It wouldn’t be a true PEZ Roadside report if it didn’t include some reference to original plans falling by the wayside and the day turning out completely differently to what had been imagined.
After doing the first PEZ shift at last year’s Giro, it was strange reading Gordon’s roadside reports from the Netherlands, knowing that by the time I arrived on the race for Stage 14, the face of this year’s Giro would have been well and truly established.
What I never could have imagined though, was how much of an impact the Australian riders would have made and with Richie Porte still wearing the Maglia Rosa of race leader this morning, my original plan was to get up onto Monte Grappa and see him in his first serious day of defence.
We’re all familiar with the front side of the podium, but what exactly is it that goes on behind there?
Thanks to a (not altogether unexpected) traffic jam on the roads around Mestre and Venice on the way to joining the race, my plan came undone a little bit before the race was even in sight. Once I had collected my credentials, plugged the laptop in at the press room and carefully examined the race book, I realised that getting up onto the top of Monte Grappa to see the riders and then getting anything else done in the day, was going to be next to impossible.
And so, Plan B was hatched.
My Plan B has actually been on my “to do” list for quite some time and the day that I walked the TTT course in Venice last year, I was actually trying to organise what would now be today’s “Plan B”.
The difference between last year and this year, was that this time around I actually knew the right person to ask. So, before I made my way back to the car for a short look at the looping section of today’s 14th stage from Ferrara to Asolo, I made my appointment for later in the day, to see the Giro d’Italia’s official tailor.
A Look At The Course
While the stage finish says “Asolo” the town itself is a little way away and is the location of the Traguardo Volante sprint. I worked out that I could take a look there, drive along part of the loop that made up the final 80km of the stage and make it back to the start finish area to see the peloton pass by before they went and completed the full loop, including the climb of Monte Grappa.
After two false starts of trying to get out onto the course, I made it into the back streets of Asolo and was quite surprised at just how steep the running would be to the sprint at km 136.
The view coming down from Asolo gave a taste of what was in store for the riders in the final week of the race.
The streets of Asolo were tiny. As well as there being only just enough room to drive a single car through, many of the corners were after a dramatic narrowing of the road. They were also decorated with large columns covered in padding for the passage of the Giro, leaving me wondering how safe it was going to be going up and along some of the hills, let alone down off them.
The section of the race preceding the climb of Monte Grappa was a succession of these small towns and narrow streets. Like every year at the Giro, the towns people had all set up camp on the roadside and the bars had filled out into the roads.
In Monfumo, at km 200, there were a group of cyclo tourists taking turns at taking each others pictures, so I figured I’d help out and take a shot of all of them. Before I could even get a word out in my bad Italian, I realised from their accents (and the way they were making fun of each other!) that they were Australians.
Joseph Rogers, Brian Hamersfeld and Adrian Ryan are all over from Melbourne on a group tour and loving the fact that the Australians are doing so well.
The guys are part of a group who will be following the race right through until the finish in Verona and were making the most of the 26degree day to get some riding in before watching the pros do battle over the same roads.
After a few more small towns, I veered off the race course and headed back to the start to make sure I caught the bunch on their first passage. After stopping to take a picture of a group dressed in pink wigs (we’ll save that for another day, I promise), I arrived at the start finish line just as the last riders of the peloton were turning off and heading out to Monte Grappa.
With timing like that, it sounds like a perfect opportunity to introduce you to…
Plan B: The Tailor
I thank the British TV journalist Garry Imlach for broadcasting a small segment on how the race jerseys are prepared, way back when I used to watch half-hour nightly re-caps of Miguel Indurain winning the Tour de France in the 1990s. Since then, I’ve always wanted to get behind the podium and see how the Giro organisers do things and thanks to the help of the RCS press liaisons, Federico and Federica, today was the day.
I had in my mind, vision of the truck they have at Le Tour with all of the prize jerseys, the long sleeve podium ones that zip at the back, the short sleeve ones and the ones that the riders wear on the bike, all stacked neatly on shelves ready to go.
They do things a little bit differently at the Giro, as I found out today.
Meet Claudio Castellano, the Giro’s Tailor.
Claudio is the man responsible for custom printing the sponsors’ logos onto the front and back of the Giro’s Maglia Rosa of race leader, Maglia Verde of king of the mountains, Maglia Rossa of points leader and Maglia Bianca of best young rider.
There’s no truck, no cupboards and no team of helpers. Claudio has a sports bag full of SMS Santini jerseys in various sizes and another bag with the transfer papers of all the sponsors of all the teams riding the race.
