Words & Pics: Steve & Julia Prokop
We were told that there would be days like this, and that all the plans will get thrown out the window. It’s the Giro, there will be a story.
Waking to brilliant sunshine, we got to see Bormio in a new light so to speak. Apparently it was a similar day on Monday too.
We knew the day would present itself with a fast run due to its flat, slightly downhill profile with some little lumps along the way.
Our plan for Stage 17 was to go to the start town of Sarnonico and take in the start line atmosphere and buzz. Our Garmin recommended going over the Stelvio Pass as the quickest and shortest route from Bormio to Sarnonico. Who are we to argue? Brilliant.
All the way up, over the top and down the other side we again marveled at the views, simply incredible and difficult to believe the weather contrast from yesterday. The other side of the Stelvio runs along a picturesque valley where apples are grown in long narrow lines just like vines, it’s beautiful and the road was smooth and flowing. The Pro’s would have enjoyed it even more if they were not freezing, tired and worn out after 2 epic climbs and facing one more before the retreat to the team bus.
Just a day after the horrible conditions on Tuesday the Stelvio once again looked like the riding paradise that it is.
Something the Garmin doesn’t allow for – The road does not have any overtaking lanes, so the tractors and caravans we came up behind doing 60kmh or less was frustrating. Time was starting to slip away, and eating into our atmosphere time.
Turning off the main road we headed over a mountain range and nearing the top we came across our first cycling spectators who had made the journey over the passo. Arriving into town the traffic delays and small winding Dolomitian Roads have hit our time hard. After negotiating past the team buses we realize we had run out of time.
Plan B ….. Looking at our map and factoring the typical traffic problems we would encounter we had to try and leap frog the peloton who would be departing very shortly, so no time for taking in the atmosphere except to see that the town had gone all out for their moment of Giro glory.
This region in Italy is a climber’s paradise, everyone has a Passo. Sarnonico has two, the one we came in on, the Passo delle Palade Gampenjoch and the one we are going to exit on, the Passo di Mendola to try and get to our planned viewing location beside Lac Caldonazzo.
Next delay ….. We are on a 2 lane motorway and we have come to a standstill with no exit or chance to turn around. Confident we are ahead of the peloton we worry we are caught up in a traffic accident. But no, the pace of the peloton has caught a lot of people out as we share our space with some of the official vehicles and sponsor caravan vehicles.
We finally arrive alongside the lake with all the other traffic that has been held for the Giro to pass. The lake is gorgeous, a deep emerald colour and the surrounding scenery is very nice but the peloton has beaten us. Once underway, we see where the peloton has turned off and the motorway is once again just for cars. We are racing along this section looking for signs of the Giro train. Then beside us, to the left on a side road we see a Tinkoff Saxo car and rider. Scanning the area we see some movement. It’s the team cars and they are going quickly. Soon a couple of riders are spotted then the main peloton, up ahead a very low flying helicopter. Then we are stopped. No. Yes. There might be 40 cars and trucks in front of us. If only we’d have been 2 minutes quicker.
There they are in the distance! Missed them by that much…
Hopes for a story of any sort are fading. The scenery while spectacular can’t be fully enjoyed or appreciated. Scrabbling through maps and the Garmin things do not look good. In this particular area there is only one main road, and today, the Giro owns it.
Plan C: Get to Vittorio Veneto to watch the finish.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see a guy wearing a yellow safety vest on the side road to the right of us. Eureka, we are ahead of the peloton. I jump out of the car, over the guard rail and scrabble up an embankment and through a field. Take my position, and grab some photo’s of a fast breakaway. No pink jersey. Lets see. From my vantage point I see pink, but he is on the opposite side of the road. No time to dash across. Relieved I see it was the Lampre Merida guys. Close. But then I see Pink again, this time it is the hero of the Giro, the man who out climbed everyone on yesterday’s gruesome stage.
A very relaxed Quintana in pink rolls past our very stressed roadside reporter Steve oblivious to the traffic chaos that the Giro caused just behind him
So what I can highly recommend to anyone is visit the Northern Italian region. It is absolutely spectacular. In May, the fields are green, and sprinkled with yellow, purple and white flowers. The roads are fun and twisty, the villages a mix of Alpine, German, Austrian and Italian neat and very pretty. There’s also great food and plentiful wine and when the weather is nice it’s absolutely superb. And with the number of cyclists in the region, you would never be far from a fellow rider – or at Giro time perhaps a terrible traffic jam!
Bring on the hills tomorrow and no more problems – we had our Giro’s worth today.
Steve ‘VeloRoo’ Prokop is an Aussie cycling enthusiast who runs a bike hire and Tour company with his wife Julia in the south of France for most of the year before returning to Australia in the French winter to enjoy the sunshine and visit events such as the TDU. Check them out at veloroo.com for an unforgettable cycling holiday.