What's Cool In Road Cycling

SanRemo Roadside: The Day With PEZ

Today is 12 hours of daylight at PEZ HQ, and the plum blossoms in my backyard signal winter is done. Things were a bit colder Saturday in Milan, but as our Ale Federico reports, the fans along the route didn’t notice, and share the same enthusiasm for the new season as we do…

Destination San Remo and the ‘unofficial’ 2006 season opener.

Now is time to run again. Another season, another race. The winter is forgotten; Friday evening I was in Milan picking up race credits. I took some time for myself to walk to the Castello Sforzesco located in the heart of the city. It was the first moment I would like to remember about this experience. I thought about the night between me and the race. One long night. No more discussions about favourites or challengers. No more time to prepare anything… it’s all about to start.

Friday night in Milano, some time to forget about the race for a minute and enjoy the city, and Castello Sforesco (in the background).

Race day morning is cold in the departure village and, as usual for me, too early to find anyone. Almost nobody. There are just some Italian internet journalists that I know from last year. “How are you Marco? Who will win today?” It feels again just like the Giro presentation. Four months burned in a night.

The riders are late, so cold weather doesn’t invite them outside of the cars. Now the fans start to arrive, more and more. The official speaker calls the riders, “half hour left.., twenty minutes left…, fifteen left, please riders are requested for sign”. I know exactly what will happen. They’ll all rush to sign in at the last minute and it will be an epic battle to snap their pics…

The Ale-Jet needs no introduction…

So imagine thirty photographers hungry (someone angry) for fotos in few square meters together with riders, champions and bikes everywhere. This is the departure of a great classic race. Valverde is the first one – he walks by without his bike! Petacchi is the most desired and he reminds me a bit of Bugno. Boonen looks so sure descending the dangerous steps of the podium. Bertagnolli looks shy. He is a favourite and he doesn’t want speak about the race. Vinokourov doesn’t look to the camera. Bettini smiles – because he always does when he feels ready. Ballan smiles because he is young.

Vino’s real goals lay some months away, but you never count him out of a race, no matter what time of year.

• Simoni smiles – because look who is going to make the interview…

Ach! Where are the podium girls? None around – PEZ will kill me. But there is a great blonde there. Who is she? A journalist? An official? In any case I don’t think that really matters…

Lunch on The Turchino
I’m eating a sandwich in my car parked on the way climbing the Turchino. Usually I come here with my bike but now I’m tasting how easy is the life of the journalists. No wonder they think on paper the races are so easy!! When I decide to find my place I notice the strong wind blowing the same direction as the race.

Two Belgian fans are checking the numbers of their favourites; they are here for Boonen but they believe also in Gilbert.

There is a break. As usual. I’ve seen sixteen Sanremo’s and just one time there was no brake: in the 1994. Now they are in eight. Around ten minutes later the bunch passes. They’re working hard but they feel cold.

While I’m driving to the Riviera (I choose a good place near Varazze) my mind is roving around the race. There are eight riders ahead. The wind is strong and in the race direction. The teams outside of the break should work a lot. I check my fotos from the Turchino. Who’s working? – Milram, Quick Step and the Credit Agricole boys. (16) That means Petacchi, Boonen and Hushovd will leave some teammates on the road.

In Riviera I find the good weather. It is ten degrees warmer than on the Turchino. Still the Milram and the Quick Steps are working hard. But not so hard to discourage a little roadside relief…

I jump back up to the autostrada and speed to the Poggio It’s difficult explain exactly what is the Poggio. The spring home. Where flowers become trees.

Or really the house of the flowers because surrounded by so many greenhouses.

The slopes of the Poggio and surrounding hills are perfect for Italian grow opps.

• You can’t fly without fuel, and when in Italy that means a quick panino of homemade sausage and bread.

• But where is everybody? On the top of the climb I can find just something to eat and few bikes waiting for their owners – who are no doubt enjoying some panini…

Where are all the supporters? The tifosi?
Of course inside the bar watching the race!

• The riders are climbing the Cipressa. Garzelli attacks (oohhhh) but Moletta answers and leads the race alone (aaahhh). The descent is, as always, a great show. Ehi guys, it’s time to meet the road again, they are near the Poggio.

These fans hail from the Piemonte region, a few hours away.

The people now are on the road looking down to the sea. It’s still very windy and little bit cold. Some people try to get more comfort hidden behind a wall, someone else in different way. And still someone don’t lose the chance to watch the TV.

This guy is typical of Italian cycling fans – just a regular guy who loves the sport. He likely doesn’t even ride, but he’s got the way-cool cap.
It’s a cycling festival there. Many French people and many Italians, of course, from every region. I meet a group from Piemonte very proud of their unknown village to write it down its name on the road and someone also wear a special cap of the event.

The race? Yes, there was also the race. Of course you could see it better on TV, but on that hill we’ve felt more the Mediterranean air and the sound of the wind confused between the wheels of the riders. There we met the spring and, for a while, we came back to the evening before. In Milano, near the Castello Sforzesco. Just a night before. Just the time to realize that we are alive. (31 finally it’s me!).

• Even the Mediterranean gets chilly, but our man Ale is smiling big time on the inside… after all – he’s there, and we’re not…

• Read all the PEZ-Reports in our Race News section.

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