It’s Giro time again! Getting to Venaria Reale wasn’t too bad – Edinburgh to Malpensa Airport in Milan on Easyjet; pick up the hire car and head west towards Torino.
We decided that rather than brave Friday night rush hour traffic, we’d stay in Chivasso, around 20 K from Torino.
A wise decision, Torino was overflowing with ‘Alpini’ – Italian mountain troops, past and present – for their annual ‘beano.’
The day after the TTT the Gazzetta reckoned that there were one million people on the streets of the city – we believe it.
Finding the finish wasn’t easy due to the sheer volume of traffic and drunk people on the streets – and bear in mind that this was the morning.
‘Arrivo’ duly located, we struck out for the ‘Quartiertappa’ – race HQ.
That was a tad George A. Romero-ish; but instead of zombies taking over the world, it was old guys with funny hats and a lust for beer and red wine instead of blood.
We missed the entrance for the Quartiertappa at our first attempt but eventually stumbled in to the press room or ‘hut’ as Jim has christened it before they had set up to dish out the credentials.
For once in our lives we waited patiently and were rewarded with our neck passes, stickers for the car, a race bible and – a photographers’ bib.
This gives me access inside the barriers at stage finishes – the only thing is that when the other photogs see my paltry :£100 second hand lense, I’ll be rumbled.
Next up was to head all the way back across town to the start in Venaria Reale which is on the northern fringe of the city.
Torino is a big city and the traffic is horrendous – but we got there eventually.
One of the joys of Italy is the standard of the coffee; go in to the smallest, dingiest bar or caff and you’ll still get a smooth, perfect coffee that you could only dream about in Scotland.
Duly fortified with a cappuccino and a quick scan at the Gazzetta we headed out into the ever growing throng to get to work.
The angle for the day was to see how the favourites were preparing – Contador, Nibali, Menchov, Scarponi, Rodriguez and Kreuziger.
As might be expected, the ‘old hands’ like Scarponi, Menchov and Contador were relaxed and getting on with the job.
But Kreuziger in particular looked very stressed.
The buses were set up in the narrow streets of the town and the crowds around them built steadily as the day went on.
The biggest crowds were around the Lampre, Saxo and Liquigas buses; whilst teams like Euskaltel and Geox were practically ignored.
The start was in a beautiful old courtyard but from there on was a ‘boulevard blast’ into the city, long straights but with a few tricky corners and tram lines.
We’d hoped to follow a team, but the race organisation wouldn’t allow it – only team and race organisation vehicles were to be seen on the corsa.
We settled for watching the race at half distance, on a little rise at the end of a long straight.
The winning HTC team’s speed for the 19.3 K was in excess of 55 kph – that says it all really.
Just on visual you could see that Cav and his boys were moving faster: we had them ten seconds clear.
Teams like AG2R and Euskaltel who were off the pace seemed pedestrian in comparison.