Giro di PEZ: From Shakespeare To Shake Up
Four kilometres doesn’t seem like a long way – unless you’re walking up a mountain… But I’m ahead of myself, the day started much earlier, 195km away down in ‘Shakespeare’s town’ of Verona, on this day of gc shake up.
“Creds” – just a little piece of plastic with your picture on it. With it, life is wonderful, “access all areas” and free coffee in the start village as the masses stare enviously through the two metre high wire fencing. Without it, you’re just another poor soul trying to go where you’re not allowed to.
This man holds the key to our future…
Our first job today was to obtain these talismanic objects – it’s virtually always a nightmare; ‘who?’ or ‘did your office apply?’
Today we were picking them up from the Gazzetta camper van at the start; the press centers are always at the finish, so the organization have the van there so that if you’re joining the race at a tappa start then you can get your passes.
There was a ruck outside the camper as everyone and their sister tried to get up those stairs to gain the magic bits of plastic.
We’re so proud of ‘em, we just gotta show you.
Strangely, attractive women always got aboard with next to no hassle.
Meanwhile, Dave and I worked sprinter team tactics – he kept the throng against his right shoulder as I slipped through on the inside. Duly ‘credded’ there was a spring in our step as we headed for the team buses.
Part one of our mission today was to start getting pictures of velos for articles that we’re planning. As we moved from bus to bus, we chatted to old friends and snapped away.
Adam Hansen (High Road) was in a good mood; with Mark Cavendish yesterday taking his second stage for the US team, he had to be, really! Cavendish was scheduled to go home after stage 13, but he did sign on for the today’s first big mountain stage.
David Millar (Slipstream) was hamming it up for the cameras – along with the rest of the team, including DS Matt White, he was riding down to the sign-on astride a ‘chopper.’ Delighted with the squad’s ttt win, he’s still smarting over that broken chain, but like he says; “this is all for the Tour!”
Little chain rings and big cogs were the order of the day – the Saunier mechanic told us that Ricco, along with a lot of the stars, was on a 36 inner. Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti) is still hugely popular, that eccentric manner of his strikes a cord with his countrymen and he can’t move without his name being shouted.
Another rider whose best days are probably behind him, but who the fans still love is Paolo Savoldelli (LPR); autumn of his career or not, he’s still meticulous about his position, checking it carefully before the stage start.
Caisse d’Epargne’s Neil Stephens and Sean Yates were all smiles at the Astana car – delighted no doubt to be on a Grand Tour. Oleg Tinkov said he’d talk to us later in the race, “busy today, VIP’s from Moscow coming today!” – we left, quickly.
Emanuele Sella was chatting to his lovely lady as we checked the content of his pockets and his cassette – BIG sprockets!
With the 11.50 start time drawing close, groups of smiling, chatting riders pedaled off to ‘kilometer zero’ – it was time for us to head for Alpe di Pampeago; there wouldn’t be much chatting and laughing up there.
Alpi de Pampeago is steep, we walked most of the last four kilometres, so we know! We had planned to get behind the finish line and catch photos of the winners, losers and also rans. But the road was shut to virtually all traffic from four K to go – so it was time for walkies.
The Alpi came after the giant, 2000 metre Manghen pass and it takes around eight kilometres to get up over it’s 1700 metres of wide, smooth but steep tar.
The Bruseghin fans were out in force; he and his fans have a strange affinity with donkeys – it’s his nickname, but a tad worrying. Nonetheless, a good day for the sturdy Lampre rider, who moves to third on GC. His fan’s banners kept us amused though, as we trudged upwards; the distance to go banners are set at 100 metre intervals after two K to go – a real morale booster!
At around the red kite it became apparent that we wouldn’t make it to the top before the race came; the helicopter was closing and the lead cars could be heard back down the hill.
Bart Simpson even has the Italians yukking.
We stopped to take pictures and take in the show. Sella was well clear, whatever his lady said to him at the start had done the trick, he’s not the most elegant climber, riding as he does, on the bottoms a lot of the time, but he’s effective.
Next up was Tinkoff’s Vasil Kiryienka, putting on a show for those Moscow VIP’s but looking very weary. Spanish champion Joaquin Rodriquez (Caisse D’Epargne), faithful lieutenant to Valverde in the Spring Classics was third and his under achieving team mate Josй Rujano was finally showing some sparkle with fourth.
One by one, the ‘names’ fought past – Bettini, Menchov, Pelizotti, Ricco, Simoni and Di Luca.
No pink jersey though, 18 minutes passed before Giovanni Visconti heaved past; Patrick Lefevre can’t be unhappy, the good looking Italian champion has given QuickStep great exposure this last week. The man who stole his jersey was LPR’s Gabriele Bosisio, keeping the pressure well off his boss, Killer Di Luca.
The crowd control was very shaky compared to the Tour de France; as soon as the top twenty were up the hill, the fans, many on bikes, began to head back down the hill.
The riders waste no time at these finishes, a cape and a hat goes on and they are off back down the tarmac they have just scaled.
The team coaches were parked around 12 K from the top, that’s a long freewheel in cold mountain air, dodging cars and over weight old guys on mountain bikes.
It all becomes very hairy, not only do they get mixed up with the descending fans, but meanwhile, the “laughing groups” are still grinding up the hill.
Today, 42 minutes passed before the last rider crossed the line after Sella had got all the kisses and it was a chaotic mess as the autobus ground past.
It was an easier walk back down the hill for us to the press room, which is in a hotel, four kilometres from the summit.
Dave sends the pics to PEZ HQ for editing, while Ed get’s to work on these words.
Bizzarely, we’re working in the swimming pool area – Dave wants to go for a paddle to cool his hot feet after all that walking. There will be less walking tomorrow as we’ll be driving the whole route – all five cols.
Can Bosisio hold onto that lovely pink jersey?
Keep it Pezzed to find out.