A “sprinters’ stage” is what they call today’s adventure, that’s Stage 3 from – Reggio Emilia to Rapallo; but the tar has been dragging upwards through the trees for half an hour and we’ve not even see the signage to say that we’re on the GPM.
I wrote that on Monday, as we headed up the category 3 GP Montagna, Passo del Bocco.
Stage 2: Alba – Parma 244km
That’s a lifetime ago and I don’t actually remember much about it – but I’ll try and keep up from here on.
Stage 3:: Reggio Emilia – Rapallo 173km
We decided to miss spectating on the cat 3 Passo del Bocco and head for the cat 4 Madonna Delle Grazie with eight K to go.
We spoke to The Shack’s Boer fast man, Robbie Hunter at the start and he reckoned it wouldn’t be a bunch sprint; the finale was too technical.
If there was going to be a break, we wanted to see it over the climb.
That meant that we drove the descent where poor Wouter met his end; and did so at high speed.
The reason for the haste being that we had the Giro technical motorbikes right behind us; like cowboys in a John Wayne movie shoo-ing the steers down the descent.
It was nasty, very nasty, impossible to find a rhythm as long sweeping curve turned to tightening bend to hairpin.
Heavily wooded, the light played tricks with shadows and that’s perhaps how Wouter came to clip the wall with his left hand pedal – today’s Gazzetta (Wednesday) carries a picture of a chunk out of the concrete block where the pedal hit.
Our thoughts on the finale were jumbled; we saw the winning break form at the top of the Madonna – David Millar would bridge across to it – but more on our minds were the texts and emails coming in about Wouter.
Viktor had called us immediately he saw the crash on Eurosport, live;
“Wouter Weylandt has crashed, it looks bad, I think he might be dead!”
We didn’t want to believe that, unconscious sure, but dead ?
Big, strong, fast, witty Wouter – no !
But he was – it was confirmed at the finish.
It was a very strange feeling to walk the last 200 metres so soon after the finish with no music, no fans, no trace of the race.
Just the bustle of the street caffs and a stunned commentary team on the podium.
It took a long while for the horror to sink in: we weren’t even aware that David Millar had the jersey.
Yesterday morning when I woke up, it all took time to register – I stumbled out to get the Gazzetta; ‘The Giro Weeps’ was the headline.
Matt Conn, my Aussie friend who writes for PEZ was upset by my featuring the Gazzetta front page in my piece, saying that they – and us – shouldn’t run pictures like that.
My feeling is that it’s our job to try to take the readers to Italy; and that was what was on the cover of Italy’s largest sports daily – whether we like it or not.
Stage 4:: Genova Quarto dei Mille – Livorno 216km
We drove the whole corsa yesterday (Tuesday), the parcours we’re mixed but there were a lot of those long, long flat straights which give David Harmon headaches – especially when Sean answers; ‘yess !’ or ‘ahhhmm !’
The crowds were out in force, but subdued – there to pay their respects.
There were numerous Wouter tributes roadside – nice to see.
The kids don’t understand what’s happening so they wave and shout as usual – you have to wave back.
Anything that raised a smile was welcome, yesterday.
There was a climb at the end where we positioned ourselves; the peloton was compatto but judging by the faces there were a lot of guys glad that they weren’t racing.
It’s Wednesday morning now, we had a great sleep last night; the breakfast caff is cheap and the coffee good – the Giro comes back to life again today and I’ll try to keep up with the chat for you.
But the last two days will stay with Jimmy and I for a long, long time.
Wouter Weylandt, rest in peace.