Sol y sombra‘ say the Spanish, ‘sunshine and shade.’

The ‘sunshine’ was the Primavera; a race I’ve been obsessed with ever since I was a young Merckx fan, waiting for my ‘Comic’ on a 70’s Friday – Thursday if I was very lucky.

Sol y sombra
Richard Russell.

The ‘sombra’ was Richard’s dad’s funeral; although maybe it wasn’t ‘shade,’ as Bill Brockie, the former minister and CTC stalwart who managed proceedings so well, explained to us; ‘this is a celebration.’

I didn’t know Richard well, but judging by the turn out at the Mortonhall and the anecdotes that were related about him, he was a cool dude.

I stayed behind to have a wee look at his bike, despite the fact that he was 80 years-old, this was no vintage ‘scrapper’ – over-size ali, hiddenset a-head, concealed gear cables, SPD’s, double rings (Viktor would approve – he has a phobia about triple chainsets) – and carbon cranks.

A man who moved with the times; but I had to smile when I saw the saddle which topped off the little black gem – someone will no doubt write in to correct me, but I think it was a Brooks ‘Swallow’ or ‘Cutaway,’ well battle scarred and which, as Martin said; ‘has seen a few miles!

He’d go with the changes if they were the right ones; but there was no need for fancy carbon and titanium saddles when he still he had his Old Faithful Brooks. I wish I’d known him better.

* * *

Milan- San Remo; what a race, epic, whoever thought of calling them ‘monuments’ got it right.

The first time I saw the race, it was the top of the Poggio, the speed they came over the summit at was crazy – throwing themselves into the descent, bumping off the bottom of the Poggio for the deranged, flat, 60 kph run-in through the streets of the lovely old city.

Freire won that one too, the last time it finished on the Via Roma – they should get it back there.

Sol y sombra
Oscar makes it three.

We ran on Thursday based on the bookies odds for the race – the men with the soft hats had four of the first five finisher down as favourites; it’s hard to beat them.

Fourth placed Sasha Modolo would have been on long odds though – but maybe not to his fellow pros who watched him get top tens in Tirreno as a neo-pro; maybe not Sagan-impressive but nonetheless excellent results for Italy’s top U23 rider in 2009.

If you watch the replays, you’ll observe that Modolo was actually making ground rapidly on Ale Jet and just missed the podium.

Sol y sombra
A year ago Modolo, riding for A.S.D. G.S. Zalf Desiree Fior, was winning the Gran Premio della Liberazione ahead of Michael Mathews.

Freire – has the gift of positioning sense that only the top sprinters have; he knew where to be, exactly when to go and was pulling away from Boonen at the line.

Sol y sombra
The early break of Fabrice Piemontesi (Androni Giocattoli), Aristide Ratti (Carmiooro NGC) and, Diego Caccia (ISD — Neri) got as much as 22 minutes, but they needed twice that to stand a chance. Pic©Ale Federico.

Tomeke can’t be unhappy, he’s not as ultimately quick as he used to be, but to beat the likes of Petacchi and Bennati must bode well for the cobbled classics.

Sol y sombra
Tom Boonen bombs off the Poggio. Pic©Sirotti.

Petacchi looked terrific on the climbs; when I heard that he’d crashed in training, I thought it was over for him – sprinters’ speed is as much in their head as their legs – but the Italians all dig deep for this one.

Just like every Belgian laddie dreams of winning Flanders, the Italians fantasise about the view from the podium in San Remo; when The Jet has slept on it, he won’t be too unhappy with third.

Sol y sombra
Gilbert had a go on the Poggio, but left it a little late on the climb. Pic :© Ale Federico.

Bennati – I said that he didn’t have the ‘grinta’ to win; I don’t know if he’d have won, but he’d certainly have been closer if Nibali hadn’t been trying to play Mission Impossible solo attack games on the Poggio descent and run-in.

He should have been working for Benna; as it was, Daniel Oss rode himself into the ground but died further from the line than Bennati could handle – as soon as Benna went I thought, ‘it’s too early!’

Those Liquigas ‘too many chiefs’ problems seem to be unresolved.

Sol y sombra
Ivanov takes up the chase for Pippo©Ale Federico.

Today (Sunday) I spoke to Simon Clarke (ISD & Australia) and Brent Bookwalter (BMC & USA); I know Simon from his amateur six day racer days – he would have been with the leaders in San Remo, had he not crashed in the finale on the coast road, the energy he burned up to get back on would have seen him safely over the Poggio.

But as it was, he was shelled with a kilometre to go to the top.

Sol y sombra
Brent Bookwalter rode for BMC last year too.
Sol y sombra
Six years ago, Simon Clarke (l) was part of the Aussie Junior World Champion Team Pursuit squad. (Others are Michael Ford, Matt Goss, and Miles Olman, Mitch Docker in the middle).

Bookwalter crashed too, hitting one of those little cones they have around traffic islands and landing hard on unforgiving Italian tar – no placing for him, just a ride to the finish in the team car.

What struck me about both men was the respect in their voice when talking about the race – even though they are first Primavera riders, they’re in no doubt about the significance of the ‘Classicissimo.’

Sol y sombra
The early part of the race had filthy conditions. Pic©Ale Federico.

Last words go to Cav, interviewed by Belgian TV:

“It was hard, not just for me, but for my team.

“On the Turchino I had spokes ripped out of my wheel and had to chase back, then there was the crash in the tunnel which held us up.

“We chased and chased to get back on the descent – I’m a good descender and we got back up through the field to the second group.

“We were coming back on la Manie where I crashed on the descent, but eventually we got back to the front group.

“On the Cipressa – the hardest part – same as last year, I lagged a little and I couldn’t make it back. I did better than I imagined and I’m pleased for Oscar.”

The interviewer asked; ‘And will we see you back to win year, Mark?

Cav’s next statement was delivered with steely determination;

“Yeah, hopefully in the world champion’s jersey.”

Whoever wins, I’ll be there. This year, it was painful not to be.

ciao, ciao.