Roadside At Strade Bianche!
From the Pez head office in Vancouver the message is clear: enjoy your favorite race with your good friends. So, after a long day passed with four great guys chasing a fantastic race, through clouds of dust, shortcuts and small roads at 4 p.m last Saturday I can say that the mission was accomplished!
At that time me and my friend Angelo were located in one of the most beautiful squares of Italy, il Campo at Siena watching the great show of the race slowly turning to an end. In that moment we didn’t have any house, no family, no job, no worries: we were just two friends enjoying a special time together. Let me take you through the special day and how we arrived there.
The plan was easy. Meet at San Gimignano, leave before the race, watch four passages and the finish. When Angelo asked to chase the race together I was worried, because I know very well the rhythm I impose to these days and I wasn’t really sure he could enjoy the same. At the last moment another friend of ours Paolo, came into the group and in San Gimignano we were three. The new location (till last year the departure was in Gaiole) is fantastic; a medieval town with four of five high towers built with large stones; however team buses were parked far away from the departure village and before leaving we could meet just three or four riders. Oh well, we will have the time to watch them during the race!
We proceed all together with my car; I know very well the local roads and I studied the route however I feel the responsibility of the role and I’m not fully relaxed. The phone rings, it’s Jered, another friend looking for a car passage. He is a pro photographer but we are not in competition: first of all I’m not a pro photographer and then we already watched several races together and we pass secrets from one to the other. We meet with him at our first stop, at sector 2 passage: so we proceed as four now.
The first two passages are not really exciting. There’s a break of four out there and the peloton is proceeding slowly. There’s a big wind and the big teams know they can catch the break easily in the most exposed sectors. One of them is the number 6, Lucignano d’Asso, where we will cover the race. I leave the three friends with the car in a very exposed piece of road and I prefer to move few hundred meters further where I can find some protection from the wind which was blowing really strong.
It’s a nice sunny day and isn’t cold but it would be much warmer with no wind. Instead, we have this north strong wind creating quite a problem for the riders. Because if we complain about it, imagine the riders who are coming down from the top of the hills, on an inch wheel in the gravel roads and with wind blowing transversally! In this case the pictures are not really giving the idea of this race. You should be there to hear the screams of the riders, one against the other because the guy in front deviates suddenly from a stone, or a hole, or just because of the wheel. This race passing by when the race heats up is really something to watch, and to hear.
After Lucignano remains two more passages: the number eight (Monteaperti) and the finish in Siena. The next one should be very interesting because it’s a short sector but steep: 800 meters at 12%. The only problem is that this passage is very close to the finish, so we will have to run like crazy to watch also the final in the old town of Siena.
The race here comes already well selected with a bunch of ten riders leading. We drive to Siena in a sportive way and just now Angelo confesses he suffers from car sickness. Poor him, on these road the whole day it mustn’t have been nice. But we arrive. Siena west, the car parked in front of a garden and four crazy guys running the last two kilometers of road. I’m doing this stuff every year and I know very well you can’t lose a second of time, the race is behind us, so when my friends are shouting at me to slow down I don’t even turn my head. I have in mind the same spot I did last year at Strade Bianche on the top of Santa Caterina climb. I love that place, more than the finish line, because it’s the heart of this race.
The finish, in Piazza del Campo is a fantastic scenario and in no other race may have the same location, but Santa Caterina, a narrow steep road, it becomes alive during the race passage. You can hear the people screaming and you feel that emotion, you understand the race is coming, even if you don’t see it, just because the road is too steep and the riders become visible just at the end.
So, meter after meter of suffering I come to the same place as last year and I feel one year more on my shoulders. Only up there I realize that Jered and Paolo remained down below. Angelo is close to me, but still not able to be with me on the top. Race is coming. He will join my position after the first guys have passed: Kwiatkowski flies where all the others die. Sagan is half the speed he had last year in the same place and Cancellara is also suffering like a dog. Over there is damned hard!
Warren Barguil struggled his way up the final climb for a strong 8th place at the finishline.
When we understand that the race is almost over Angelo asks me to go in Piazza del Campo, to enjoy that moment together. I usually run away to get home as early as possible but this time I feel that it’s a great idea cause this time I feel that is one of those things making a friendship special. Once there we enjoy the music of the race village, the sun of the square and all the beauty the Campo at Siena can give you. We then meet Francesco another Italian amateur photographer, with his father. It’s the first time we meet with him but we both know him very well from the social Flikr. Francesco is a very nice guy but the surprise is the father: he is a very special father, enjoying the son’s passion and supporting it. And I can’t resist to think to my one and the time we couldn’t spend together. But I’m also a father now and it’s a special thought I have to one day have my small guy with me, in the same place in the next years to come. Same as Francesco with his dad; who is happier Francesco or the dad?
This is the story we had last Saturday. A simple story of four friends, met on the web, then in person, then planning a day out, then doing it and driving a day behind a bike race. Curious is the fact that all of us met thanks to the web. We met watching our pictures on various socials and now we meet at races to take more pictures. Meet new people. Make new friends. And the season has just begun!