The Best of PEZ – To help make brighter these winter days, we’ve selected for your viewing pleasure some of our Best Stories of the Year. Who decided which of our stories from 2008 were the best? – we did! Through the next week we’ll present for your consideration some of the work we’re most proud of, and hope you enjoy one more look as much we do. Sometimes a glance back helps clear the path ahead. This story originally ran in June 2008.
The PEZ Giro Crew worked tirelessly, and around the globe and around the clock to turn out what I think is our best work yet. This week I’ve asked Ale and Ed to send in their own memorable moments that did not make it into our daily reports, so even though the race is over, we can all still bask in the pink glow a few days longer.
You can’t go to the Giro without a bike, and after I finished testing Colnago’s stock build CLX ( read it here), I lightened the bike by over a pound with some very cool kit including HED Ardennes wheels, ZIPP’s Vuma Quad compact crankset, EASTON EC90 Equipe bars and stem, BLACKBURN carbon cages, JAGWIRE cables (in gold), TISO’s bling bolt kit – in gold, white lever hoods by HUDZ – stay tuned for the full report coming soon.
This was my first time at the start of a grand tour, and I was keen to see the south of Italy and report my findings each day. In spite of Mrs. Pez bidding me a “nice vacation” as I left for the airport, this was the most tired I’ve been on a GT, and it was those long between stage transfers driving myself that really did it. But like Bon Jovi says – you gotta Rock when you’re alive, and sleep when you’re dead – .
After some 15 hours of travel, I thought the flight from Frankfurt to Roma would be a good chance for some shut-eye. But the sun was shining, and the views so spectacular, I ended up taking pics the whole 90 minutes. The plane was empty, so it was easy to shoot from both sides.
Our flight path went straight south, across the Alps that separate Switzerland and Italy, and carried on down the west cost to Rome. The Alps are always magnificent, and it looked like a huge snow pack this year…
Then a few minutes later we crossed the coastline…
The azure blue of the Ligurean Sea never fails to draw my attention – my face gets stuck to the airplane window as long as I can see it below. This view shows the Tuscan coastline, and at lower right, the town of stage 9’s finish in San Vincenzo.
About seven hours later I arrived in Sicily. Maybe it was the exhaustion of the journey mixed with the adrenaline of seeing some place new, or maybe just the weather conditions, but my first glimpses of the island were ethereal….
Of course I got lost driving in, but it wouldn’t be an adventure if everything went according to plan…
I’d planned to arrive a day early to ease my jet-lag woes, but wasted no time diving into Palermo’s local scene. My lost luggage meant I was mixing it up with shop owners as I stocked up on supplies, finally acquired an Italian cell phone, and settled into the local cuisine like an old pro. This lunch was a breaded chicken cutlet served with mixed roasted veggies… a damn fine lunch and excellent afternoon nap-inducer to help speed the transition to local time.
The festivities got underway on Thursday May 8 with the teams presentation across the piazza from the impressive and regal Teatro Politeama. The crowd turnout was nowhere near TDF levels, and in fact many locals I talked to were only vaguely aware of the Giro coming to their town.
In spite of homeboy Giovanni Visconti’s ride into pink on stage two, cycling appears to be a distant second to calcio in popularity. But his fan club turned up and cheered right on cue.
Being backstage as the teams arrived and slotted in for their procession to the stage was a very cool experience. It’s a rare chance at a grand tour to talk with the riders in a totally relaxed state.
Bettini, always the joker… goofing around with Contador.
Here’s one of the only female photogs in pro cycling – Sabine Jacob – whose images helped illustrate the great moments of this Giro on PEZ.
And regardless of how far south we are or how many Sicilians claim that they’re indeed a sovereign state, their love of fashion is proof enough of their Italian-ism.
In spite of its reputation for terrible traffic, the roads run relatively straight, and it’s easy to explore on foot, but even easier by bike. I spent 5 nights in Palermo and only got a taste of the city, but once the race started, I was itching to hit the road and get on with the job at hand.
The stage 1 team time trial was a very cool opp to get close to the riders and also their equipment. From a purely aesthetic viewpoint, the team time trial makes for some great photos. Team CSC looked scary-fast on their Zipp 808’s.
I said it before – the RCS really knows how to use its country’s natural resources to showcase a bike race – and the finish of stage 2 in the ancient Greek town of Agrigento was stunning. The ruined Greek temples clearly visible in the background, and tough climb to the finish… what more could you ask for?
