What's Cool In Road Cycling

Giro di Pez: Vasto To Pesco

I’m happy to report I found a negroni last night- a good one too. A simple stroll into the town center at Peschici revealed a fine assortment of cafes and bars – the good kind with the chairs out front so you can enjoy the view. It was the perfect ‘rest’ for today’s big drive from Vasto to Pescocostanzo along the entire corsa…

It was 8PM, and the town’s ‘passagiatta’ was well underway – basically a mass stroll around the town. Peschici doesn’t really have a good passagiatti circuit, so it was up and down the main street for the strollers, I saw some people go by 5-6 times. No worries for me – my report was filed and I was happy to do ‘niente’ for a few minutes as I sipped my well earned cocktail, and burned up some phone credits getting reconnected to some folks back home – it’s always good to hear a familiar voice.

Today’s plan was for another big day (is there any other kind on this gig?). I was off to the start in Vasto, then would drive the entire stage to this Giro’s first high mountain finish at Pescocostanzo. And yes, I think about Seinfeld every time I hear that name…

I’m also happy to report I dropped no F-Bombs today… not a single one. Granted, the day isn’t over, and this story is not yet filed, but I’ve had a great day so far.

This morning I said ‘arrivaderci’ to the sunny beaches of Garganico.

Leaving my hotel in Rodi Garganico this morning, I drove north along the coast before joining the autostrada to Vasto. The roads were empty and the views gorgeous – the Garganico peninsula really is worth a stop – the beaches are endless, the air fresh, and the people very friendly – even by Italy’s already friendly standards.

Dozens of motos all in a row… this must be the Giro.

Bongiorno Vasto!
I pulled into the start at Vasto just as the publicity caravan was pulling out – and unfortunately I was on the wrong end of that horse, so it was a few minutes before I got parked and joined the party. The crowds were huge, the sun shining, and the race motos lined up in perfect order.

First stop – the villagio di partenza – there’s no better way to start a Giro day than with a shot of complimentary espresso.

Race sign on was well underway, when I spotted Danilo Di Luca rolling in amid general excitement. He seemed in a genuinely good mood today, signing a bunch of autographs and posing for pics. I’d say his whole day went pretty well… That was one impressive attack he layed down with 20km to go – shattering the field and really playing some cards.

Giovanni Visconti signs on with much fanfare, but it got even better by the finish.

Then I spotted these two ladies… and BAM – another Giro story appears. Remember my B&B at Pizzo a few days back – the one where the owner woke me up in the middle of the night to let in two more guests? It turns out the ‘guests’ were catering staff in the vip tent for Gazzetta dello Sport.

So there they are pouring champagne and I pop over to say ciao -.  Of course much cheek kissing ensues – as everybody’s thrilled to see each other so unexpectedly – and they kindly pour me a glass of the bubbly. Not a bad way to start the day. Turns out Manuela (on the right) is a cyclist herself who races on a team in her home town.

As usual, the fans were out in force the whole route. Even though the race was not due through for 2-3 hours, people were camped out, set up in lawn chairs, or just sitting on anything they had. I stopped here to snap a pic of the view, and these fans saw my press sticker – so papa told his kids to ask me for a photo. I said sure – but of everyone -. So I got everyone except their 90 yr old mother who scuttled away as soon as she saw the camera.

I lost count of all the postcard style hill towns I saw today- seriously. I could do a whole story on the vistas and views along this stage. But there’s just too much more to show you…

The wysteria and other blossoms are out if full force here.

Somewhere around the halfway mark I spotted the Highroad boys at the feed zone pulled in for a chat. They were good enough to allow me a peek inside the Highroad’s lunch and careful to arrange all sponsor labels to the front – thank you very much.

There were no cakes today, as all the climbing really requires easy to eat fast food – bars and some drinks. Each rider gets the same lunch, with two bottles (one water and one energy mix), and a small can of coke to wash down the assortment of bars and gels.

• Di Luca hails from nearby on the coast, so it was no surprise to see so much support along the whole stage.

Somewhere into the last half of the stage I spotted these folks patiently waiting for the race to arrive – so I pulled over to say hello. I’d seen so many of these locals on my drive today. They were a bit surprised when I said ‘ciao’ – and it even took ‘em a minute to respond… maybe they didn’t get my accent… but they were loving the Giro and seemed just happy to be waiting for the procession.

I arrived in town with just enough time to get set up in the press room, and run the 500m to the finish.

That was a great race – impressive to see the big boys duking it out- and impressive to see Visconti keep the maglia rosa for another day.

• Spanish champ Rodriguez gets dressed just like the rest of us. Although he was pulling his leg warmers on after a 4:48 day in the saddle and 12th on the stage… He’s on some good form now.

Proud Papa – Giovanni Visconti’s dad is the happiest guy at the whole Giro. I’ve seen him every stage, met him at the TT, and he is loving his son’s success. At the ceremonial champagne spray, the photogs always scatter, trying to protect their camera equipment from a good soaking -. But Signor Visconti strode right into center field to help Viscontino with his target practice. You bet everybody loved it.

The gruppetto rolls in almost a half hour after the stage winner. That’s a rider’s wage well earned.

I talked to Magnus Backstedt at sign in, and he told me the mood on the team is great – they’re just a bunch of guys having a lot of fun racing their bikes. He pointed out how different the team spirit is vs other teams he’s known. After dinner, instead of shuffling off to their rooms they all hang around a while and have some laughs. I asked him how the day went as he rolled back down to the team bus after the finish- and said “Not bad -!” I’m pretty sure I’m not the only fan whose loving this team right now.

That’s it for another day on this Giro. Tomorrow I’m joined by Alessandro and pass our PEZ roadside reporting baton on to him for the next few stages. I’ll be back at HQ next week, but we’ll be rocking the reports from Italy all Giro long – so keep it dialed to PEZ.

Thanks for reading and ciao a domani!

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