The story is familiar. The last good player just got hurt, the coach looks down the bench and sees the kid that joined the team ’cause he wanted to hang out with real players. It like a harmless thing at the time, now the coach is thinking to himself, “maybe we should just play it a man down.” The kid springs to his feet, knowing that his time to shine has come. The coach gives an uncertain nod. I’m the kid and here’s my 2010 Giro d’Italia Presentation report. Thanks Coach Pez!
Just after I get the assignment, it occurs to me that the imp or whatever it’s called that causes one to instinctively/reactively not follow proper code (incompetence, perhaps?) is one of my weaknesses. It must be controlled. Clear headedness is needed, I turn to my 10 year old son. He says, “no problem, just ask everybody ‘so you think you can win this Giro?’” Ok, yeah, that’s good thanks, I jot it down on a Post-It.
We’ll get to the map in a minute, but just to satiate that initial hunger: the 2010 Corsa Rosa.
One question won’t get me very far, I explain the gig to my newly teenaged daughter. She’s giving me a blank stare (it could be worse, she could also be sighing). Nothing. Then I mention that the presentation is being held in the same theater where they shoot X-Factor (a reality/singing contest show thing. Note: if one is going to be a moody, know-it-all teenager, then please listen to good “moody know-it-all music” like we used to, not fluff. I’ve been trying to impress upon her the greatness of The Smiths). Bam! Now’s she’s impressed and says, “definitely make sure you touch the stage and get a photo of it.” I have my doubts, but you never know.
Now I’m thinking about last year’s Giro. I loved it. The whole Pez crew loved it. And we covered it hard. Then we learn that DiLuca was an idiot. And now I can’t help thinking that there is NO WAY an un-doped Menchov beats a doped DiLuca. Denny was too cool, too strong and too absent for the rest of the cycling season. I have no proof, only conjecture. And that’s the part that burns. Sporting excitement comes from authenticity. If it’s rigged, then it’s wrestling. It’s theater (maybe my daughter was not so wrong in her advice). I’m already making conclusions and the presentation hasn’t even started. Not good.
The traffic is sparse and I make it to Milan early. Security hasn’t even set up patrol, so I wander around backstage looking for souvenirs to steal, but decide against it. Coach would not be happy with me getting kicked out/arrested. I go back outside.
The first arrivals are the Old Guard of Italian cycling. Ernesto Colnago and Felice Gimondi and Fiorenzo Magni and tons of other old guys, well dressed and well shoe’d are chatting with each other.
That’s my angle: shoes. Why bother with the interviews, they all say the same things anyway. I start taking pictures of shoes. I’m wearing appropriate footwear just in case push comes to shove.
Younger Italians are now arriving. Cunego and Petacchi. There is a guy joking around with the podium girls, laughing and being the stereotypical loud Italian. Then I recognize him, it’s Michele Scarponi.
Like everything Petacchi: elegant but understated. He’s a simple man.
Tyler Farrar is standing to the side of the Pink Carpet, unnoticed and left alone. There’s good reason why he’s a Pez Favorite. Tyler is truly a nice guy, your buddy, the sweet kid that lives down the street, etc. Here’s what I learn from Tyler:
He’s just flown in from Belgium. He took a week off from the bike, vacationing at the beach in Spain with his girlfriend. He’ll do some cross. He believes in innocence until proven guilty, so he believes Menchov honestly beat DiLuca. He plans on doing the Tirreno Adriatico (“Paris Nice is too hard”). He did not hear me cheering for him last year while beating Petacchi and Cavendish in his memorable victory.
I think the shoe idea is getting richer by the moment, especially when I notice the “winners” that Farrar is wearing. I say to him, “man Tyler, I think you’ve got a podium finish for sure with those babies, you’ve beat Petacchi by 10 meters.” This gets a laugh out of him.
Around 3:30, the crowd moves into the theater. The VIPs get their passes and the press get theirs. People are still schmoozing, but now it’s indoors, with passes. Often when seeing pro cyclists one hears the following two statements:
The shoes of 2004 Giro winner and 3-time Giro di Lombardia champ: Damiano Cunego.
“I never realized how fast they ride, especially uphill.” Very true and very impressive.
“I never realized how small they are.” Mostly true. However, many of today’s attendees dispel this statement. Ballan, Pozzato, Farrar, Petacchi, Cipollini and even the old guys like Moser and Magni are big, 6 feet and over.
Note: I am starting to have my doubts that Pozzato and Pellizotti are two different people (with the same hair). I’ve never seen them in the same place at the same time (one does classics and the “other” does stage racing), today is no different.
No, that’s Pippo. Right?
We slowly make it into the theater and take to the sections assigned to us by the gods of RCS. The favored sons of Italian cycling are classified as VIPs. The other guys are thrown into the “media” seating area. Sitting next to me is a guy from Xacobeo Galicia.
In front of me is a rider and Director from Milram (as their lapel pins give ‘em away). Farrar is sitting down the row. The show is supposed to start at 4:30, but this is Italy, so it starts at 4:45 (you gotta love live TV). A journalist asks an usher when it’s finished and she replies precisely, “around 6”.
