The Homeboy in Holland!
PCN’s resident “Homeboy in Belgium” made the trek to Groningen Holland to witness first-hand the start of this year”s Giro. Gregg shares it all with us in this week’s installment of his regular column…
There are times when I seem to never stop. I feel like a perpetual motion machine that just keeps going from place to place. The problem with these weekends is they take a toll on you physically. On the other had they are wonderful because you get to do and see a whole lot.
My perpetual motion weekend started off in Oostende with some intervals in on Friday mourning to keep up my training regimen. After the workout I quickly showered and called my friend Jenny in Amsterdam to let her know I am on my way. A look at my watch showed I was running late for my train. I decided it better to double time it and ran part of the way to the station. I made it there with 5 minutes to spare, but I was very sore from running after doing my hard workout earlier.
The trip there wasn’t too bad, but I did miss my train in Antwerp and was delayed by an hour. I finally caught up with my friend Jenny that night and we joined our friend Perry who had just flown in from the US to visit with Jenny. We all went out to dinner and caught up on old times.
The next morning we made our way to Groningen for the start of the Giro d’Italia. We found our way to the parking area and eventually the downtown course. It’s still 2 hours till the start of the event and we decide to do some exploring. As we make our way around the course a rider comes by and the few spectators start to cheer. It’s none other than “The Lion” Mario Cipollini. He wasn’t wearing the tiger skinsuit he would later wear in the prologue.
We kept walking following the course when something caught my eye. It was a large bicycle on a trailer. As we approached the van carrying the bike said “El Diablo”. Hey, it’s The Devil. We walk on over and ask to take a picture. In cycling he is our Grand Tour mascot, the pinnacle of the crazed cycling fans in Europe. It was a treat to meet and take a picture with him.
We went by the rider area and looked at the team buses and bikes while perusing the area for programs of the La Gazzetta dello Sport. The start area was filled with women in pink, children in pink, and men in pink. As with most European cities, Groningen isn’t very colorful, so the pink brought a new livelyhood to the city and to the people around. The crowds were getting very big now with the start fast approaching.
We moved to stake our spot on the course. We ended up going about 1.5 kilometers into the course along a very fast straight stretch. Along the way we see some guys on the other side of the course who have set up the perfect watching area. They brought out a couch, TV, and a case of beer and set it all up right along the edge of the course. I wish I had been that inventive.
The race was great with racers coming along in minute intervals it wasn’t long till the next rider would be along. We could also see the rider later on when the passed us on the other side of the canal. We passed the time by marking off which rider came by on our starting list and figuring out the order in which the teams went around the course.
The Rabobank team was by far the most popular of the day. It must have been great for them to start in their home country. Every time a Rabobank rider went the crowd would go wild with excitement. We ended up watching about 80 riders go by and went to get some lunch before watching the final riders.
When we left the restaurant the crowds had grown bigger. We moved out to the final 1 kilometer stretch and found a small opening to watch from. We got to see all the favorites like: Mcewen, Verbrugghe, Cipollini, Pantani, and Simoni. I am sure that Cipo would have won the prologue if he didn’t have the flat. He came by us so fast, especially for having a tire going flat.
The crowds and atmosphere of the event made it a day to remember, filled with great memories.
We left for Amsterdam tired from cheering and walking.
I finished off my weekend by waking up at 5:30am to catch the first train home to Oostende. Arrived at home only to shower, pack my cycling bag, grab some lunch and hop back onto another train an hour later to go race. I finally arrived home at 8pm later that night and just about passed out. I slept a good twelve hours.
I have to say a big thanks for Jenny and Perry for taking me to the Giro Prologue. They make from some great cheering buddies and made the time there a blast.