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Giro d’Italia cyclists race to Mount Etna summit

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali says he has no gripe with Giro d'Italia rival Nairo Quintana, but warned the Colombian sparks could fly when they race to the first summit finish on Mount Etna on Tuesday.

Giro d'Italia cyclists race to Mount Etna summit
Italy's rider of team Bahrain - Merida Vincenzo Nibali (front L) trains with teammates in Sicily on Monday. Photo: Luk Benies/AFP

After Monday's rest day, the 100th edition of the race resumes on Tuesday with a 181km fourth stage from Cefalu in the north of Sicily to the summit of Europe's highest active volcano.

Fernando Gaviria, another Colombian, who rides for Quick Step, will start in the pink jersey after he took the race lead from fellow sprinter Andre Greipel by winning stage three to Cagliari, Sardinia, on Sunday.

But after three days of seeing the fast men of the peloton sprinting for glory, fans get a chance to tune in for some early-race salvoes in the definitive battle for the pink jersey.

READ ALSO: The Tuscan festival that celebrates vintage cycling – and wine

It is the first summit finish of the race and Nibali, the winner in 2013 and 2016, expects 2014 champion Quintana to put the hammer down.

“It's inevitable that something happens, because Etna is a real challenge,” Nibali said Sunday when asked about the threat from Quintana.

Nibali, also the 2015 Tour de France champion, refuted reports in Gazzetta dello Sport of tension between him and climbing specialist Quintana, who rides for Movistar.

“No, not at all,” Nibali said.

But Nibali, born and raised in the Sicilian town of Messina, said he isn't racing for charity. “He races for one  team and I race for a rival team, so it's only normal we're enemies,” he said.

“We don't acknowledge each other that often, because we're both very concentrated and have to pay attention on the road.

“But we're both here trying to win it.”

Only four stages into the race's 100th edition, the ride to Mount Etna is certain to see Gaviria, a sprint specialist who excels on the flat, hand the coveted pink jersey over to a new race leader.

After a first 55km over undulating terrain, the peloton will tackle the 32.8km climb to the summit of Portella Femmina Morta.

Rather ominously, it translates to 'Dead Woman's Door'. Thankfully, its average gradient is a manageable 4.5% on average.

After a long, winding descent, a more formidable, 17.9km ascent to Etna, where the steepest sections reach 12%, provide a far tougher challenge.

“It won't be decisive, but the stage to Etna is important because it will give me an indication of my form and an indicaton of who the real GC (general classification) contenders could be for the final week,” said Quintana.

As well as Nibali and Quintana, fellow GC contenders like Steven Kruijswijk (LNL), Spaniard Mikel Landa (Sky) and Tom Dumoulin (Trek) are expected to be at the front of the peloton.

A prestigious stage win is at stake, although the responsibility of controlling the race would then fall to the team of the new pink jersey holder – demanding precious energy that could prove useful for more decisive stages in the third and final week.

Yet, with stage five finishing in his home town of Messina, Nibali has extra incentive to claim the 'maglia rosa' on Tuesday.

“I can't wait for the stage to Messina, it's my home town,” he said.

By Justin Davis

READ ALSO: The best cycling routes across Italy
Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

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CLIMATE

Sicily braces for rare Mediterranean cyclone as storms continue

Sicily's residents are bracing for the arrival of a cyclone later on Thursday, the second this week after a deadly storm hammered the Italian island, killing three people.

Sicily braces for rare Mediterranean cyclone as storms continue
Cars and market stalls submerged in Catania, Sicily, after heavy rain hit the city and province on october 26th. Photo: STRINGER/ANSA/AFP

A rare tropical-style cyclone known as a “medicane” is set to reach Sicily’s eastern coast and the tip of mainland Calabria between Thursday evening and Friday morning, according to Italian public research institute ISPRA.

“Heavy rainfall and strong sea storms are expected on the coast, with waves of significant height over 4.5 metres (15 feet),” ISPRA said.

The Italian Department for Civil Protection placed eastern Sicily under a new amber alert for Thursday and the highest-level red lert for Friday in anticipation of the storm’s arrival, after almost a week of extreme weather in the area.

A total of three people have been reported killed in flooding on the island this week amid storms that left city streets and squares submerged.

On Tuesday, parts of eastern Sicily were ravaged by a cyclone following days of heavy rains that had sparked flooding and mudslides, killing three people.

Television images from Tuesday showed flooding in the emergency room of Catania’s Garibaldi-Nesima hospital, while rain was seen pouring from the roof inside offices at the city courtroom.

Thursday’s storm was set to hit the same area around Catania, Sicily’s second-largest city, even as residents were still mucking out their streets and homes.

Schools were closed in Syracuse and Catania, where the local government ordered public offices and courts closed through Friday.

The mayor of Catania on Tuesday shut down all businesses and urged residents to stay home.

Antonio Navarra, president of the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change, told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper this week that Sicily was at the centre of extreme weather events, including heatwaves and cyclones.

“We’re trying to understand if, with climate change, these phenomena will become even more intense, if they will change their character as their frequency intensifies,” he said.

READ ALSO: Climate crisis: The Italian cities worst affected by flooding and heatwaves

Cars submerged in Catania, Sicily, after storms hit the city and province on October 26th. Photo: STRINGER/ANSA/AFP

Other forecasters have said the “medicane” is the latest evidence that the climate crisis is irreversibly tropicalising the Mediterranean, after the island’s south-eastern city of Syracuse this August recorded a temperature of 48.8C, the hottest ever seen in Europe.

“Sicily is tropicalising and the upcoming medicane is perhaps the first of this entity, but it certainly won’t be the last,” Christian Mulder, a professor of ecology and climate emergency at the University of Catania, told The Guardian on Wednesday.

“We are used to thinking that this type of hurricane and cyclone begins in the oceans and not in a closed basin like the Mediterranean. But this is not the case,” he said.

“This medicane is forming due to the torrid climate of north Africa and the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The Aegean Sea has a temperature of 3C higher than the average, while the Ionian Sea has a temperature of almost 2C higher than the average. The result is a pressure cooker.”

The storm is expected to leave the area between Saturday and Sunday.

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