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Giro Di PEZ: PEZ Prosecco’d
Preview St. 3: While most think that the Giro d’Italia is just a bike race, the savvy and cynical know that it’s much, much more. It’s also an intriguing, Italian-styled business. PEZ gets the story (and drunk) in Valdobbiadene a day before the stage passes through.

Eco-Gusto celebrates the city of Valdobbiadene a day before Stage 3 finishes here.

Here’s the deal: it is no coincidence where the Giro d’Italia begins or finishes each day. Those cities have paid for the privilege. Any city hoping to lure the race works with a Comitato (a private event planning committee). The Comitato rounds up cash from local sponsors to lobby and pay off the RCS (the company that owns and runs the Giro). Each city pays a different amount and the hazy negotiations make for lots of juicy conjecture.

Massimo Stefani is one of the members of the Valdobbiadene Comitato and has a great kit for Prosecco Team, motto “The Wine Emotion.”

To capitalize on the publicity and exposure of the 100th Giro d’Italia passing through Valdobbiadene, the Comitato also organized EcoGusto: a bike/walking tour through the region with stops at local wineries and restaurants to sample the famed Prosecco and regional dishes.

Tomorrow’s finish line will be in this piazza.

However, today it is full of cyclists waiting to sample the Prosecco, including these Eroica’s.

But before they let the thirsty people loose on unsuspecting wineries, the Comitato introduces a few celebrities. The Special Olympic Italian National Team is here. The crowd gives a nice cheer for former World Champ, Joop Zoetemelk who doesn’t speak Italian. Then, Roger De Vlaeminck is introduced and fluently says, “it’s always a pleasure to eat and drink in Italy.” Amen.

The World Champion from 1985.

The reigning World Champ.

Local hero, Alessandro Ballan tells the crowd, “after two months of illness, I’ve started training again and should be back to racing next month.” Yes, the curse of the rainbow jersey has certainly been played out on Ballan. But he’d probably make that trade any day. Quick Step’s Matteo Tossato, another local, is also warmly greeted and says something which I can’t recall. We are all getting antsy and want the wandering through the wineries to begin.

Ready, set, go…

Then the emcee finally announces the start of EcoGusto. And off we go. Yet, it is immediately apparent that the Valdobbiadene region is quite hilly. Many cyclists are already pushing their rigs up the first climb (and we haven’t even drunk anything yet). A wise man shouts from the back of the pack, “just remember that every ascent has its descent.” And this becomes our motto for the day.

Stage 3 will cover this hill up to Valdobbiadene.

All of the houses along the Giro route have ribbons, banners or other kinds of creative decorations out. The party has already started. EcoGusto limited the registration to 1000 participants, and all of the spots went quick. Participants can choose the shorter 8km course or the 20km one – the longer course visits more estates and restaurants.

Creative decorations abound.

Now the bubbly starts flowing, however the cheese and salami and bread are not soaking it up fast enough. The heat is also working its magic. The crowd is getting happy and chatty. While this is normal behavior in Italy, EcoGusto has cranked it up a notch or two. Strangers are becoming friends instantly. Dumb jokes are becoming quite funny.

“Pantani you’re always in our hearts”

In addition to drinking and eating well, Italians are noteworthy gossipers, especially when it concerns corruption. The alcohol lubricates the crowd and rumors start to circulate. Why doesn’t the Giro finish in Milan (home of RCS) as usual? Because Rome must have paid a ton of cash. Have you heard that the motor sport tradition where drivers that bring sponsors get rides has also infiltrated cycling? It seems that these tough economic times have consequences even in meritocracies. And so on…

As the American in Italy, it is often my role to play the offended puritan. However, I’ve been here too long. And more importantly, Americans all know that sports are part of the entertainment industry. Just ask Lance. In fact, every race organizer in the States would kill to have cities falling over themselves to participate like in Italy.

In this context, it makes perfect sense that a city like Valdobbiadene that produces an excellent Prosecco would jump at the opportunity to present itself to the world. The expenses are easily recompensed in publicity (and I’m trying to do my part). All in all, EcoGusto was a resounding success and a blast. Just remember, that every ascent has a descent!


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