Psst… wanna buy a jersey?
In his area behind the podium, Claudio also has a television set and a computer console that is linked directly to race control. From these, he can see as soon as the results are made official, which rider will be requiring which jersey when it comes time for the presentation.
I asked him if it was ever a stressful time and Claudio laughed and told me he was from Napoli, so not a lot stresses him. He also shared that he has learned, from experience, that it is best not to be too hasty when preparing the jerseys. True enough there are days when you know the points leader isn’t going to change, but it’s better just to have the jersey and transfer paper ready and then print it when the results are confirmed, than try and get it done earlier and then have to re-do it!
The plain Maglia Rosa is put in position with a special heat resistant pad placed inside the shirt.
The process relies on heat being applied to the papers with the logos and the jersey which causes the inks to move from the paper and into the fabric of the shirt. Claudio tells us that the press heats to 180degrees Celsius in 22 seconds. From there, it’s ready to go.
While every team is represented in the bag, there will be many that never see the light of day on the podium.
The rectangular transfer with the team logo, colours and sponsors names are then placed on top of the plain white rectangle of the jersey and then the handle is pulled and pressure applied.
After a very short wait, the shirt is turned over and the process is repeated for the back as well.
It’s not too much of a stretch to see why in the past, this job earned the title of Giro Tailor and I was surprised when Claudio told me that he was indeed a tailor by profession. He spends his non-Giro days custom making shirts, suits, jackets and pants. He describes himself as a craftsman and also told me that he doesn’t use machines in his work. Everything he sews is done by hand.
When examined up close, it’s difficult to believe this was ‘knocked up out the back’ a few minutes ago.
While conducting an interview with Richie Porte earlier in the week, I asked him if he had white jerseys coming out his ears, and he laughed and said no, just the one they had given him on the podium. Claudio explained that unlike the Tour de France, there is no special podium jersey at the Giro. The shirt the riders are presented with and put on, is the same one that they will wear in the next day’s stage. If it happens to be raining or gets a lot colder the next day, Claudio is also at the start of each stage and has a bag full of long sleeve shirts that he can print up if necessary. In fact, on the days when it is wet and raining, the long sleeve version is the one presented on the podium.
While we are chatting, the big bottles of bubble that get sprayed from the podium are brought out of the fridge and uncorked. There’s no struggling to get the cork out of a bottle of sparking white when you have been gripping the handlebars for 200kilometers, it’s all taken care of before hand.
Out of the fridge and into the shade. All we needed to wait on was Nibali to win, shake and spray.
Like many craftsmen, Claudio learned his trade from his father and he told me that it was the same path that brought him to his job in the Giro d’Italia. His father was the Giro’s tailor for many years and around seven years ago, he started bringing Claudio with him to the races to show him how it was done. A few years back, an official request was made of the organisers and Claudio took over his father’s position.
It’s not just the bubbly and jerseys that are waiting back stage to be claimed.
Before I had the opportunity to ask about jersey sizing, Claudio proudly told me that he does all the sizing by eye… and hardly ever gets it wrong.
“Porte: XS” he tells me. Vino was a bit of a challenge for him though as he said the Kazakh rider looks like a Medium across the back, but actually tapers a lot through the body and from the front, looks like he might be a Small. Claudio has him in a Medium.
I joked that there was unlikely to be any XXL’s in the bag and Claudio told me the only rider he ever had in a Large was the lion King himself, Mario Cipollini.
Putting It All Together
So the only thing missing for the whole podium arrangement was the podium girls, the VIP’s and the riders themselves, so we thought we had better show you a picture of all of the parts coming together to make the finished product.
Following stage winner Nibali, David Arroyo was the first man to step out onto the podium and show off the complete ensemble of his new, freshly personalised pink jersey, a nice bottle of sparking white and some flowers to take home to someone special.
Claudio, meanwhile, had finished his work for the day and was on his way out the door with his sports bag and case. Once the riders were done, what other reason was there for him to be hanging around except to check on another one of his satisfied customers?
Richie Porte back in ‘printed to perfection’ white and Claudio happy that his work is going to a good home.
Those lucky enough to earn their place behind the podium for that walk out onto stage to receive the accolades of the crowd, never leave empty handed.
Those who manage to get a look back there while preparing a story don’t get invited out onto stage, don’t receive any flowers and certainly do not get their own freshly printed leader’s jersey to take away.
Mind you, no one ever leaves truly empty handed and after one of the corks from the bubbly landed near our feet, Claudio picked it up, handed it to me “for luck”.
See you tomorrow on the Zoncolan!