3.05.2013

Reportage 3. Strade Bianche

Signing in Gaiole

Riding into a postcard: that's the Eroica. That's why phographers take pictures of the group in a large frame. You see a beautiful landscape, few trees, empty fields of different colors, a blue sky above with few clouds and can hear the noise of wheels and brakes just scratching the silence and follow the small riders disapear in the distance covered in dust. This landscape doesn't need humans to be perfect. Humans made it in centuries and now it seems they are gone. Riders, cars, photographers, few supporters and the helicopter passe without it changes. After you could think the race has been a mirage.
Sometimes though this perfect little world gets enraged and riders are badged and huntered by a heavy, merciless rain. The road is mud, the sky turns around in wild wet wind, each tree is a threat and the few farm ghost houses locked upon a hill. Who trained or raced in Italy in a rain storm can confirm it's very different than in Belgium: I use to say our rain is wetter. It takes a second to soak all your clothes. And once again it's a private drama in a indifferent distant landscape. The peloton passes persecuted by its furies.
At the start in Gaiole

Last Saturday Gaiole in Chianti was a cold sunny heaven. A icy wind brutally reminded we are in March. I felt very sick and would have remained in bed if Andy had not been in the race. Sometimes it's amazing how your body and your soul are living in a different word. Soul is the body like a flower is its roots and the ground that feeds it but we all know – athletes very well – that the soul can pushes the body further. You feel you are at the extreme limit of your strength and find a 'second breath' (secondo fiato) as they say, a breath that brings you to the next step, to the last km, to the end of the last climb... or to the last page of the book, to the next word you have to say to achieve your goal and confirm that you really are who you want to be. It isn't that the soul dominates the body, not at all. To get the best of you, you must sink in your physical self, be in solid with it, listen more than order, respond. It's one of the most fascinating side of life.
Anthony at the finish in Siena

Physically I didn't feel good on Saturday but driving in my Chianti's postcard I was very happy and distactly listening to my son unfailingly chattering. We arrived in Gaiole pretty early, parked on the raod far from the mess and went to get my accreditation – in a pink motorhome! In the busses area there was only team Fantini, others arrived soon and I thought: "Danny isn't going to park here". It was a small factory yard with two narrow entrance and a man with a fluo yellow jacket and a red flag was filling it with busses and cars like a sardinas' can. It wasn't easy to park, drivers were forced to complicated manouvres and I could imagine the mess at the start. No way!
We found the RSLT bus wisely parked on the main road.
- I thought we were the first team to arrive – Danny said.
The crowd was definitely bigger than in Camaiore: Strade Bianche is an important race and it was Saturday. But at the RSLT bus there wasn't many people. The most of them were Nizzolo's parents:
- Are you covered enough? Don't you feel cold eh? - a woman was telling him. I guess she was his mom. 
Moreno Moser wins
- You are not going to do that when I'll be a cyclist! - my son said – What a shame! To be treated like a child in front of everybody! -
- But moms have to do that. You are always our little child. - I explained – Ciao Josue. This is my son. -
- Hi, how are you doing? -
It was still very cold and they were all drinking some coffee to keep warm. A small crowd of curious people had gone too close to the unloaded bikes so Danny, calm and efficient, without screaming and fighting like Italians do, fenced them in. A IAM's cyclist rode to the bus and put his red head in: Dominik Klemme! I heard jokes and laughs. Then he rode away and Leopards begane to get off. The last of this time was Fabian Cancellara, but I didn't see him because I had run to the start after Andy.
I had prepared my son: - At the start he's always in a hurry, don't be disappointed – Andy looked well and smiled me. I pointed to my son, next to me, and he said: - Ciao! - with a even larger smile. Liveri got a bit confused: - Hi! - And that was all because you cant talk at the start, really. Andy took his bike and quickly rode to sign slaluming amongh supporters, Gaiole inhabitants, reporters and old style riders ready for the amateurs Eroica. There were also some children on their bikes and my son was very envious: - Next year I do it me too! -
Peter Sagan celebrates too

Andy signed and went ahead on the route to stretch his legs and maybe to warm up a little. Then he waited for the start. A routine he's used since a long time but maybe he's descovering it again now, after that long stop. Watching his face you get the impression he's enjoying the pleasure to be back to his world. And it's easier in a Suturday sunny morning, in a small nice village in Tuskany where people are both indifferent and deferent when the speaker tells your name. It was time to go. Andy started almost in front, Cancellara at the back as usual and the last one was Taylor Phinney.
I went to shake hands with Anthony McCrossan: we often chat by twitter but we had never met. Or better: we had been often in the same place but both too busy! He's studying Italian while Stefano Bortolotti is studying English: a perfect couple of speakers for international races :) Then finally I had a coffee, my son riped off a race signal – not TdF stage but still... - and we headed to Siena.
But Uopini is a forced stop. Do you know what it is? I guess you don't. Uopini is a place near Siena, so close so far. You arrive from north and you thin k it's a small village, a group of houses but when you pass it you see Siena is just there. In Uopini there is a trattoria (small restaurant), Tana Libera Tutti, very good and cheap. We always stop there for lunch when we go to Siena. 
Podium: 1 Moser 2 Sagan 3 Nocentini
 
I must confess that if I was alone I went directly to the bus, chat with Danny and wait for Andy there. My son however had come to watch the race so we parked near piazza del Campo and walked to the finish. I finally understood what the press room is for: the TOILET! Given that it was cold and I was still feeling very bad, I was glad to have a warm place to stay in and a clean toilet for free. But press rooms aren't my thing. I go to races to be on the road, at the barrier, amongh people and riders, to live it. Cold – or rain or hot summer sun or bloody wind: that's the taste of a race. And music, and stupid jokes by Albertino, and Stefano and Anthony's voices at the microphone telling the story you can't see. We sat on the red bricky square guarding our place at the barrier and waited.
At races you feel the race coming, rushing to the line. In Siena the race arrives from below and the last attacks are launched on the last paved climb, entering the city. This time the race went in a different way: Moreno Moser bridged to the early break and was able to drop everybody. He arrived like lauched stone. Just behinde his team mate Sagan: Cancellara controlled him all the day but Moser's move was a smart one by Cannondale. Then Nocentini, who spent the day in the break so well deserving a podium spot. His wife was there. 
Moser looking for... the toilet :)
 
There wasn't Josue after the line because Andy had retired already. A good day for him but no need to finish - like for many others. We went home and I thought: "Damn I was better to go to the bus". My son was happy instead, moreover because we had met Moser directed to the toilet in the press room!! the most useful item, I told you :) Driving home two RSLT cars passed me – they always go too fast... - but no bus. I was shaking for shivers. Too cold. I was feeling a little sad but probably because I was sick and very tired.
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