STAGE 09
SANSEPOLCRO / FIRENZE
170km

Weather: Bright in the morning, dark and looming in the mid-morning, light showers in the afternoon, rain in the late afternoon, sun in the evening. Chilly. Not much wind. Dynamic.

Course Overview (according to the Giro d’Italia FIGHT FOR PINK Race Book): Stage through the Apennine Mountains, with two long climbs (Passo della Consuma and Vallombrosa). First part flat, interrupted by a sharp ascent at Anghiari and a short climb at Scheggia. The two long climbs follow Bibbiena (intermediate sprint) and Poppi, after which there is a descent to Pontassieve (intermediate sprint) before the climbs of Vetta le Croci and then Fiesole before reaching Firenze.

Course Overview (according to Ian Gabriel Marshall & Daniel Wakefield Pasley): In the morning, inside the X century A.D. walls of historic Sansepolcro, we woke to church bells and a marching band, which marching band was 20-30 period correct drummers and archers dressed in multi-colored tights, capes, tunics, mushroom-shaped velvet headwear, laced sleeves, ruffled collars, leather boots, etc. The drummers drummed, the archers carried large fully-functional “Central European-style” Renaissance crossbows. They marched through the massive arch-shaped hole in the old town wall into the center of town, through the town square, and out again. The RMB (Renaissance Marching Band) was followed by several black SUVs packed with Italian supermodels and pink Giro merchandise. Every fifteen or so feet the SUVs would stop, one of the girls (pink tank-top, lycra shorts) would climb onto the hood of the car, “raise the roof” (to much applause), shake her pinky at the crowd (this is clearly a “thing,” this pinky thing happens every day and all over the place), and then drive on.

Sign-in was standard BIG-START-STYLE pandemonium; Period Correct Wenches and Maidens, Period Correct Jesters and Woodsman, the Giro Ghiro on a bike this time, a tall tastefully beautiful woman in a long-flowing (pink) gown, thousands of motorcycle polizia, VIPs, etc.

If Southern Italy (Naples, we're talking about you girl!) looks and feels Jersey Shore (and it does!), things here in Middle Italy just got a little Romeo and Juliet.

After a short section of flat, the course heads up a remarkably straight road into a Shakespeare-looking town, down the other side into the mountains, up a big pass, through another Shakespeare town, through a Soviet-era town, up another (bigger) pass, through several more towns, back into the woods, and finally it finishes in Michelangelo Park overlooking the city of Firenze, otherwise known as Florence. Side note: In Italy; Naples is Napoli, Milan is Milano and Florence is Firenze, etc. US American maps are inaccurate, erroneous.

