1 October 2005

Racing, Italian style

Tour of Toscana was a six-day tour, covering most of the areas surrounding the mountains and valleys were drove in on. The first stage was a drive of about an hour, but with 15 minutes to leave the car park and street we were staying on, plus Italian traffic we left two and a half hours early. The small circuit was wicked, small alleys with some tight corners, finishing in a small town square looked wicked. I took a small shifty over the circuit, the street was about a thousand years old, with corners comprising of the locals front door, which opened up onto the course. Some of the doorways stopped me in their tracks, these area had been inhabited by the Roman army hundreds of years earlier, now to be used in battle by some of the fastest Women in Europe. The Roman pavers looked slippery, a glaze from a chariot wheels from long ago, mixed in with a million plus footsteps, and few hundred thousand Fiat wheels, this was the corner to watch. There was already a huge crowd waiting for the carnage, wish I could stay, those stones looked hard..

The racing was sweet, all the girls had a good ride, some on TT bikes and some just on the road bikes, a tough choice. Think we finished with two in the top ten, and the rest of the team in the top twenty, we were looking good, I was buggered. A few days later were sitting 2nd and 3rd. We had been in the sweetest of old towns every day, start and finish just blew me away. Locals hanging out of windows, people every where in the smallest towns, all very interested, along with the 40 or so cops on motorbikes as the escort, the peloton looked like some sort of marching army about to conquer a nation. The bikes in formation in front, no street closures as such, but a rolling road blockade, the cops in front a few km’s stopping traffic and clearing the road. Then the jury, neutral survive and the peloton, flying flags out high, like a large spear piercing the countryside. followed by the caravan of team cars and local mafia. What a sight to be seen through old castle walls mountain top villages. This was definitely the most enjoyable race so far. Hey it’s Italy, almost the heart of cycling for me, what better way to see the countryside. Shame that I was stuck in the back of the team car and not riding, I must come back, and soon.

A couple of days with double stages were starting to hurt, then we have a night crit that starts at 2100pm, it will be a long day. There was talk of a protest as we got things ready for the night. One of the teams were telling every one that that the race was to be neutral for the entire race. Our girls were not happy, they come to race, why waste it, and Linda had won here the year previous, and was keen to repeat it. The race started, a few laps into it there was talk on the radio of stopping the race as a protest for putting a night stage in the race. And they did, all except on Brazilian girl who continued around the course, when she lapped the field at the finish line she was booed, spat on, yelled at and shouldered. It was bad, she was crying badly, but was probably under orders from her director, poor girl. She went around again and they declared her the winner, everyone was really pissed at her, can’t see how she’s going to race tomorrow without going in the gutter a few times. Man girls can be nasty sometimes.

The race continued up to the second to last day when we were sitting 1st with Susanne, 3rd with Miriam, pretty good work for the team as we were missing two riders. But with 40km to go, 7 seconds in the race, Susanne crashed and went down hard. Freaked us out in the car, as it’s such a tight margin that this is just how you lose it. Spare bike was delivered with blinding speed, she was on her way, with the little minions coming out of the peloton to help tow her back up, we were safe for a while. One massive climb to go, things were good as we made a break with 5 girls we could beat easily to the finish. She sprinted, we won, great, closer to our goal. The last stage was pretty cool when we finished right in the middle, of the coolest town I have seen for a while. In fact the view from the top of the last climb put a chill down my spine as I looked out over a city where this same view has been here almost twice as long as we have had people killing moa’s at home. I’ll think of the name of it soon, Pisa is close, and it starts with a F. Call it Florence, sounds close enough. Meanwhile Susanne was attacked on the climb a few last times, going into the city the radio yelled out ‘groupo compacto’, I’m sure you can figure out. She won for the third year in a row so was rapped, we also got the points jersey and third place with Miriam as well.

The race was over and we were off, now to Madrid, only 1650km to go, yeah ha, and what a nice day to travel in. A storm was brewing in the mountains.. But that’s another story..

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