This story originally ran May 26, 2007.
I’ve been in Italy now for about 30 hours, logged a solid 3 hours of sleep, and know on more than one level what it feels like to be living in the dream. As I step into our coverage for the Giro’s final week, it feels like I’ve had a week’s worth of adventure already.
Today’s plan A was to ride the last 115km of the corsa into Bergamo, including the 26km Passo San Marco, the 9.4km La Trinita-Dossena. That estimated 3 hours of climbing was to be rewarded with at least 2 hours of … you got it – descending. Oh yeah.
• How’s this for living the dream – De Rosa supplied a brand new all carbon Idol that I’ll be riding through the week. It’s the same bike today’s stage winner and former Giro winner Stefano Garzelli and the Acqua & Sapone team ride. This thing is light… I’m guessing under 16lbs with pedals. Top clothing brand Santini supplied some cool custom kit for today’s ride too. Italian bike, Italian kit, Italian colors, Italian race –that’s about right. Top it all off with the custom decaled PEZ LAS helmet and you might as call me Giuseppe, or Luigi. Hey – someone’s gotta do it…
Our group of ten headed out of Colico around 9:15 AM, under disturbingly threatening skies… Don’t the weather-gods know I’ve traveled thousands of miles and ordered good sunshine? The mountain tops that we had to cross were disappearing quickly into grayness.
• Somewhere around 5km into the climb, the rain has been falling in torrents from steady to downpour- yeah we’re soaked – but still warm enough as we look up the mountain and see nothing but darkness. In spite of the weather, I’m actually enjoying the ride thanks to the Idol – this bike has a very nice feel on the road – and climbs with ease.
• Our host and general ‘bon vivant’ Martin McCrossan, gives us a dramatization of how he really feels. It’s now an hour into the climb, the group has broken up, and we’re soaked… clean through. Big thanks to Martin for organizing the ride, he also does pr for Santini clothing, and is Maggy Backstedt’s agent – somehow he finds time to ride too.
• It’s never a good sign when you can see your reflection beneath you this clearly. Not far past the 1000m altitude mark, the elements convinced me to step into the car. With still over 15km to the summit, I didn’t complain, this did however change the focus of today’s report…
Introducing Plan B
The great thing about Plan A being kaiboshed is that my afternoon instantly became an all new adventure about to happen. The first order of businessas Alessandro and I continued the ascent from the luxurious comfort (ie: dry) of his Audi, was to change out of my drenched clothing – shoes, socks, shorts, base-t, jersey, rain jacket, gloves, helmet, hat, glasses – and into the few dry items I brought. “Ale – crank the heat!”
• Just below the summit the weather began to clear… note that evil cloud lurking just behind the ridge – that’s where we came from, and I was happy to leave it behind.
• The last couple of switchbacks before the top. At 26km long, the Passo San Marco is a gigantic grind – the slopes never get too steep, but the endlessness is almost endless. But the road is in great shape and the views on a clear day would be outstanding.
• The town of San Pellegrino awaits at the base of the descent – and aside from it’s home to the famous bottled water brand, it used to be a wildy popular spa town for the rich and famous. In this case “used to” means at the turn of the 19th century. The abandoned Grand Hotel is enormous – and was this empty the last time I was here in 1997. It’s a sad site for a beautiful structure that I imagine was once the talk of towns all over Europe. Note the three detailed spa attendants adorning the high facades. Stunning.
• Once we’d dropped the insanely long descent – 31km – to San Pellegrino – we determined it was cafй time. This bar was amazing – the carved wood detail on the bar was clearly left over from a much more prosperous time here – check out the solid brass inlay below…
• the bar was plastered with lots more of this somewhat distracting art.
• It was high time I cut myself in on 5 euros worth of action… That crispy fin scored me a ‘sachetto’ with one of the flimsiest t-shirts known to man, and a couple other trinkets… but my daughter will love it.
• Now THAT is how you make a prosciutto and funghi pizza… it’s the Italian version of ‘fast food’ and the best lunch at the Giro if you ask me.
On To BERGAMO!
• This is where the cobbles start as the Boccola climb enters the gate into Bergamo’s Citta Alta. Those little buggers are round, uneven and damn slippery.
• Once around the top of the old town and it’s back down the other side for a screamer through the final 1300 meters into the city center. In case you haven’t figured it out, Bergamo is a walled town built about 2000 years ago – and worth a visit.
• At the finish, fans are on their feet at the finish line as the caravan arrives about a half hour ahead of the race.
• Simoni races into the last 500 meters with Garzeli hot on his wheels, and the photog-focus shifts as they round the last turn.
• As soon as the champers comes out the photos run for cover – except for this brave soul who must have drawn the short straw as DiLuca’s target for the day. But hey – that money shot is worth every sticky drop… I hope.
It’s 7:40PM and we’re finishing up in the press room – starving and thirsty again – I’ve earned a cocktail or three, and something tastey for dinner – the tagliata di filetto I ordered last night was served on that sizzling hot platter, and tasted as good as it looks…
About the only thing I can wish for to make this dream a little better might be another couple hours of sleep tonite. I’ll need ‘em as tomorrow’s plan calls for another corse ride taking in the ascents of the Giau and Tre Croce to Tre Cime di Lavaredo –just anther 26km of climbing… no problem.
Talk to you tomorrow – now where’s my negroni?
Keep it PEZ’d all week as we rock the previews, including at close look at the stage 5 summit finish at Alpe di Siusi, a conversation with 1959 Giro rider Vittorio Favero, the Contenders and a whole lot more…