Take today: since yesterday was a day for the sprinters, we thought we’d chat to the guys that are involved – we spoke to Roberto Ferrari’s DS at Androni, Gianni Savio; Movistar’s Fran Ventoso; Borut Bozic’s DS at Vacansoleil, John Paul Van Poppel; The Shack’s Robbie Hunter and HTC’s Alex Rasmussen.
I wanted one more, and headed over to the Team Leopard bus to try to talk to Wouter Weylandt – but the time ran away with us and we had to leave as roll out time drew near.
‘I’ll get a chat with him, maybe tomorrow,’ I thought to myself.
Wouter with PEZ’s Martin Williamson at the 2010 Vuelta.
Martin and I spoke to him last year at the Vuelta, he was cocky, funny and very easy to talk to; I had him marked down as a man for good quotes in the future.
We left the Leopard bus and headed for the start – it had been a good morning for us, so far . . . .
The tifosi sticks the mobile phone up against Marco Pinotti’s ear; ‘ciao Claudio!’ he instructs; ‘ciao Claudio!’ Marco dutifully repeats into the phone – everyone’s happy.
The Giro is cool, human and fun; however, old Cav isn’t in the best of moods – but if you know how to read Cavendish that means he’ll be hard to beat, today – he’s ignoring the requests to turn towards the tifosi for pictures.
But it’s difficult to get the better of the Italian fans; ‘Ale ! Ale !’ they chant across to Cav.
He scowls and fiddles with his pink crash hat.
The start of stage three from Reggio Emilia to Rapallo, more sunshine, pretty girls and good coffee.
The beauty in the gold sequins glides out with the Giro trophy and the mood is complete.
It’s time for us to fly, but not before we get a quick chat with best under 25 rider and wearer of the white jersey, The Shack’s Bjorn Selander.
We met his dad – who’s Norwegian – yesterday on the way to Parma, but Bjorn has US citizenship.
‘The TTT was more technical than it looked, there were tram lines and pot holes.
We were surprised with our time at half way, we didn’t realize we were going so well – we were very smooth. The stage yesterday was very hard at the end, you’re cruising then all of a sudden (he makes the motion of opening a motor bike throttle) but the climb wasn’t so bad. I wasn’t designated to help Robbie in the sprint so just kept out of trouble – and if you’re not at the front with 15 K to go it’s impossible to move up, anyway.’
The early kilometres are urban and there’s little to photograph or talk about, but after an hour we’re in the green stuff; fans are thin on the ground but it’s one nice part of the world.
Then the climbing starts, gradual, winding through the trees and the occasional old village. It’s not a killer climb but it’s no cake walk either with the last K to the GPM pretty tough; the saving grace is a nice surface.
The top is a bit of an anti-climax but the decent is crazy; steep, technical and very dangerous.
Jim said that it was bad enough with four big fat tyres in a Peugeot hot hatch, never mind two skinny 23mm tubulars.
All of sudden it’s ‘video game’ time as the lead motos catch us and indicate that we’d best get moving. Jimmy drives a great decent and by the bottom we’re just about clear of them – but we marvel at the speed those pros descend.
We ease off a little – but Jeez ! there’s the car behind us and Jim has to boot it again.
We’ve decided to hole up on the cat 4 at eight K to go; Robbie Hunter reckons that there will be a break – and we want to see it.
But just as we’re about to hit it, the cell phone rings, it’s Viktor; ‘Wouter Weylandt has had a bad crash, I think he could be dead.’
I tell Jim, we go silent – surely not, he’s a big strong boy.
The cat 4 comes after a fast, flat section and rears up steep and tough immediately.
We drive through the prime line, park up and walk back to the line; the views are stunning.
There isn’t a big crowd so it’s no problem to find a spot.
Al emails that they’ve been massaging Wouter’s heart for 20 minutes – we go quiet.
Here’s the race – a Garmin and a Movistar are just clear, then a Katusha and an Androni.
The bunch isn’t far behind; I think the four will get caught – Jimmy reckons they’ll stay clear on the technical coast road.
Matt sends an SMS to ask if we know about Wouter.
Tyler Farrar is dropped, Cam Meyer is trying to get him back but it doesn’t look good.
Cav is way back, and so is Bjorn – that’s at least two jerseys changing hands.
Al emails again, the helicopter has flown Wouter out and the situation is grave.
Robbie McEwen paddles past followed by the ‘cyclists touring club’ as Jim describes a Rabobank lead gruppo.
A Katusha bottle lands at my feet, the old girl next to me looks at it longingly and I pass it to her – I’d probably bin it at the airport.
A Rabobank and a BMC are stone last – we head for the finish.
Rapallo is lovely, the sun shines, the yachts bob and the pavement cafes bustle.
The race is finished, the barrier crews are at work.
We walk the finish straight; it’s all strangely quiet – Paolo Savoldelli sits stunned at the open air TV studio, the blonde girl on the mic is close to tears.
Wouter is dead; we stumble back to the car in a daze and all I can think is that I wish I’d waited a minute or two longer this morning outside that Leopard bus.
All of us at PEZ send our condolescences to Wouter’s family and friends. And although we didn’t know him personally, we feel his loss.
– Richard Pestes, Publisher –