Giro d’Italia 2007. It’s 05.00 hours, Tuesday, in the Tyrrhenian Sea, somewhere west of Civitavecchia – that’s the sea port for Rome.
“An ugly and forgettable port that’s best avoided” according to the ‘Rough Guide to Italy’, so we won’t be lingering here!
The Motor Vessel Clodia is rolling a wee bit and I think I’ve done my sleeping for the night; but yes, we caught the ferry. There are a lot of Giro personnel, wait for it, ‘in the same boat as us’ – sorry, in having been unable to get aboard one of the three ferries chartered by the race organisation.
Clusters of sad people, with pink Giro passes round their necks who huddle in corners of the bar. The trouble with this ferry is that Rome is 300 kilometres to the north of Salerno and as soon as we leave our sea-going Alton Towers, we’ll have to drive all the way down there.
Sardinia spoils you. Every morning, when you open the curtains it’s sunny and there’s a blue sky – I haven’t seen a cloud for days. There are plenty of clouds in the sky that’s pitching outside our porthole now though.
Yesterday was a hectic one, we were up early for breakfast, but there were two sets of people in the hotel’s tiny dining room, so we had to go for a pre-breakfast walk until the crush died down. Breakfast comprised things in little cellophane packages, I couldn’t face any of it, but the coffee was good.
Barumini, where the stage started, was just a spot on the map rather than a place. There are famous, ancient ruins there, but not much else.
It took a bit of finding, but eventually we saw the race ambulances and tucked-in behind them.
It was damn hot again and before the stage the riders sat in their nice air-conned buses whilst we sweltered outside and gazed in awe at the publicity girls, like Charly Wegelius said: “they’re definitely better-looking this year, and there are more of them!”
We coaxed Charly, Steve Cummings and Brett Lancaster out of their buses for a chat and some banter. I’ve hardly actually seen anything I’ve written on the site this trip, just the way things have worked-out.
Danilo Di Luca emerged from the Liquigas bus when we were talking to Charly, and ‘The Killer’ really does suit pink!
By the time we had spoken to those three, there was a steady stream of riders heading up to the start area to sign-on, one of them was Dario Cioni. I interviewed him at the start of the Giro last year and did telephone interviews with him throughout that race and then in the Vuelta.
He’s a big, strong boy and has an Italian TT title and a fourth place on GC in the Giro to his credit. And – as David Duffield never tires of telling us – he was born in Reading. I can be even more boring and tell you that he has relatives in Pitlochry. His season wasn’t the best last year, but he rode a very solid Vuelta, getting in some good moves but not winning a stage. Strong Vuelta or not, he didn’t do enough to keep his place at Liquigas and he’s with Predictor/Lotto this season.
The fact that Liquigas let a rider like Cioni go, says a lot about Charly Wegelius’ stature within the team; a very under-rated rider in the UK. Dario is always very analytical about what’s happening and his English is better than mine.
Before the stage we had made a list of the guys we wanted to talk to, the only one left was Nicolas Roche and we caught-up with him in the ‘Giro Village’, sheltering from the sun. It’s 20 years since his Paw pulled-off his fabulous Giro/Tour/Worlds treble, and his son is a chip off the old block – he launched a strong last kilometre attack on the stage yesterday, getting some good prime-time TV for his sponsor.
We asked him about his uncle, Lawrence Roche who was a Carrera pro back in the early 90’s and a really nice guy. Apparently he’s in real estate in Spain now, but texts his nephew regularly on the eve of big races to offer encouragement.
The stage rolled out among the usual chaos and as soon as we had seen it off we headed for Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia. Dave rattled the wee Peugeot south as I clicked-away at my copy on the BlackBerry.
We didn’t see much of the city because we had a number of missions to accomplish. First-up was to book a ferry; just to make matters interesting the ferry operators had moved from the ferry terminal to a temporary office – which was, of course, shut until 3.30.
Duly ticketed-up, it was time to abandon the Hertz car, we tried to get them to change our booking for our mainland car to Civitavecchia from Salerno, but no-dice. Fortunately the race permanence wasn’t far away and the wi-fi was perfect so we sorted things out on the Hertz helpline.
There was just time to edit some photos, catch the last 10k of the stage on the monitor and then hobble across to the ferry dodging the tail-end stage finishers. Petacchi won, so at least everyone was in a good mood.
Again, there was no time for VeloVeritas pics, but I promise that once Dave has hustled whatever automotive atrocity Hertz serve up down to Salerno, we’ll get things illustrated for you.
It’s the rest day today, but not for us, and a mountain top finish tomorrow – braw!