But in bike racing, as in life, it’s people that matter most; and we met some great characters on the 2008 Giro.
Dave, Ed & Ale finally get their own negronis. ”Ed – I was very happy to meet you also for a while. Yes, next time no wives and more time to spend for cycling talking together.” – Ale
Meeting up with Ale and Natalia – albeit briefly – in a little bar at Milan’s Central Station after the finish was a highlight. I haven’t seen them since the Tour of Lombardy last year. As I get fatter, Ale gets more handsome; I must get back on my bike!
Up in the Valdedrento we ambled in to the Bar Betollini for a pre dinner beer. Roberto, the owner used to race and has a treasured pair of Pantani’s Briko shades given to him by Marco himself and pictures of the tragic hero on the walls of the bar.
We left with a bottle of his wife’s berry liquer to be delivered to Navigare’s Dominico Pozzivivo – another friend – a task we duly accomplished in Milano the next day.
“Hank Marvin” our host for two nights entertained us with his Fender Stratocaster; “this is original ‘Shadows’ colour!”
High in the hills above San Lorenzo at the Hoerschwang Hotel, after the Plan de Corones stage, the owner moved his dog so I could get my pictures away on his computer.
Bruseghin’s fans, crazy to a man, but full of fun and original patter.
Then there’s the country, diverse; sometimes grey and industrial then remote and beautiful within a handful of kilometres.
Arriving for the stage 14, which started in Verona, was a huge ‘buzz.’
The Roman arena, the posters everywhere for classic operas, the street cafйs, the Giro setting up for next day, it was wonderful but it seems like last year, now.
The Dolomites, beautiful and sinister with colours and rock formations I’ve never seen anywhere else in my life.
The Passi: Manghen, Pordoi, Marmolada – beautiful but savage if you have to ride a bike over them, no matter how light the bike is, or how fit you are.
The Lakes; Como, Lugano, Maggiore – the mountains rising straight out of the water, cycling history is all around you – Passo Intelvi, Madonna di Ghisallo.
Staying in Verbania, on Maggiore, looking out over the lake in the darkness as the lightning flashed overhead.
The next morning, on the ferry across those magical waters – I’ve loved ferries since I was a kid.
The Inn at the top of the Gavia, with it’s wood burning stove, posters of Hampsten and Pantani; the snow still deep on the peaks all round.
All these places will stay in my memory.
But, as Viktor never tires of telling me, I’m supposed to be a cycling journo, not a tour guide!
Contador just minutes from his big victory.
The man of the race? Danilo Di Luca, no question.
Sella? Very impressive, but handy for Contador, never a threat for the GC but nabbing the bonuses and a hare to chase.
No, it was Danilo’s – “death or glory” Friday that finally ignited the race – inspired bike racing, with Salvoldelli working himself beyond the pale as part of LPR’s glory day.
I know that life and bike racing aren’t about “ifs,” but if Di Luca had taken the jersey on Friday, then it would have been a different finale.
And I hope Bert bought Kloden a beer that night, he earned it! Plaudits too, to all the British speaking riders for their patience and politeness; especially Geraint Thomas, his use of swear words is very creative.
Rider we liked the most? – Bruz! no question, always the smile, always time for his fans – and he’s donkey friendly!
Favourite bike? Hondo’s Guerciotti, cool!
I started with people and will close with them; thanks to Richard for having the faith to send me to my third Giro – a great honour, thanks again Richard.
And thanks too, to my buddy and driver, Dave, always cool under fire, always ready with a one-liner; a perfect companion.
If Richard thinks Dave and I can do the job again in 2009, will we be there?
As John Shaft would say; “Daaamn right!”