Like most good things we do, this was Heather's idea. She was paging through our copy of LA GUIDA DEL GIRO 2016 and noticed Stage 18 passed not too far from our Monferrato hotel. "You should ride out there and see them pass through the feed zone. It's not that far away." She however, would be off hobnobbing with her fellow wizards in Sicily at an academic conference, so it was up to me.
I took a day off the bike after feeling like Vincenzo Nibali on Tuesday, but this ride was pretty much all flat - so what's 45 kms out-and-back? 90 kms, that's what.
Crescentino was the destination, 107 kms into the stage for the Giro boyz, but I'd do only half that and probably at half the speed. But when you're on the flat and in the big-ring, it's tough to just dawdle along, you want to get the big gear turning and look like you know what you're doing.
I was getting tired at the entrance to Crescentino, one of those towns where they have their BENVENUTO sign 6 kms out-of-town. I guess when you're in a car blasting along at 100 kph you need plenty of warning to slow down...something I had no use for.
I started to see groups of cyclists heading the other way. I wondered where they were going? To the feed zone? I thought it was on the way out-of-town as they usually don't want the racers tossing the empty musettes and other trash in the town, but in this case I was way more interested in my own personal RIFORNIMENTO than that of the racers!
On the right I saw Bar Ristorante Giotto 68, right on the road with a shady terrace...and a few empty tables. Even better was the "PRANZO - primo, secondo, contorno, acqua, vino e caffe 10 euro" sign. I parked my bike and got a table in the corner with a perfect view of the road. A risotto with zucchini and salsciccia followed by cold roast beef replenished my gas tank, but how 'bout my legs?
As you can see, I was not the only one who thought this the perfect place to stop. First it was the photo motos, then a few of the official Honda SUV's, then the police motos and finally some of the red Hondas carrying Giro bigwigs. They ran in, slammed down an espresso, used the bathroom or grabbed an ice cream. The race was approaching!
The break was 10 minutes ahead as I was enjoying the last bit of vino bianco.
By the time I had my own espresso and paid the bill (really only 10 euros for everything!) the peloton was coming by, not exactly in hot pursuit of the breakaway riders.
Though the were rather strung out.
Followed by various cars, team cars with bikes or official cars with the race jury, etc. They drive like they're in hot pursuit!
I thought the feed zone was just down the road so I jumped out into the road as the van with the "FINE GARA CICLISTICA" sign went past. But I was soon passed by a LOT of team cars, some with bikes on the roof, but most of them without. I wondered why so many cars were following - out of the race caravan? Then it dawned on me that these were the cars from the feed zone - BEFORE the town! That's why those other cyclists were headed that way, they were going to scoop up all the musettes, bottles and other souvenirs tossed aside.
So much for souvenirs for me today!
I whipped off a U-turn and started for "home" - 45 km away and into a headwind. Sometimes these flat roads are tougher than climbs! I was hoping to get back to see the finale on TV, just in case the Maglia Rosa faltered or Vincenzo Nibali was able to attack. I made it back in plenty of time, despite a stop (for medicinal purposes only) for a can of Coke, but nothing much happened in the battle for the Maglia Rosa...but at least The Shark was up there!
Tomorrow they climb the Colle dell'Agnello, one we've done a time or two. Maybe it's a good idea to drive up to close to where it gets really steep, climb on the bike and find a good viewing spot? Hmmmm.