I walked down the steps of my hotel and out the front door this morning, expecting to be greeted by glorious sunshine. But instead, there was a thick fog hanging over the city. Welcome back to Padova! Having lived here a few years back, I knew it was sure to clear later, but the first job was to hit the road, head to the start and use my Giro creds as the excuse to do something that I had wanted to do for years.
After checking the sun, checking the balconies and ringing just one bell, I was invited in to Casa Putti-Casara and escorted to the rooftop terrace to take this…
The sun hadn’t totally cleared the fog yet, not had it brought out the huge crowd that saw the race off from the city where Galileo Galilee taught mechanics and astronomy from 1592 to 1610
After deciding that a spectator free foggy pic was better than waiting too long and being beaten to the punch by professional fotog’s, I found a bike mad bar with wi-fi to shoot the pic through to PEZ HQ, snapped a few photos on the walk back to the square and set about capturing the feel of the start village.
The folk at Bar Otivm were happy to help out. Thanks to Lara, Gabrielle and Michela for being great hosts and Massimo for snapping the pic.
About an hour before the riders start, the publicity caravan rolls out of the city. The people of Padova had gone to a lot of trouble with their store decorations, with pink, again, the colour of the day.
The Caravan is nowhere near as big as the one that they have at the Tour de France, but what’s that old saying about quality?
Buy Liquigas. Buy Liquigas. Buy Liquigas!
The arrival of the riders for the sign in brought a new wave of photo and autograph seeking fans. The Italians were the big favourites and Chris Horner rolled through unhindered.
The Astana jersey turns heads, but when they don’t see Lance’s yellow Trek, they turn right back again.
Julian Dean and the Garmin boys made another cool entrance on their Felt cruiser bikes…
But for cool entrances, there’s not a lot that can be done to outshine Ale Jet. The winner of stage two and three and the race’s Maglia Rosa made the catwalk (sorry, runway) out to the sign-on sheet his own.
Petacchi knew he would be out of the leader’s jersey tonight, but damned if he wasn’t going to look good as he went!
Ben Swift, the man who turned a few heads himself in Trieste with his third place on the stage behind Petacchi and Cavendish, rolled in with the hair gelled and took up a spot on the couch with the Barloworld boys. Swift had time for some of his new fans who should hang onto that pic. This boy is going to be a star.
While Swift makes some new friends, John Lee Augustyn, Felix Cardenas and Robert Hunter rest up for the day ahead.
The Caffe Mokambo tent was the last stop before we headed for the car. There, the Acqua & Sapone boys were supporting their team’s co-sponsor. Stefano Garzelli was also giving rival Danilo DiLuca a final pre-race massage to make sure his legs would be good for the final climb.
”There you go Danilo, that will give you a few extra metres of speed in the final sprint.”
The next time we would see these boys, there wouldn’t be a lot of laughing and they also weren’t all going to be in the same place.
The drive north to Bassano del Grappa brought us out into the foothills of the Dolomites and after scooting off course to bypass the first big climb of the day, and the race, we rejoined the race course for the final 35km to San Martino Di Castrozza. As the road tipped skywards and the mountains closed in to dominate the horizon we were greeted with the sight of snow!
The snow up top today is actually on the ground beside the finish line. It is also making the pressroom like an ice box. CLOSE THE DOOR!
Up around the corner, I started to see a strange symbol painted on the road… and then out of the shadows, a strange figure emerged.
Yes, I will be giving that a wash. The Devil and his two sworn mortal enemies: Soap and Deodorant, are well known.
Just as I handed the jersey out the window for Didi the Devil to pose with (which he did very graciously, I should say) I heard the ‘North American’ accented call of..”HEY, PEZ! Cool!” I wanted to stop and say ‘Hi? But a loud blast from behind had reminded Giro Rookie that he had blocked the whole climb with the PEZ mobile, in order to get Devil’d.
A bit further up the road, I found somewhere to pull over and stopped for a chat and a pic with a couple of very tired looking, but very happy Canadians. Roberto Zuech and Paolo Eugeni were good enough to give Pez a big shout out on the climb of San Martino, so what better way to say ‘Hi’ back than to snap a pic for the folks back home in Toronto (and Windsor, sorry Paolo)
Just 6km more for Roberto (l) and Paolo (r), but they did most of it with a smile on their face.
One of the great things about San Martino di Castrozza, is that there is no shortage of places to set up a pic with a great background. After a quick trip to the press centre to send some earlier shots, it was back pack on and off to find a place to capture the pain of the final 1500m.
In case you were wondering, yes, that is a pink tree!
On a nice tight left hand curve, we set up camp on the quieter of the two quiet sides of the road. Despite the warm weather today, there was plenty of space to spare along the barriers below the final Km.
Cue the helicopters, cue the pro photographers arriving on their motos and then…
Cue Mauricio Soler. The second of his two breakaway attempts was the one that was meant to stick.
The last news we heard was the Voigt was in front, but the big German was in the main group as it went past with Liquigas controlling the front.
From then on in, the faces told a different story.
Famous for his grimaces at the Tour de France, Thomas Voeckler came past off the back of the group, giving it everything he had.
Afterthe remnants of the day’s main group had all passed up the hill, and many had started making their way back down, came the whistles and cheers that signalled the arrival of the grupetto.
On the front of the bunch, showing respect to his pink jersey was the man of the moment from today’s start. Petacchi had lost nearly 20minutes to his LPR team mate, and day’s winner Danilo Di Luca, which meant the jersey was heading back to Team Columbia and the shoulders of Thomas Lovkvist.
Things were a little more sedate as this group rounded the corner, but there were still some tired looking faces in the bunch.
As the final riders rounded the corner, Canadian Michael Barry and Aussie Matt Goss couldn’t resist the temptation and were looking up to see just what was still to come. Barry finished 148th and Goss 137th across the line with the same time as Petacchi.
So, all that was left for the riders to do was grab a coat off the soigneurs and head to the hotel, right? Nope. With only two teams staying on top of the hill, all of the other riders had to rug up, do a U-turn and head back down the mountain to find their bed for the night.
Not an easy job when there are still riders coming up when the top guys descend and the guys from the final group have to mix it with the walkers, cyclists, cars and caravan vehicles that have taken back over the road.
It’s a consolation for some, though, that the cheer they got going down, was nearly as good as the one they received on their way up.