I’m excited! The Giro is here and the centenary edition marks my first Grand Tour for Pez. After the hotel, hire car and other associated logistics were all taken care of weeks ago, all that was left to do was to get myself down to Venice, grab my ‘creds’ and hit the team presentations.
With the Giro, no wait, the Centenary Giro arriving in Venice, I expected to walk out of the Venice’s Santa Lucia train station and be greeted by a huge billboard (probably covering some beautiful building undergoing renovations) announcing – in pink – that arrival of the Giro. Instead, there was not only no signs for the Giro, there seemed to be no sign of the Giro. I hoped I hadn’t come on the wrong weekend!
On the walk into Piazza San Marco, I eventually passed a book shop that had several cycling publications in the windows, so maybe all was not lost.
After arriving in the famous Piazza San Marco, finally, a sign that the race was here in town: The podium from the team presentation (held last night, watched at home on television and the reason why I know I was not here on the wrong weekend) was in the final stages of being dismantled.
I was starting to wonder if Venice was maybe too cool (or too snobby) to get over excited about the Giro? OK, the Lido is across the water, but I couldn’t imagine another big city with a Grand Tour start on its doorstep being so free from hype.
The last time I was here was for the race presentation in December and Piazza San Marco was deserted. This time around I was too early for the tourists so it was great to watch the souvenir vendors set up and the cafe staff getting ready, for a nice hot sunny day of relieving tourists of their Euros.
The famous Caffи Florian was getting warmed up too. Not too many takers at this time of the day, but with an espresso coffee coming in at Ђ6.00, you can probably understand why!
After checking out the Team Columbia High Road presentation, which also included the unveiling of a hot new piece of equipment, it was off to do the most important thing of all. Pick up my race accreditation.
The press centre and all of the accreditations associated with the race were being taken care of in a gymnasium just next to the Arsenal. It required a walk along the waterfront, which I expected to be punctuated with the call of “half price, half price” by the guys selling the fake handbags on all of the bridges along the way.
What I was met with instead, was a series of signs (still none to do with the Giro, by the way) reminding tourists that if they purchased a fake Ђ10 Louis Vuitton, they could also end up with a Ђ5000 fine. No sign of the bag men and no sign of the local police walking just fast enough to make the bag sellers get up and move, but not fast enough to catch any of them and then have to complete the 10,000pages of paperwork.
Just before seeing the first pink Giro sign, that OI had been longing for since my Venetian arrival, I heard a very Aussie “Oi” so stopped for a quick chat with PEZ favourite Scott Sunderland and his wife Sabine. Scott’s in Italy, following the race for a few meetings ahead 2010 and the launch of Team Sky.
Entry to the Press Centre required the negotiation of one final obstacle. I was worried there was a big line at the door and I might miss my afternoon appointment, but then realised that the famous Venetian fog hadn’t rolled in; I just had to get through all of the smokers.
Federico fixed me up with my pass, on its Gazzetta dello Sport pink lanyard (you’ve gotta love a lanyard) and when he saw I was with PEZ, asked “And Reeeechard? Good?” so I guess The Pez himself is well known here in Giro Land.
Next stop was the bus stop, except that on Venice, the busses are boats.
The Lido di Venezia is an island just off Venice, where the locals go to sun themselves on the beach during the warmer months, is the location of the first stage team time trial tomorrow. While unlike Venice, there are cars and busses on the island, just like it’s bigger sister, everything arrives via the water. Tomorrow, each of the teams will only be allowed to bring one team car across with them.
When you add up all of the following vehicles a tour of this size has, it would take two days of constant ferrying to get the whole caravan across and then another two to get it back.
And then, stepping off the boat, to my relief, we see the fist real signs that the Giro has come to town! Bravi!
The shops are fully into the pink cycling theme and everywhere you go along the Lido’s main street, Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta, you can see the locals are getting ready for the race.
There are the giant bikes, the mini ‘bent out of wire while you wait’ bikes, pink ballons, Giro girls riding Segway scooter, white vans selling Official Giro souvenirs and all manner of posters in public places advertising the race, as well as advising of the road closure.
At the front of the PEZ HQ hotel for the next two days, there was even a waiter who decided to start singing “Giro, Giro, Giro” to me when he saw my press pass. With a sales pitch like that, I guess I will be eating there tonight, especially after he graciously posed for a photo, complete with every Giro ‘gadget’ that he could lay his hands on behind the bar. Grazie Marco.
So here we are! And, thanks to the good folk of The Lido, (who are excited about the race), it now actually feels like I’m at a Grand Tour. Roll on tomorrow and the start of the racing.
My tip? A shoot-out between Columbia-Highroad and Garmin-Slipstream for the first pink jersey. The reality, based upon my terrible ability to pick bike races, may be something different, but there’s nothing like the power of positive thinking!