Giro d’Italia (May 19, 2007)

I slept later than the early cycling crowd and ran some errands around town. Visited the bike shop once it opened, where they told us that the best information on the Giro d’Italia could be found in the Gazetta dello Sport, the pink-paged sporting daily that sponsors the race. Made a jesting inquiry about the blue Colnago frame with the chromed lugs. Then located a news agent next to the Coop, bought a copy of the sporting paper and managed to locate the needed info about the race route and likely timing.

Rick, David and Tony arose early for a short ride, first driving to Panzano, then doing a short loop through Radda and Castelettina. The roads were fairly empty, and one of the descents featured new pavement and tight turns perfect for bicycles. They even managed to pass a large tourist bus, since it had pulled over to allow one tourist to deposit her breakfast on the side of the road. When Rick returned to the car, he discovered he didn’t have the car keys. He thought backwards and remembered they were in his saddlebag, and discovered it was wide open. He’d been into the bag a little ways back to get out his camera for a picture of the poppies in the shoulder. He cycled back about a half-mile, and there they were on the shoulder of the road. Disaster averted.

The group got back to Greve early, since it was a short ride. David went into the bike shop and made a serious offer to buy the Colnago frame, even offering a premium to sneak it away from the customer who had ordered it. No luck.

David and Tony discovered their room had been cleaned up, and they were expected to move out. Turned out that the room reservations had been made on the assumption that they would be traveling to Milan tonight for tomorrow’s airplane flight. Instead they have a flight out of Firenze early in the morning. Eventually we understood how we made the mistake, and Monica arranged for us to have a small cot moved into the bigger room, along with the double bed already there.

We headed into the square for lunch, procuring pork sandwiches from a trailer, where the entire roasted pig lay on the counter, and was being sliced directly onto the bread. Fruit and cheese from two other vendors rounded out the meal.

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68. Roadside Poppies, Chianti
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69. Pork Sandwiches, Greve
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70. Rob, David and Ken, Dicomano
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71. Giro d’Italia, Dicomano
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72. Basketball Court, Sugame Winery
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73. Sugame Winery
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74. Wine Cellar, Sugame Winery
Back into the car, and we headed east out of town onto another strada bianchi we had not traveled. Up and over in about 20 km and we turned north along the Arno River, towards Firenze. We were aiming to intercept the Giro d’Italia, which was running even further east, out of Arezzo. We passed the junction on the far end of the day’s only hill, and three km later we found the 35 km marker, which may have been a sprint location, on the edge of the town of Dicomano. A little further, and we found the park in the center of town.

Uncertain of when the roads were closed, we were about two hours early. But the spectacle, and the slowly amassing crowds were worth the wait. We bought the 5 euro t-shirts from the vans going through town, discovering later that the “official” t-shirts were 10 euros. As expected the race eventually roared through town, preceded by the publicity caravan. The speeds were high, as presumably the race was just beginning to heat up. The lead group was rather large, and teams seemed to be all together. A couple smaller groups followed a minute or two behind, then a few stragglers. The more distant the competitor, the greater the applause.

On the car ride back we crossed over the pass atop the ridge that separates the Arno River from the valley with Greve, and finally satisfied David’s desire to visit a winery. Sugame Winery is a very old location for a vineyard (buildings dating to the 11th century) and its current caretaker is a young couple. He is Italian, raised in South Africa and he runs the winery. She is English and runs the agriturismo, a sort of state-subsidized bed-and-breakfast that encourages small agricultural enterprises to stay in business. We sampled the wine, toured the cellars and received an extensive education from the owner while enjoying the vista down the hillside from the porch of his house. His specialty is organically grown wine, which is an easy sell some places (Scandinavia), but a tough sell elsewhere (restaurants in Italy). We learned that the Giro d’Italia had passed over this pass in recent years, with Alessandro Pettachi (the sprinter) crashing on this very stretch of road.

Dinner was back at the Cantina from the first evening, where we were greeted as old friends. We again mostly did salads followed by pizza, though Rob had a calzone that was as big as a 12 pound red snapper, though it was mostly air. A crowd of very young Italian boys and girls were at the table next to us, acting like teenagers do everywhere.

David and Tony were in the main apartment, both on the small cots like Rob’s. David’s would collapse every time he sat on it, dropping to the floor in the middle, while the ends flew up. This was the source of great hilarity, until David put a gash into his foot on the third attempt. He then settled for just placing the thin mattress on the floor.