What's Cool In Road Cycling

Grappa Di Pez: A Day In Saltara

Chasing a Grand Tour you soon realize that every day is somehow better than the last, and around each corner new adventure awaits… Stage 7 to Saltara was no different, as our man Ale Federico reports on a successful sojourn complete with start line nerves, finishline frenzy, and many distractions in between…

The finish line in Saltara the day before the circus arrives…

The night before the tough 7th stage, I made a visit to the finish in Saltara – the terrible final 100 metres looks different from my first visit. I rode on these roads for almost one month to prepare a punctual preview of the race so now I know every corner of this valley. Now the spring finds its best moment and the evening comes one hour later compared to the first time I met Mr. Omicioli. Where he will be know? Will he be able to sleep? I reach him by phone and he’s of course very busy solving the last problems which, as usual are the worst ones. We will meet for sure tomorrow.

• When I leave my home for the stage 7 start in Cesena my wife is still sleeping together with her lover and I think I will get my small revenge with some daily distractions…

Cesena is located not far from the Adriatic sea at the end of the Padana Valley which is the largest in Italy. It is very important to avoid any confusion with Cesenatico, the town of Pantani, which is not far from here.

• It’s warm in Cesena when I arrive in the morning and I park my car little bit far from the departure village and for a while I worry that I’ve lost the way, but the smiles of two Saunier Duval angels point me in the right direction and I’m soon inside the big illusion of the Giro. Illusion?

• The beautiful Piazza della Libertа, the major square of Cesena is full of people waiting for the riders. It’s a sunny day and the Giro is a must for these towns. The young girl is delivering some drinks and it’s so warm that the people are interested more in the water than her.

• It’s time for me to get on with business and what best than the Maglia Rosa? It’s on the shoulders of Pollack who probably will lose it at the end of the stage because he is a sprinter and the route looks too difficult for his legs. But already before the start he has to defend himself from the attacks of the photo reporters who sometimes try some very strange approach.

• As usual all the stars wait for the last moment to sign on and soon I’m battling for position in the media scrum. But at last the race is underway and for me is time to leave, just like the Giro.

Fossombrone is the town below Cesane; is located in the remote central Italian country. Usually it’s very quiet but today it’s a different day and when I arrive there the main way is completely engaged by the cars of the Giro and… who’s there? The two out of race riders of the Saunier Duval. A pic is a “must” but this time they would like to know who I am. I show to them my jersey and tell them about our “Daily Distractions”…

• I feel a little nervous because I’m shy and I’m not the type of guy that knows how to speak with beautiful girls, especially if they are nice. At the end I convince them and I get my pic, but it cost me a lot. The go away smiling at me and for a moment my blood become ice inside me. Never, never, never. I’m here for cycling, for cyclists. Hard men, strong men, ugly men. Not for girls… never.

• Better keep another kind of distraction, the famous porketta of the Metauro valley. It’s just the time for a sandwich. The porketta is a small pork cooked inside the oven and server together with the skin. Inside it has been previously prepared with special Mediterranean “smells”.

• After the porketta I feel again in peace with the world and it’s easy find an original distraction without ask nothing and without receive a circumstanced smile (10). Please, let me know what you prefer…

The Cesane climb is very difficult even to walk and is great find so many people there. The riders of the break are suffering a lot but from the bunch no particular reaction. It’s time to reach the final line.

Same finish line… different day.

Again here, again on the top of this hill. How much is different now from the first time. This is the Giro illusion, this is what the TV has to show to the world. Colours, music, screams and… sponsors. When I arrive the race is climbing to Bargni, just 20 km away, and on the big screen the images from the race show the break pursuit by the Lampre’s guys.

• There’s also Mr. Omicioli near me looking to the screen. He looks very nervous and excited in the same time and he’s speaking to his people: “I don’t see too many people on the road” “Did they show the valley from the helicopter?”. He tries to find answers but he has no time to listen for them. I imagine his pressure after one long year of work!

• From my position is almost impossible see Verbrugghe when he arrives on the line. I can listen the helicopter, I can listen to the official speaker, I can listen the crowd but I can see only a lot of confusion.

• That’s not the worst, which has yet to come, because when Savoldelli get the second place with the bunch behind him you can imagine what happened inside the small road of Saltara.

Basso rides in with the chase group – looking comfortable and ready for Sunday.

Illusion? Yes, for one day also Saltara become the centre of our world. The world of the cycling fans and of the cycling dreamers. But tomorrow all will come back to its place and the road to the hill will be again just a country road. No tracks, no podium, no crowd, no riders, no girls. Sometimes, just a bike and a cyclist in trouble on it. And, you know, that’s nothing to do with any illusion.

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