It’s 06.30 on Monday morning and we’re in Macomer, Tempio Pausania, Sardinia. It’s going to be another beautiful day here at the Giro d’Italia 2007; there’s not a cloud in the sky and the sun has begun its climb.
Yesterday was one of those days that makes you realise, you only think you know about pro bike racing.
The mission today was to drive the whole 205 kilometre stage, describing it to the readers in words and pictures. You can read the article here.
We took a bit of a wrong turning coming out of Olbia but soon recovered our bearings to get on the road to the start town of Tempio Pausania, set in the northern hills.
It was a nice drive, quiet Sunday morning roads and all around the strikiing rock formations which the island is famous for. We didn’t linger in the town, just to take a snap or two, zero the trip meter and purchase, ‘even dearer than home’ fuel .
We drove every metre of the route: the start was tough, climbing immediately then rolling and snaking across a high plateau before droppimg to the sea – through what could have been Scottish countryside – and long rolling straights across coastal plains.
The thing that struck us was the very low numbers of fans at the roadside. I drove a complete Tour stage last year and the crowds, hours before the race was due, were incredible. Sardinia isn’t a cycling hotbed though and it’s not the simplest place for the tifosi to reach – or has the Basso nonsense disillusioned folk? We’ll know better once we return to the mainland.
After the beach town of Alghero, with around 70 K or so to go, the road began to climb, a tough ascent with varying gradients and tight hairpins. There was a dip in the middle but a final hard three kilometre battle to the ‘king of the mountains’ line.
There was a snaking road over a high plateau before the technical descent on tar so warm the smell of it was in your nostrils.
Off the descent was another smaller climb then a long dangerous hair-pinned drop to the finish town of Bosta.
There was a twist in the tale though; a 10 kilometre loop out through challenging countryside, complete with nasty 2.5 K climb and horrible diagonal downhill traverse of a railway line. The finish was flat and fast however.
We thought that it would definitely split on the big climb and the sprinters would be shelled; the TV monitors in the permanence told a different story however and the huge bunch breasted the summit virtually intact in pursuit of a break of six.
When you say that the likes of McEwen or Petacchi can’t climb, that’s a relative statement; they can’t live with Simoni or Cunego dancing up some Alpine giant – but believe us, they can climb just fine!
I was too busy stabbing-away at my word processor to see much of the action but I paused to watch McEwen use the Milram lead-out machine to full advantage, beating Bettini and Petacchi to the line. A result I just could not imagine whilst driving the course.
The wi-fi in the press room is the usual rip-off, 18 euros/day and the signal wasn’t great; “Sir, many people send photos, so is a bit slow just now.”
Eventually I got all my stuff away, no time for VeloVeritas pics though – the wi-fi crashed again and all my patience was gone by then. Besides, there were still digs to find.
Di Luca was happy though, he snaffled the maglia rosa from team mate Gasparotto on points after mixing it with the madmen in the finish straight.
We drove for around 40 minutes to Macomer and found a tiny hotel straight away, with a cracking restaurant around the corner.
It’s 07.30, Dave has stopped snoring and is now ranting about the plumbing, so it’s time to go.
We have a little logistics problem to deal with today – there’s a ferry back to the mainland after the race and we’re not booked on it.
Watch this space!