Ciao from Piemonte! With one eye on the skies we headed off to Biella Saturday afternoon. We decided a long time sitting around on a high valley known for misty skies called for old-time wool clothing, so we donned our bici d'epoca outfits (with modern nods to helmets, shoes, gloves and bikes) and set off for the Santuario Oropa, scene of one of Marco Pantani's famous exploits. Check this out if you've forgotten https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JQkB3J4sHs
This climb was a challenge to say the least! Once at the top we settled in around the 250 meter mark with a good view of one of the big-screens hauled up there just for the fans. We brought panini with us so we didn't have to wait in lines for food, though some of the stuff being grilled up along the climb made us think about stopping more than once! There were lots of folks on foot or two wheels making their way to the top. This situation separates most sports fans from pro bike race fans. A dead-end climb with no vehicles allowed means you REALLY want to enjoy this experience in-person...otherwise you (like most) watch on TV from the comfort of your couch. But for us, video can be watched any time, over and over while you can only BE THERE when things happen and forever after you can say "I was there".
A large, grassy field made a decent place to settle in and watch the TV coverage and enjoy pranzo.
As you can see here, we were close to the finish line.
And the skies were threatening, though it never rained (thankfully). Above is a shot of the celebration of the Maglia Rosa, complete with pink confetti.
Once the stage ends, EVERYONE (except for perhaps the monks?) has to get back down, making for a bit of congestion as some of the late-arriving team cars (and for some reason, a lot of spectators on bicycles) try to get to the top while everyone else wants to do down. Even the riders get stuck in the mess, as you can see above.
One of the most dangerous things these pros do is ride back down to their hotels through the fans and team cars. Most of the public is on the right side of the road with the cars in the center and the pros on the left, descending against oncoming traffic. Of course these guys know what they're doing but we saw more than once, a potential collision narrowly avoided as some knucklehead decides to wander across the road for no reason.
One thing we noticed - the pro's bikes sound different than the rest, the loud pop from even the tiniest rock they hit (caused by the high-profile carbon wheels and large-tubed carbon frames) announces their presence just as you notice them whizzing past. And WHIZ they do, taking chances we would avoid, but the hot shower, something to eat and massage is something they're really looking forward to after a long-day in the saddle with a finish like this one!