What's Cool In Road Cycling

Best of PEZ’15: SanRemo Giro Big Start!

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The mid-winter break is a good time to check the archives and remember some of our best days of the season past.  For me it was the opening week of the Giro d’Italia along the shimmering Ligurian coast.  The opening stage Team Time Trial at the Big Start in San Remo returned some of my favorite images from one of the world’s most picturesque coastlines.

 

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We all know San Remo as the starting point of the pro-season ‘proper’ – actually it comes about 300km into the season proper as the finish line of la Primavera – aka Milan- San Remo.  But its slot on the calendar in late March often comes with terrible weather, so the start of the 2015 Giro in May promised sunny skies, temps in the high 20’s (celsius), and a Mediterranean coastline in full bloom.

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The mild climate of the coast makes for good year-round living (and riding) and the Italian coast is densely populated from France all the way east to the naval city of La Spezia, several hundred kms to the east.

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But like all the good Italian cities, the heart and soul of the place thrives in its old center – and San Remo’s is one of my favorites.  The best streets are closed to cars, making the surrounding streets are a traffic nightmare.  So people are forced to get out and walk, and the cobbled streets are lined with fashionable shops, bars, and everything else one needs for inner city living.

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San Remo has one of the more robust street markets I’ve seen in Italy (and Italians know how to do street markets), the range of products on offer from streetside vendors is amazing, all displayed in a dizzying array of bold ripe colors.

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I arrived a day early so I could get onto the TTT course for a close up look before the racing started.  The 17km course started from San Lorenzo al Mare just up the coast, and ran along the Riviera dei Fiori cycle path.  The local government  reclaimed old unused railway land that sits between the roadway and the seaside, and created one of the most beautiful bike paths I’ve ever seen. It runs for miles and miles along the coast and is a busy thoroughfare for anyone wanting to avoid the traffic.

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But as a course for pro bike racers, it was a questionable call, since the path is in many places narrow, traverses uneven surfaces and sparsely lit tunnels.  To make matters worse, the path was open to the public until race day and I saw several almost collisions between teams reconning the route and locals, and heard more than the usual amount of Italian swear words.

But if you didn’t have to be anywhere, several cafes along the route offered up the perfect place to enjoy a mid-morning cappuccino.

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It was also a good chance to see the pros up close.  The narrow strada meant that top-speed training runs were limited, and a lot of riders  enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere of the Giro.

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Race day for stage stage one and the official Big Start was sunny and warm – pretty much perfect conditions.

giro15st01rp-12yacht920The Italian Riviera has long been a playground of the rich & famous – which makes for some interesting backdrops.

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I love how the pace of life in Italian towns can change so quickly when the Giro comes through.

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My day chasing Stage 1 was one of my best this year – I hopped onto the Ritchey Carbon Break-Away I was testing, and pedalled out to find the best vantage points along the route.  I really love shooting team time trials for this reason – the courses are usually compact enough to make ditching the car and going by bike (and then foot) a real possibility.

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I found so many cool vantage points, and the 5 minute gaps between teams allowed plenty of time to get around to find a new location for almost every team.  Ripening fruit made even Astana look good.

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These next few images show off the varied beauty of the region.

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Following the race back into San Remo – the splendor of the yachts made another special backdrop.

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And finally, inside the last km of the course, with the seaside out of play, I once again found people and compressed buildings of the center re-defining something great about cycling.  Regardless of the current state of the sport, the real beauty of bike racing for many fans lies in simply enjoying the spectacle and color on a beautiful day.

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Thanks for reading –

Pez.

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