What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ On The Scene: Pre-Game At Lombardia!

Before every big race, there’s a show, not quite an intentional show that you buy tickets to go see and be entertained, but one of the more interesting spectacles you can stumble on in sport. Want to brush shoulders with the World Champ or chat with your favorite rider? Go to a starting area! PEZ-Man Jered Gruber was on the scene in Varese.

Ok, if there’s one rule that I learned on this whole following the race deal, it’s try and stay in the start town. Sometimes I’m forgetful, and I forgot that the Giro di Lombardia does not start in Como, but rather in this year’s Worlds town of Varese. So I made my hotel reservation in Como and had the pleasure of waking up godawful early to find my way over to Varese and into the maze. Note to self…more sleep is good.

At least I got my day started with an ample serving of bread, cappuccino, and an orange juice. Free.

After much driving around in circles and listening to music as loud as the car and my ears (well, not my ears, my ears have a limitless capacity for decibels) could handle, I found the starting area and the beautiful sign, telling me that it would all be ok (at least to start the day). So with that fantastically bad AC/DC song, Thunderstruck, reverberating deep within me, I got out of the car and became a journalist.

I was of course way too early, and asked where I could get my press creds. The race people of course didn’t speak English, and I of course understand nothing other than about 12 words, so we had a lovely time gesturing and writing down numbers. I eventually surmised that a great big bus (a poooolman, as he said) would pull up around the corner at 9…so I set about wandering.

As if driving a scooter wasn’t emasculating enough…a three-wheeled scooter?

My substantial breakfast wasn’t quite going the distance, so I ducked into the nearest pasticceria for sustenance.

The Mavic folks were getting ready for a long day ahead of them and bought most everything in the shop.

Coca-Cola and bread.

After my wanderings brought me to nine in the morning, I followed my directions and found the pooolman (which I’m assuming is Pullman (like the train), which I’m assuming is something akin to an RV…because that’s what it was).

I got in line and enjoyed the sights.

Look at those glasses. Wow.

A few minutes later, I had a folder full of goodies and went charging back to il rental car to play sticker! There’s a certain something really super bike dork cool about applying race stickers to a rental.

These things can only be appreciated whilst standing on the hood of your car.

Since Ashley couldn’t make it, I got to pull double duties as fotografo and servizio stampa.

The Show Begins
After all that preliminary nonsense, I got down to the business of stalking the world’s best bike racers. But first, I ran into the statue that I had made a PeloPic for just a week or so ago…funny that.

After that, I walked to the sign-on table and took a picture of the podium girls. I saw them walk up along the gravel pathway in their stilettos – that didn’t seem to be working so well for them. They looked much more comfortable on stage.

Back on the streets, there was a little bit of everything to behold. The Skoda Girls were handing out fishing hats and taking pictures of the fans, banners were appearing, and older regal ladies were being interviewed by a man in Dolce & Gabbana eyeglasses. Yes, only in Italy.

He was wearing a Simoni sweatshirt too – he was more than happy to pose for a pic.

The World Champ Rolls In
Well, his team entourage rolled in, and with their arrival, the hordes of fans descended down upon the immense bus waiting for a view of the Campione del Mondo, and the also-ran, Cunego. Also-ran is mean, but he definitely wasn’t the show at the start.

Everybody who was anybody was clustered around Ballan’s new bike, but there was quite the dearth of crampedness near the Kid’s steed.

Ah well, I figure Cunego still wins – it’s his bike in that awful picture on the team bus. I do hope they’re compensated handsomely for those horrible pictures. Just think, this picture is driven all over Europe. Imagine staring at that for hours in a traffic jam coming off of a mountain at the Tour de France.

There was NO one near this bike. I was able to get really close for a professional inspection.

I walked on over to the Euskaltel bus and amid the sea of stealth fighters from the Basque land was the prince’s new white steed.

It’s pretty easy to make a special bike when your team rides all black.

Just as I was getting lost in utter bike dork heaven, the cavalcade of motorbikes rolled through.

And just as I was recovering from the impressive display of Italian law enforcement, I spotted the sweetest press credentialed car probably ever.

Imagine the fun I could have in THAT car rallying…compared to my two and a half cylinder Fiesta. Ok, I’m exaggerating – 3 cylinders.

All the while, riders whizzed back and forth on their way to sign in and ready themselves for a long, hard day around Lago di Como.

I would have chatted with PEZ-Man Dario Cioni, but he was otherwise pre-occupied.

Instead of talking to Diario Dario, I chatted with Aussie Champ, Matthew Lloyd. Apart from being tiny, he was a great guy, super nice, and apparently not too bothered by my questions. He was confident for the day. He said that Cadel was the man, but he hoped he might have some cards to play as well. He rode a solid race and finished with the main chasing group. Methinks there’s much more to come from Lloyd.

Speaking of Cadel…he was, um, intense. After signing in, he checked out his bike, and took a special liking to his tires. He found a small nick in his front tire and started going through the rest of the front wheels to find a tire to his liking. When he couldn’t, he sent a team guy on the task. Eventually a suitable front wheel and tire were found.

Just as he was starting to look irritated, a fan walked up, put an arm around him and had a friend take a picture. He looks really psyched about the experience. I mean Cadel.

Fan contact with the riders is impressively open – David Zabriskie took a long moment to chat with a fan from Texas I think. He looked worn out after the talk, so I let him be.

As I was getting ready to try and open a dialogue with Tom Danielson, this Caisse D’Epargne rider rolls by carring some new shoes and once again I’m distracted.

I look at my watch and it’s time to go, and as I’m hurrying off to the car, I see riders, fans, and random people all mingling in the road, waiting to cross the street. Good times.

For more fun, head to JeredGruber.com OR send some love/hate to [email protected]

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