be for those who have better legs, and I will be very supported because we pass near where I lived for two years, and there will be those from my fan club.” On Saturday they touch two cross-border ports with Switzerland of more than 2,000 meters – the eternal and stretched San Bernardino, 24 kilometers at 6% -, the short Passo dello Spluga (nine kilometers at 7%) and the final climb to Alpe Motta (seven kilometers at 8%). A day of control and a Sunday of explosion, the 30 kilometers of flat time trial in Milan. “I do not know if I am going to less”, confesses Bernal. “I just know that I have to get to Milan in pink, and win the Giro.”