OK, probably not a good photo and you didn't watch the race to catch a glimpse of me.
Some of you on Facebook already know but here the deal on my trip to Italy.
Last year my wife of 12 months was looking over something on the Internet and asked, “What’s that race you talk about in Italy?”
“When is that?”
“Late March, why?”
“United has cheap tickets to Italy through the end of March. You wanna go?”
And that’s where it started. We booked a two-week trip with MSR in the middle. Visited a bunch of cool places but that’s not what brings me here to blab. I was right there at the finish line. Right. There.
See photo below. The red arrow points to me, my wife it to the left of me. Literally the only people closer to the line we a couple folks in the Novo Nordisk sponsor booth next to us.
We booked a three-day MSR experience through a company that does bike races, Fondos, and bike trips. We were there with four other people, all from England plus Roy, the guide/ host/ mechanic/ driver: A husband/ wife (late 50’s), and a father/ son (70 and 45). Great people, accomplished athletes, we all fit well together.
The morning of the race we did a 50k ride that took in Cipressa and Poggio then the run into Sanremo. Neither climb is long or tough but at the end of the race I can easily see how the selection would be made there, plus the decent off Poggio is tighter, twister, and more rough that it appears on TV. I’m used to bombing down the Missouri hills at 40+ mph since the hills here are straight up and straight down. Not there by any stretch with rock walls on either side and really tight 180* switchbacks this is no place for a rookie to play superman. Huge props to the pros that at the end of 180 miles will air it out and go for broke on the decent.
After the ride we went back to the hotel a kilometer away to clean up then back where we had VIP access at the finish line—food, drinks, copies of LaGazzerra dello Sport with Peter Sagan’s grinning face and shaggy locks prominently at the top of page one. Loads of TV’s to watch the race and both Italian and English announcers—the latter is the guy who calls the Giro ‘d Italia for the networks.
When there was 90k to go I told Ann I was going to stake out the corner closest to the finish and we hung out for a long time just listening to the race, chatting with others nearby, and taking in the whole experience.
It was electric when the announcers described the attack by Sagan. Our guide, who knows the English announcer and brought him over to chat, said when Sagan was announced at the start in Milan the place went nuts. Clearly he has rock star status.
I set my camera on motor drive and had it positioned on the rail and pointed down the course. When the breakaway came into view I hit the shutter hoping it hadn’t moved and let it do its thing. I wanted to watch the race with my eyeballs, not through the lens of a camera.
It’s really impossible to fully capture the excitement or emotion of being there in person. A bit disappointing Sagan got pipped at the line but I could see he wasn’t going to make it as Kwiatkowski was closing fast and despite what USAToday said, it was not a photo finish (http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/cycling/2017/03/18/kwiatkowski-beats-sagan-in-milan-san-remo/99348224/
). Sill, it was incredible to be there.
Sunday we did the Sportif, a 100k loop that went from Sanremo up the coast 17 miles (totally flat and flat-out fast)! There were about 350, maybe 375 riders and every one of them looked like they started cycling as a five year old and hadn’t missed a day on the bike—kitted out to the nines, razor sharp fitness, bikes dialed in, and my pet peeve completely avoided as every quick release was properly positioned. I was completely at easy riding next to anyone; the bike handling skills were top notch. After the run up the coast the route went inland and we hit a 17 mile climb that went from sea level to 1900’ and topped out at a rest stop unlike any I’ve ever seen. Suffice it to say the Italians did it right. I downed a Coke and a strawberry jam sandwich, skipped the prosciutto sandwiches and other delights and dropped down the backside of the climb and made my way back to the coast. About 7 miles from the climb up Cipressa I was between groups but after a few minutes I heard some yelling behind me. While I didn’t understand the words, I understood the meaning, “Get on my wheel!” I jumped on the back of a 4-person group with the lead guy yelling ahead to the police who were closing side roads and moving traffic out of the way. That’s right, we had a 62-mile rolling enclosure. How ‘bout that! We had a pretty good paceline going with everyone doing his share of the work and hit Cipressa with a full head of stream. The lead guy started to fade on the climb so I drifted back to help him out. He’d save my bacon so it seemed the right thing to do but he motioned me forward pretty vigorously and sent me on ahead.
The decent off Cipressa is a wide, well paved road so that went fast and the 5 mile flat section to the Poggio zips by pretty quickly. The time limit to be an official finisher is 4 hours and at the base of the climb I knew I’d make it be several minutes but not with the margin I anticipated at the start. I figured I’d come in at 3:30 but I was 3:42 and the top American finisher
Yeah, the only American finisher but still….
Another half dozen or so came in after me before the cut-off so, yeas, I was near the bottom but did make the official list. It looked like 125 or so didn’t make the time cut including the father/ son pair in our group. The kid is a stud and would have easily finished but chose to ride with his dad.
There was a post-ride past feed and let me tell you, this was not pot of overcooked spaghetti with a jar of Ragu dumped on top with stale garlic bread. Two kinds of ravioli, roasted chicken on polenta, salad, bread, dessert that could have won awards. The beverage? Luke warm Gatorade? As if… red wine, white wine, mineral water, seltzer water.
We were treated like celebrities; rolling enclosure, people cheering as we went through small villages in the rural country, cars honking, not in irritation but a friendly kind of tap on the horn to acknowledge us as we went by.
The entire two weeks was amazing but being at the finish of MSR and getting to ride a section of the racecourse was outstanding. After seeing a photo my wife took of me at the finish line one of my daughters said I looked like a kid on Christmas morning.
Christmas morning and a birthday all rolled into one; I turned 62 the day after the Sportif and we headed to Venice for more adventures.