Shooting the race action is tricky business – you never know what you get until you look at the images in large format after the race. This one really says it all about stage 2: you can see the tension on the finishing circuit to Agrigento. On the first of two laps through the city, Di Luca is serious about controlling his rivals and keeping an eye on the attacks. The race was wide open, and everyone had fresh legs – there’s Kloden on the right, Riccу just behind him, Rebellin is there, and Spanish champ Rodriguez sits behind the Killer, waiting for his moment to go.
Stage 3 was a big transition day for me – having to drive from Agrigento about 200km to the stage 3 start in Catania, then another 4-5 hours of travel to that night’s stop in the Stage 4 start town of Pizzo Calabro on the mainland. Alessandro had emailed me with a list of local goodies I had to try on Sicilia, and in all the excitement I had yet to check even one item off the list.
The arancino is made throughout Italy, but several Italians I talked to agreed that Sicily is THE place to get one. So after the stage 3 roll out in Catania, I found a local bar and got down to business. The ‘arancino’ is a risotto ball, stuffed with meat, veggies and sauce, and then fried in a light breaded coating. It’s best served hot, and the waiter almost laughed at me when I asked for a knife and fork – “use-ah your hands!”
Next time Ale tells me to try something, I’m gonna do it right away… these bad boys are tastey – !
After lunch it was back to the autostrada and up to Messina to catch the ferry to the mainland.
My time on the Calabrian coast was (like all the stages) just too short. That’s the thing about these gigs – they seem like a vacation with the exception of deadlines and important ‘meetings’ every day. But this coast on the north side of the Italian boot’s foot is endless kilometers of gorgeous beaches… it’s gotta be awesome in the summer.
At stage 6 to Peschici, I had a couple hours to enjoy a ride along another gorgeous coastline – the Adriatic and what was supposed to be the finishing circuit. But as happens regularly at the Giro – the corsa was changed overnight and shortened by about 30km down to around 230km. It was still a long haul for the riders after stage 5 along the western coast of Italy, and as I plunked along the meandering road that wove to- and away-from the seaside, through groves of olive trees and local pines, I hooked up with these two locals – Luciano and Raffaele. We decided to stop for the photo opp at one of the many beach resorts that dot the coast. By complete fluke, the owner of the place was a buddy of Raff’s, so we all got invited in for a cool drink. The views from here were amazing (as always) as I showed in my report To The Roof Top, and the people some of the friendliest I met in Italy.
On stage 7 from Vasto to the first big mountain finish at Pescocostanzo, what struck me most was the lush, rolling and green countryside. The corsa really did travel through ‘rural’ Italy, miles from the nearest autostrada, and only a few kms out of Vasto, the slower paced lifestyle was evident. Each town I passed was decorated in homemade banners and flags, and the townsfolk were out in force, sitting curbside on chairs waiting for the race to pass through. I got the sense not too much happens out here, so the Giro is a huge deal to these people, who cares if it passes through in a few seconds…?
You see a lot of stuff in Italy that you just don’t see at home. They’re really into colorful clothes, and it’s pretty much ‘wear as you dare’ for both sexes. But pink jeans? Come on ‘bro…
By the time I handed off the PEZ roadside duties to Alessandro on stage 8, I was looking forward to a couple days downtime in Roma before heading back home. It’s one of my favorite cities, but 2 days is only enough time to pick up a few items for Mrs. Pez and take in a couple great meals. The weather turned to thunder showers, and on my last night it started raining pretty heavy. I was paying full tourist prices for a meal at a cafй across from the Pantheon, and by the time I was done at 11 PM, all the cabs had disappeared. This meant a 15-20 minute walk/run back to my hotel.
As I ran along the streets under my tiny 5 euro umbrella, basically getting soaked, I stumbled upon the famous Trevi Fountain. Legend has it that a coin tossed into the fountain ensures you’ll return to Rome. The normally packed Fontana was virtually deserted, and I’ll likely not see it this empty again – but I started thinking about next year’s Giro as I reached into my pocket for that coin…
I gotta thank the mighty PEZ-Crew and especially our Giro squadra who kept things ticking over like true pros:
• Jered in Georgia – our super-domestique who did the lion’s share of editing and posting our pics and reports.
• Gord in Scotland, Alastair in Spain, and Dave A. in Portland for filing our daily race reports.
• Ed in Scotland for his interviews with Adam Hansen and his fine final week of roadside coverage, and Dave for another fine term as Ed’s driver.
• Alesandro in Italy for his truly unique roadside perspective.
• Matt in Australia who covered our twice weekly EuroTrash columns.
And I’d like thank everyone who tuned in to PEZ for our Giro coverage – and we really do appreciate the emails of encouragement (or question) everyone sent. I hope you enjoyed our look at the race, the country and its people… and we’ll see you soon from France… but first I need a negroni… or real coffee…
Thanks for reading!