High Points

  1. Learning about Pronotisco from Caley Fretz, the technical editor at VeloNews. Pronostico is essentially Fantasy Football for the journalists, only it’s Fantasy Peloton or Fantasy World Tour or similar.
  2. In the first Romeo town (Anghiari - 5,5k) at the top of the tall, straight hill (443 meters), I introduced myself to a photographer whose socks I admired—yesterday he was wearing over the knee black and white striped socks. I said, "I like your socks." He smiled, then stopped smiling and made the “wait, what did you say?” face. So I repeated, "I like your socks." Then he smiled and said in a thick Italian accent, "I thought you said, 'I lika the way you suck.'" We laughed, he works for Fizik, 9 teams in the Giro are on Fizik saddles.
  3. Watching a Motorcycle Polizia pull over as he was driving through a crowded but noticeably silent section of town, stop, put his feet down, look around dramatically, pause, beep and siren several times in short succession and throw his hands up over and over again to “raise the roof” before driving on, the crowd erupting, his job for now done.
  4. The drunk man on the drawbridge over the moat in front of the castle asking me to photograph his friends that he said were “vagabondas.”
  5. Every time we stop for cappuccinos or take photographs we are asked how much longer “they” will be. We know because of twitter and the time splits in the Guide Book, we feel like we are doing community service, if nothing else we have this purpose. Paul Revere-lite.
  6. The proprietor of a Café Bar in Sansepolcro, dressed in a wool jersey and leather cycling helmet, holding a small dog, saying that he would like Nibali or any Italian to win the Giro.
  7. Many seemingly well-off—as in wealthy—Italian men and women spectating a bicycle race in the rain will cut a plastic bag in half and wear it on their heads, the effect is not too different from a World War II infantry cap or the paper caps fast food employees once wore.
  8. Mario Cippolini made a cameo appearance at the finish, I was reminded of a tee-shirt he wore at Interbike (Bicycle Industry Trade Show in Las Vegas, Nevada) this year, it read: The Champion. His Power. His Tool.
  9. Cadel Evans looks strong. He looks very collected and focused as he finishes. Like he’s in control.
  10. The Giro is sponsored by Filli Orsero, the purveyors of individually wrapped (in plastic, like shrink-wrap-style) bananas. Orsero’s Giro-centric free promotional material is a hat shaped like a SHARK FIN.
  11. On the Autostrade today we came upon a Polizia SUV with its lights on, that’s not uncommon, their lights are always on. As we started to slow from 180k to something more reasonable the Polizia SUV moved from the passing lane to the lane on the right, and waved us past.
  12. After the race organization played Chariots of Fire vs. Star Wars  (see below), they played KISS: I Was Made For Loving You.
  13. On the way walking home from dinner in Florence we stopped by Loggia dei Lanzi or Loggia della Signoria (or Penis Park as I like to call it); a building on a corner of the Piazza della Signoria in Florence consisting of wide arches open to the street, three bays wide and one bay deep. Inside the bays are several statues including but not limited to one gang rape and the beheading of Medusa (Perseus) Side note: The uncircumcised penis to statue ratio is 2:1, which is notable because most statues feature men wresting, at war, doing manual labor etc. - And everybody knows you DON'T do war naked. It was dark and but crowded because a filmed Teatro do Torino Ballet production was being projected onto the wall of a bay behind a Medici lion and Menelaus supporting the body of Patroclus.

Low Points

  1. The race guide should indicate which towns are BIG STARTS and which towns are little starts. And if it does already, we should figure out how to read that section as that section might also have invaluable information about derivations, hotels and alternate routes.
  2. Ninth day listening to GMSV’s (Giro Merchandise Sprinter Van) Pinocheo Magla Rosa sales pitch loop: “La Bandana. La Bandana Rosa. La Bandana Rosa etc.” I hear it at night as I fall asleep, I wake up with it in my head, I hum it when I brush my teeth, sometimes I whistle it.
  3. The drunk man on the drawbridge over the moat in front of the castle asking me to photograph his friends that he said were “vagabondas.”
  4. “Have you any gadget?” What’s in your car, can I have it, what about the Poler hat you’re wearing, yes your well worn camouflage hat that has nothing to do with cycling, can I have it?
  5. Loose change on the dash, apples and cameras on the back seat, several bottles and cans on the floor, on a mountain stage.
  6. I remembered to Shazam the song they play at the finish as the first riders roll in, it’s a cross between Chariots of Fire and Star Wars, and but I got this message: We couldn't find a match. Make sure you hold your device close to the audio source. I will never know.
  7. En route from the finish to our hotel in Florence/Firenze we passed between two cars on a three lane road. Both cars were using their lane (outside and inside, respectively) plus a little bit of the middle lane. This is common here. We beeped as if to say, here we come, we are coming up the middle, please tidy up and limit yourself to your lane. The man in the van on the outside lane was upset. He followed us for several lights, shouting obscenities, gesturing, gesticulating, pontificating (in Italian), etc. Then he threatened to call the Polizia, then he assured us (in Italian) that he was, in fact, going to call the Polizia.

REST DAY: TUNNEL PERSPECTIVE

I needed to call ATT to speak with them about international roaming “overages” and “allowances.” For two hours as we made our way from the middle of the country to the north of the country we were in and out of tunnels so regularly that I was unable to place a call that would likely last for more than five minutes. I’m not complaining as I was NOT in a hurry to speak with a customer care representative, but that’s a lot of tunnels, is my point.

WE ARE IN THE NORTH: THE MOUNTAINS. This report was filed from an Aparment in the town of Fonzaso, Province of Belluno, Italy on the front range of the Dolomites.