Down the stairs with a beaming smile and armed with an Allen key comes one of the living legends of American bicycle racing, Olympic gold medal road rider Connie Carpenter-Phinney. I don’t think she is too bothered about people calling her ‘Taylor’s mom’.
Connie wasn’t hoping for wind yesterday, but she knew if it became a factor that Taylor could use his power to slice through it. He was still replying to tweets at midnight so she fired him a message: ‘Vai Tranquillo!’ Take it easy. After his blistering prologo yesterday, he didn’t finish with the media until nine o’clock, then he had to eat, get a massage.
Have you spoken to him today? Is he up yet?
‘I hope not!’
She laughed about yesterday as she fixed the saddle of the guest town bike before making the jaunt into Herning. She was to travel with the BMC soigneurs today.
Denmark is not totally flat, despite what some people would have you think. Sure there are long, straight roads that grew up never knowing a gradient, but there is a little belter of a hill in the pretty harbour town of Lemvig, today’s destination.
It’s time to do things a little back-to-front. Instead of following the route directly, we go due north at first, with the plan to go anti-clockwise once the race has passed.
For all it’s nice charm, Herning is a ‘new town’. Many of the buildings are twentieth-century vintage, and so we didn’t find too much traditional or ‘quaint’ architecture until we got further out into the country. The new translates to power, too. Everywhere you look are wind turbines, lazily swing their arms around. I kinda like them. Our host says the Danes do as well – just as long as they’re in the appropriate places.
Leaving Bшvlingbjerg, Bшvling Kirke stood gleaming by the roadside as we made for the coast. Immaculately kept and cared for, it was not the first or last church we saw. At one point, I could count five in my line of vision.
All pretty similar: whitewashed, clock on the side of the square tower, sharp-pitched roofs. Now we’re getting somewhere … little grey and black fishing cottages with those cute diamond-shaped windows appear as we start to see huge sand dunes. Stone coastal tracks and dust. It’s gorgeous.
The fans are making camp early. The race isn’t due for three hours and they staked their spots with picnic tables, vino and classical music. Up here, they’ll see the race coming from a long way off. Value for money. ‘Knock yourself out. There’s room for everybody!’
A wisecrack as we stomp up the dunes for a look at the North Sea. Where there’s shelter, it’ll be OK. Where there’s open countryside, it could be carnage if a couple of teams decide to put the hammer down later on.
The little town of Fjaltring is an artistic melting pot, and has made a big effort to celebrate the Giro. Pink picked out against blue skies. Everywhere, that vexillologist’s dream – the nation’s white cross on red flaps in the breeze. They love their flag, the Danes. There are trilingual welcomes painted on the road surface and a full on Giro Fest, officially running from 10 – ?. We pitch up just as the prize celebrations are in full swing.
None of the little boys picking up awards want too much attention from the podium girls. The girls miss by miles, offering extravagant air kisses instead, and the whole party collapses in giggles.
Although it’s not on the route, we reckon a visit to the Bovbjerg Lighthouse in in order. Built in 1876, it’s red so that it can’t be confused with any church towers. It’s a wild drive to reach it and one day it might not even be here – they’re sucking sand off the seabed to replace what’s being eaten by the waves.
Back into the car and we loop down the corkscrew turns into Lemvig, the Dimple of West Jutland. It’s a beautiful surprise, with the town hugging the harbour. Outside the Museum of Religious Art are contemporary images of devotion to the bike.
Int the town centre, the girl in charge at Diemar’s Optik says the boss (her mother) has taken a lot of trouble to put together a diorama of a Giro stage up the town’s nasty Шsterberg. In fact, her grandfather was a local racer here back in the day, John Diemar. They have the Danish nationals in Lemvig from time to time. With the wind on the coast and the hill in the mix, it’s a brutal day of attrition. Strong guys always win here: Frank Hшj in 1998, Michael Sandstшd in 2002.
The Giro ‘caravano’ blares into our world. It’s a wall of sound and colour, and comes to a dead stop right at the bottom of the climb.
Promotional staff flood the area and in the distance we can see a Viking sword fight on the embankment. Struer Kommune’s unique selling point, apparently.
The race is not far off. The fans are thirsty and stock up frantically, including the woman who cleaned out this fella’s supplies despite having enough by her feet to make sure she was well off them by evening. We take our stations for the arrival.
It’s sure to be a sprint and the day’s break come through, not looking like they’re killing themselves to stay clear. Farnese-Vini fluoro colors; Androni white-and-blue; Lotto-Belisol black.
Necks crane to see who’s next. The field screams into town, and picks its way over the tram tracks at the foot of the climb and away. Cav, the bookies’ choice is tucked safely in. Phinney is up front, too.
Orica-GreenEdge fancy Goss can beat his old mate and Svein Tuft flies through the inside line with positioning key for later in the day.
Twist and turn up the slope and Sky are in control, starting to rip it up as Basso fiddles with his clothing. They’re gone.
A couple of blueberry muffins from the local ‘produktionsskole’, open for the day, and we’re off south again.
The gigantic pink evidence of the Giro is everywhere. The sun is still shining. Herning has enjoyed its spell in the Maglia Rosa as much as Phinney will.