Now the show starts. The cast from X-Factor sings “Bicycle Race” from Queen. I’m earning serious fame points in my daughter’s eyes.
The first up is the director of the Gazzetta (the pink sports newspaper) and he says the Giro is supposed to commemorate the death of Fausto Coppi 50 years ago (who was scorned and branded a sinner and adulterer at the time). And that the Giro will pass through Aquila to help the victims of the earthquake. Very Italian goals/concepts here. Every time an image or mention of Marco Pantani appears, the audience applauds warmly. It’s the same issue/morality/sentimentality.
Now, the president of the Italian TV (RAI) says some other stuff about radio and the old times and how great TV is and then I lose the thread.
Then the Miss Giro is introduced. She’s a hot model from Holland stuffed too tightly into a gold dress that’s supposed to look like the Giro trophy. She also happens to be dating Wesley Sneijder, a Dutch soccer player on Inter Milan. Miss Giro replies that it’s her favorite team. Really?
Now, Boss Angelo Zomegnan and Davide Cassani (ex-pro and RAI commentator) take the stage to introduce the stages.
The first 3 days all start from Amsterdam.
Stage 5 from Novara to Novi Liguri passes through Fausto Coppi’s home town. The video segment of the stage highlights some of Coppi’s greatest hits with a few interviews by celebrities. Towards the end, an old guy (I don’t recognize) says that this generation is misguided and concludes that, “dopo Fausto e’ Gino e’ finito ciclismo, il vero ciclismo.” (cycling, real cycling, ended after Fausto and Gino). I love curmudgeons that shoot from the hip.
Stage 7’s route from Carrara to Montalcino will include some of the gravel roads used in the Eroica. Should be pretty cool.
Former overall winners, stage winners, and luminaries unite next to the map of next year’s Giro.
However, the REAL action starts at Stage 15: Zoncolan, a mother of a climb. Followed by Stage 16’s uphill TT to Plan de Corones. Stage 17 will climb the Passo Palade (that’s my hood, I know the climb well). Stage 19: the riders will do battle with the Mortirolo before finishing up the Giro’s climbing with Stage 20’s wicked hard day containing the Gavia and Tonale. The following video segment shows Cunego, Cassani and 53 year old, Giani Bugno riding the Mortirolo together. And suffering together. Bugno jokingly asks if they got the right road because he’s hurting.
The nail in the coffin for those left standing and hoping for the Maglia Rosa is Stage 20: Gavia. And then an individual time trial in Verona (recalling Moser’s historic victory) just for fun!
Yep, as Damiano Cunego said from the stage, “this Giro is very similar to the traditional ones.” Which means that all those big guys won’t be around after the first two weeks. It means that the winner will be a Simoni/Garzelli/Pantani type (maybe Franco Pellizotti?).
“Hey Tyler, so you think you can win this Giro?”
Then I spot the South American mountain goat, Jose Rujano, and ask him in Italian: “Puoi vincere questo Giro?”
“Si, possiamo!” (Yes, we can! – hey, this phrase worked for Obama.)
Decided: I’m putting my money on Jose Rujano in the Pez Office Pool.
Speaking of covering my bets, it’s time to get that photo of me touching the stage where X-Factor is filmed.
Stage 1: Saturday, May 8: Amsterdam, 8km ITT
Stage 2: Sunday, May 9: Amsterdam – Utrecht, 209km
Stage 3: Monday, May 10: Amsterdam – Middelburg, 209km
Rest Day: Tuesday, May 11: travel to Italy
Stage 4: Wednesday, May 12: Savigliano – Cuneo, 32.5km TTT
Stage 5: Thursday, May 13: Novara – Novi Ligure, 168km
Stage 6: Friday, May 14: Fidenza – Carrara, 166km
Stage 7: Saturday, May 15: Carrara-Montalcino, 215km
Stage 8: Sunday, May 16: Chianciano – Terminillo, 189km
Stage 9: Monday, May 17: Frosinone – Cava De’Tirreni, 188km
Stage 10: Tuesday, May 18: Avellino – Bitonto, 220km
Stage 11: Wednesday, May 19: Lucera – L’Aquila, 256km
Stage 12: Thursday, May 20: Citta Sant’Angelo – Porto Recanati, 191km
Stage 13: Friday, May 21: Porto Recanati – Cesenatico, 222km
Stage 14: Saturday, May 22: Ferrara – Asolo, 201km
Stage 15: Sunday, May 23: Mestre – Monte Zoncolan, 218km
Rest Day: Monday, May 24
Stage 16: Tuesday, May 25: San Vigilio di Marebbe – Plan de Corones, 12.8km ITT
Stage 17: Wednesday, May 26: Brunico – Pejo Terme, 173km
Stage 18: Thursday, May 27: Levico Terme – Brescia, 151km
Stage 19: Friday, May 28: Brescia – Aprica, 195km
Stage 20: Saturday, May 29: Bormio – Ponte di Legno, 178km
Stage 21: Sunday, May 30: Verona, 15.3km ITT
Keep it PEZ for LOTS more to come as PEZ takes a closer look at the Giro route.