Tirreno reportage 3. At the start in Indicatore (and Prati di Tivo)

I'm driving in the rain my old good Kangoo. It's dark green and has got on the back a sticker of the Frank and Andy Schleck Fan club that makes it unique in Italy I guess. I'm very proud of my car. Driving is nice but not so nice in the early morning when everybody is going to work, not at all in the rain. In a certian way I'm going to work me too: I have to be at 9.30 in Indicatore (near Arezzo) for the start of the 3rd stage. 
Indicatore is a very small village, just a group of houses, and it's a myster for me why cycling races finish and start here so often. It is near Arezzo but you can't take a bus or a train from there, it's quite isolate but there isn't a large bus parking, it isn't an hystorical place so... I don't mean to tell it's 'ugly' but honestly nothing special. The landscape is nice but it's the same as in all Tuskany so I don't see the reason to start or finish just here. At 9.30 am the only bus I see is Fantini's. Riders can sign since 10 till 11 am and it seems they take it even easier than usual, sleeping a little more maybe after yesterday long stage.
In five minutes I crossed the village and I'm at the signature podium, already crowded – that's a surprise! - and with speakers' action in full swing. - Where are you from? - dj Albertino is asking a old man – Cortona -, - Ah! My mother too is from Cortona! - He says that about every town at every stage... Umbrellas girls are ready to give mimosa flowers to the riders to celebrate the International Day of Women and this yellow contrasts against the gray sky promising rain. All the place is decorated in mimosa and the organizers give it to all women... but looking around... well... there aren't many women here. Even less if you exclude podium girls and umbrellas girls. I am one of the two or three female reporters. And very very few if you look to the public. Amongh them the all female teachers of Bici Scuola, the lucky school selected to bring here its little students. They barely reach the barrier and watch cheerfully under their gray sponsored hats. 
There are many kind of accreditations in different colors and they allow you to stay in certain places and not in others. Mine is green: STAMPA (press). I can stay inside the barrier at the signature podium, in the interviews box at the finish but not at the finish nor in front of the awarding podium because only photographers and Tvs are allowed. That's why I go to the start: it's easier to go closer to racers, to take good pictures and talk. It's also a good place to meet people you know only on twitter of facebook, serious journos or/and nice chaps. This morning there is an interesting duo: they look around, put a small toy racer in pink jersey on a stake and film it. On their camera I spot a logo I know very well: CYCLISMAS! - Hi Cyclismas! I always read you – I say, we introduce each others and I'm honoured to meet... the great UCI Overlord! WOW!
Riders arrive all together, Andy Schleck looks good today and after signing goes to place his bike almost in front, beside Fabian Cancellara. - How are you? - I ask – Fine -, - Wet? -, - Yes – he answers in a plain voice. No need to ask, I know. The sky is geting darker and darker: more rain is expected very soon. - Stefano! Dov'è il sole? [Stefano! Where is the sun?] - Cancellara shouts the race director Allocchio – Avevi detto che c'era il sole! [You told there was the sun!] -, - Arriva il sole, arriva! Vedrai che i prossimi giorni arriva. [It comes, it comes the sun! You'll see next days it comes.] - Allocchio says. - Se non viene il sole paghi da bere! [If the sun doesn't come you pay drinks!] - Cancellara goes on. Then he said Andy something in German and he shortly talks back. Jokes over, it's time to start. Andy looks more serious now and even a little sad, his head bent, his eyes closed. I can't avoid to think he looks lonely. There isn't his brother Frank, Jakob Fugslang has gone, Voight, Didier, Monfort are all in Paris-Nice. 
Race and rain start at once. In no time we are in a rain storm. It even forces me to wait into my car because driving would be dangerous. Imagine riding a race bike... I think of the strain of three days pedaling in that rain, in that cold, for kms and hours. Today's stage is 190 km, from Indicatore to Narni with only one average climb. Not the hardest of this very hard Tirreno but the pourring rain makes roads dangerous and the day longer.
It's one of the few stages I manage to watch in tv and I'm happy to see that Andy is improving. He had to stop with others when a rider stopped for a mechanic problem – some said that was Andy but I didn't see it and it doesn't matter anyway – but on the climb he is in front, in the first row with the best riders in the race. It isn't l'Alp d'Huez, ok but it's nice and good to see him there. I'm somehow relieved. He's on the right track. Sagan won at the sprint but Ciolek is very good again.
It's time for me to prepare my backpack: I'll watch in tv the queen stage to Prati di Tivo and then leave to Porto Sant'Elpidio and San Benedetto del Tronto for the last two days. 
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 5:15:12  
2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step    
3 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol    
4 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN-Qhubeka    
5 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
135 Andy Schleck (Lux) RadioShack Leopard           0:05:00

I write nothing here about PRATI DI TIVO: you can find better reports on Cyclingnews. It has been a thrilling battle. Not in the rain finally but in a beautiful sun shining on Prati di Tivo's snow. Tirreno starts seriously up there. Main characters of the drama have been Froome and Nibali, Contador, Rodriguez, Kwiatosky, Poels, Horner but also Sagan and Phinney. For me it was kinda killing to watch a montain stage with Andy Schleck riding but not racing, fortunately finishing – and that was already a victory – but not fighting for the victory, and reading through the results to find his name, happy he wasn't – relatively - so down. Not easy for me and very hard for him I guess even if he keeps telling he doesn't care.

1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 4:41:31  
2 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 0:00:06  
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:11  
4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:13  
5 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:15  
6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff    
7 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:20  
8 Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:00:43  
9 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha    
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:58  
74 Andy Schleck (Lux) RadioShack Leopard                           0:12:17
1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 16:04:59  
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:04  
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:16  
4 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:30  
5 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:33  
6 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:40  
7 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 0:00:55  
8 Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:04  
9 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:01:16  
10 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha

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