The Giro and The San Pietrini

Wow! Yesterday was a stunning end to the Giro d’Italia, one of the world’s great bicycle races. And the excitement occurred because of stone, the legendary San Pietrini cobbles of Rome. With just under 1000 meters to go in the time trial, race leader Denis Menchov looked like he was ready to win not only the overall race title but also that day’s race, the last leg of the Giro.

But then Menchov’s front wheel slipped out from under him and he went tumbling at probably 50 km/hour. The thin tire couldn’t grip the hard lava stones, which come from outcrops near Rome. These are the stones I wrote about in a previous post that Vitruvius described as hard and enduring. Many reporters described them as icy smooth because of the rain. Locals call the cobbles, “San Pietrini,” little Saint Peters, playing on St. Peter’s role as the rock of Christianity.

I have an update to add on this blog. Marie Jackson, who has written extensively about the stones of Rome, has told me that the San Pietrini stone comes from the Capo di Bove lava flow, 277,000 +/- 2,000 years old. The lava erupted from the Faete peak of the Alban Hills volcano, southeast of Rome. Stone comes from a quarry near the Ciampino airport.

(Photo of the cobbles from VeloNews.
To see a video of the fall, you can watch this
YouTube link.)

As Menchov fell, you could see him reaching out for his bike as he slid 10 meters along the San Pietrinis. Fortunately, his mechanic was in a car right behind him, and he leapt out of the car, yanked a spare bike off the top, sprinted to Menchov, and had him back riding within seconds. It was stirring and stunning to watch Menchov recover and ride to victory. Although it was exciting to see such a focus on building stone, I am glad they were not culprit that took away a well deserved victory by Dennis Menchov.

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