The Italians are like any other race, there’s nice folks and not-so-nice folks – but in the main they’re friendly and helpful.
Until, that is, you stick them behind the wheel of a car – any car will do, doesn’t have to be an Audi or a Jag, a clapped out Fiat is fine for acting like a juvenile, aggressive, ignorant, petulant twat.
Stop at the lights and if you haven’t pulled a wheely within 2/1000 second of the lights going green, the guy behind will have an epi.
Trying to turn left and there’s traffic holding you back? no prob – use the other side of the road.
Stopping distance? Do me a favour – proper drivers run less than one metre from the car in front, irrespective of speed.
It’s so bad that it leaves you speechless; we were debating if they have a driving test here – maybe they teach you to drive like a moron?
Puglia was what we expected, dry, dusty, a little run down and pan flat on the coastal plain.
We didn’t know there were so many olive trees in the world until we came here – as far as the eye can see.
The Worlds were in Ostuni in 1976, that’s south of Bari the region’s main town, not far from Bitonto where the stage finished, today.
My amigo Kris reminded me of that and that the track Worlds were on the 250 metre track at Bari.
The GB ladies team trained for it at Meadowbank Velodrome and stayed with Kris’s mum – to save money.
David Brailsford would shake his head.
Maertens won, but a significant ride that day was by Mike Neel, a former hippie out of the San Francisco Bay area.
Neel took a top ten placing in one of the finest fields ever assembled for a pro Worlds – suddenly, those US pros weren’t a joke any more.
If you dig deep into the Pez archive, there’s an interview I did with Mike – it was maybe my first piece for the site?
The finalé in Bitonto was a real sprinters’ gift – long, wide, fast straights.
There was no way that Charly Wegelius and his two partners in crime were going to stay away.
The finish was hectic, it looked like Tyler was too far back but he’s at a different level this year and was mightily impressive in victory.
Julian Dean did a fearless ‘pilot fish’ job for his boss and still took third.
It was great to sit in a bar with a beer and watch the race finish – on Terminillo, Dave had to keep us right on who won and Pete had to do the same at Cava di Tirreni.
I’m actually writing this on Wednesday morning, usually I write a good chunk of the VeloVeritas piece at night, before we go to bed, then get up early and finish it before Martin gets up.
Then he fires it up, before we bolt.
However, we didn’t get to bed until gone midnight last night and this morning we had to be up pronto for an early stage start.
The stage times are set to suit TV and a tea time finish – the longer the stage, the earlier the start.
Today’s is a monster, 262 kilometres up the spine of the boot of Italy from Lucera – where we’re drag racing to, now – and L’Aquila, the town which was badly hit by an earthquake, last year.
Today is a seven hours in the saddle job – you have to respect these professionals.
Nearly there, before I sign off, let’s have a quick look at the Gazzetta, together.
Tyler gets a postage stamp sized picture on the front page but does get a 9 out of 10 for his win – high praise indeed.
“Do you speak GIRO?” asks a headline – reference to the fact that six stage have gone the way of Anglos – Wiggins, Farrar (2), Lloyd, Evans, Goss.
On the stage route, now – best get to work.
‘Bocca lupo’ ?
‘In the mouth of the wolf’ – like ‘break a leg’ to an actor.