Bassano del GrappaMonte Ologno, high above Lago Maggiore, Thursday 15:00 hours; we had to get up here early to beat the road closures.

We got a slapped wrist from the editor for ‘missing the cut’ on the Mortirolo, so no slip ups today.

The stage describes a big curve from Melide near Lugano to Verbania on Lago Maggiore; but there’s a late surprise – which we’re sitting at the top of.

It’s a nasty one; 10.4 K @ 9.0% average with a max of 13% makes it Category 1 and very tough.

Gilbert
Maxime Monfort battles the gradient. Photo©Martin Williamson

Where we are – 450 metres to go – it’s scenic with wonderful vistas across the lago but lower down it’s not unlike the Mortirolo in that much of it is a tunnel through the trees.

Last night was spent in Switzerland, we found it not particularly friendly and very expensive – we hiked back into Italia for our pizza to avoid the inflated prices.

We were away early today to get up here but came via the ferry across the lake – very relaxing and much less stressful than the crazy Italian roads.

Gilbert
On the ferry across the lake to Verbania. Photo©Martin Williamson
Gilbert
A nice break from the car for an hour. Photo©Martin Williamson

Fast forward” on the road to Cervinia on Friday – it’s easy to get behind with your word counts, there’s so much today after the stage.

And there’s some sort of Einsteinian time thing goes on with the Giro, you look at your watch then look again five minutes later and 90 minutes have passed – bizarre.

Any roads – yesterday, Monte Ologno, Alberto, awesome!

Gilbert
Phil Gilbert looks determined. Photo©Martin Williamson

The survivors of the break including eventual winner Gilbert sprachled past, there was a gap; and there was Alberto, alone, dancing, gaining time with every stab of the pedals – magnificent.

It reminded us what a beautiful sport we have – there’s no other sport where you can enjoy such spectacle, just inches from the world’s finest athletes, for free.

Gilbert
Darwin Atapuma. Photo©Martin Williamson
Gilbert
Chava. Photo©Martin Williamson
Modolo
Stage winner Paolo Tiralongo. Photo©Martin Williamson
Gilbert
Alberto cements his superiority at the top of the classification. Photo©Martin Williamson

And whilst the racist magazines and websites – “dodgy East Europeans and Latinos” – might not give him credit, history will record Alberto Contador as one of the all time great stage racers.

Big Ryder Hesjedal had another good day, moving up to ninth – he’s a battler and just does not give up.

Gilbert
According to teammate Alan Marangoni, Ryder Hesjedal “is a warrior” Photo©Martin Williamson

With Formolo’s stage win and it looking very likely that Ryder will be well in the top ten come Milano, it’s not been a bad old Giro for Charly’s Garmin-Cannondale boys.

The sprinters have all memorised Henry Ford’s famous mantra; ‘what cannot be cured must be endured’ – Hofland, Mezgec, Modolo, Nizzolo all grind stoically upwards, suffering like dogs.

Gilbert
Luka Mezgec. Photo©Martin Williamson
Gilbert
Roger Kluge. Photo©Martin Williamson

It was the proverbial ‘riders all over the hill’ day with last finisher Izaguirre of Movistar @ 25:39 on Gilbert.

Gilbert
Francis Mourey. Photo©Martin Williamson

Last on GC this morning, Trek’s Coledan is @ 4:56:07 but should comfortably crack the five hour barrier today with three monster climbs to finish the day.

We were spoiled in the hotel stakes, last night – the Majestic in Verbania was indeed, majestic.

We had a huge room with views of Lago Maggiore from our balcony and breakfast was fab.

If only it was always like that – we’ll probably be in a cave, tonight.

Gilbert
Not a bad hotel room view tonight; Lago Maggiore. Photo©Martin Williamson

Life by the lakes is cool, magnificent views, lovely bars and restaurants by the water and the opportunity to spurn the mad Italian roads and take to the Lago.

Meanwhiles, on the road to Cervinia, it’s blowing a gale, we’ve reached the half way point in today’s stage and the Saint Barthelemy climb isn’t far away…