I missed the early bus to Urbania yesterday for the stage start, so a took a taxi for the 10k trip. That ended up being quite entertaining, as the cabbie provided animated commentary on the state of Italian cycling.
He started by saying that, although Bruseghin had won in Urbino, time trials were no good for the Italians, because they had no time trial specialists. I mentioned Pinotti, but he was not impressed. The best, he said, had been Ivan Basso. He proceeded to give me a rundown of Basso's OP troubles. "Non ha avuto sangue irregolare" (he didn't have irregular blood), he explained, but bags of his blood had been found with Fuentes, a very shady character, as the cabbie's expression and hand gestures made clear (Dude, watch the road! It's pretty curvy here!). I mentioned that Basso could race again next year. "Yes," he said, "but he might have psychological problems after his suspension. Just look at Di Luca." Heh. So Di Luca's a headcase now because of his suspension, and that's why he lost two minutes in the tt. Fun theory. I was hoping the cabbie would expound further on this theme, but his attention turned to how they should have run the time trial on the road we were on, which was much better for a tt than the roads they did use. Guy must be a big Savoldelli fan, since this road was nonstop up-and-down with constant hairpin turns. I was starting to feel a bit carsick.
Once in Urbania, I found the start area, then waited for the action to begin. About an hour before the stage start, a lot more press people had arrived, in anticipation of the beginning of the sign-in. I saw an American enlisting the aid of a couple of young Italian guys to translate as he interviewed Claudio Chiappuci. I went over to offer my asistance, but I saw that he had it sorted out. It turned out to be Bob Cullinan from Cycleto.com. He gave me the rundown of what happens at a stage start, which is basically that the riders have an hour to sign in, and the big stars usually wait until the last minute to arrive from the team buses.
Bradley Wiggins and another High Road rider were the first to arrive, and after that it was pretty much a steady stream of riders coming to sign in. They all seemed very friendly with each other, and there were lots of hugs and pats on the back for Bruseghin, the winner the day before.
Up on the stage, the announcer gave a little plug to each rider, noting their stage wins or other claims to fame, after which most riders waved to the crowd. Bettini and Pellizotti had the biggest and most genuine-looking smiles for the tifosii. Di Luca waved dutifully but looked glum.
Savoldelli, as always, looked like a ten-year-old stunned by the sight of the crowd as the curtain raises on his first school play. Not that I'm one to talk. I'm sure I had that exact same expression on my face as I took pictures, got in people's way, and tried in vain to work up the nerve to attempt some interviews. It looked so easy when everyone else was doing it, but they were almost all Italians who appeared to be well known to the riders.
Lyne, if you read this, maybe you could give me a few quick interview pointers.
As the start time approached, the riders started to assemble in what appeared to be no particular order, mostly just teammates hanging out with each other.
I spotted a photographer standing just in front of the riders, at the side of the road, so I positioned myself a few feet behind him. Surely, I thought, someone will make us get out of the way before the riders start moving, but the cops just glanced over at us and nodded. I got some cool video as the riders went past me, but I guess I'll have to figure out some way to post them when I get home, since my two attempts to post the Simoni video didn't work. Later, when I met up with Bob, who had kindly agreed to give me a ride back to Urbino, he said he'd gotten some great video because he was standing right in the middle of all the riders as they took off. Only at the Giro.
Susie Hartigan for Podium Cafe