What's Cool In Road Cycling

SanRemo Preview: Go Early, Go Crazy

Nothing symbolizes the start of the ‘real racing’ like this Saturday’s Classics opener from Milan to San Remo, a race defined as much by it’s famous ‘tre capi’ and sprint finish as the madness of the long lonely, breakaway that dies a slow, painful death on the shores of the Mediterranean, well before the finish…

The Madness of the Early Breakaways
“There ahead” the air is a wall and the legs are not enough anymore. Mile after mile the fatigue grows and there’s no way to digest it. It starts without reference points – only a vast empty, boring plain to cross. Then comes the Turchino – a giant to the break; the valley is narrow and the wind blows from the front. The climbs along the Riviera just after it lash at the calves. “There ahead” it’s hard because the gap that grows smaller mile after mile doesn’t give you any chance despite the twenty minutes.

The crazies of the early breakaways, only they know the price of their choice, although the people at the roadsides thrill during their passage and try to find for them a scream that could give them a meter more on the road.

They are out of the real race; the one of the big names, the one that the people wait for. It’s not for them; too small beside the “names” that behind doze and chat quietly in the bunch that rolls at high speed.

No single part of the corsa is too tough taken in bites, but at 300km distance, and 7+ hours… it’s a killer.

Them, ahead, twist their shoulders at any small gradient as they would try to shake out a weight from their back; how far is this Sanremo!? The crazies of the breakaways run a competition that ends when the one of the champions takes over, and their hope to last till the beginning of the broadcasts is sometimes their only grip on their goal.

Their race is invisible and made of a long list of partial targets. They start to think to be first on the top of the Turchino, they throw in the Riviera trying to reach Savona. Imperia is so far and Sanremo doesn’t exist for them. They ride through Capo Noli while the people are finishing their lunch. Laigueglia is now the next step but the wind becomes stronger and stronger; Capo Mele it’s damned difficult and Imperia is still too far away.

The crazies of the early breakaways don’t listen even the tifosi’s screams; they only realize that the people check the chronometer when they go through, then glance back untrusting, like a sort bet on their gap that was so large some kilometres before and now is nothing, so small it’s shameful.

The crazies of the breakaway calculates strange mathematic functions while they continuously try to guess when they finally will see the main bunch closing in; they wonder if they will be able to keep the wheels.

When the cars and the motorcycles start to surpass them they know it’s over…. Just in that moment they start to remember the faces of the people that have waited for them and have applauded them all the day. The bunch is too fast to keep the wheels but they don’t care anymore.

Now they’re thinking to all that people that were on the Turchino climb screaming and screaming again, they still can hear the screaming of that young guy confused with the surprise of an old man becoming now an alone piece of memory. The crazies of that early breakaway are so left alone and now, they cannot see even the bunch’s tail; the team cars are just passing them in a cloud of dust.

They would like to come back now and hear again every scream, see again all that people and maybe this time open their arms to thank them one by one. They would like to try one time more spending better their chances to try to gain some meters more.

They’ve been ahead all the day and now the distance doesn’t do indeed more fear. Sanremo is still far away but, at this time, it no longer matters.

• Stay glued to PEZ all week as we ramp up for this monumental season opener, and see more of Alessandro’s work on his Italian blog at

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