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The Torqued Wrench: Through the Peugeot window

The Torqued Wrench is a look inside the mind of VeloNews.com tech writer Caley Fretz. Every other week he’ll tackle the rumors, trends, innovations, and underpinnings of the tech world — or something else entirely. You can submit questions to TorquedWrench@competitorgroup.com. Be sure to check out Caley’s previous columns

Six thousand, two hundred and sixty-five kilometers, says the dashboard on our green Peugeot Partner Tepee, a car we have grown to both cherish and despise.

Slowly it has filled with scraps of the Giro train it boarded in Verona two weeks ago: bits of start lists and classification sheets; a few free water bottles handed out by local tourist boards; three empty bags of Pepperidge Farm double chocolate chip cookies (sure to be four after Friday’s long transfer). The back seats are filling up, without time to clean or even care in the midst of Giro madness.

The innards of our Peugeot are something of a fun-house mirror of Italy outside, and a metaphor for Giro travel itself. Dirty at times, lacking order and organization at others, sometimes poorly built, but generally quite reliable and full of beauty where it matters most.

Sure, you can’t lock the doors without the little key beeper thing, the paneling inside seems ready to disintegrate and the gearbox already despises fourth. But that built-in iPhone jack, allowing us to avoid the terrors of Italian pop radio, and the automatic hill-start brake in this country apparently devoid of flat roads — these are things of beauty. It’s always best to focus on the beauty.

For two years now – many more for my colleague Andy Hood – Italy has been seen through a car window. We’ve eaten our way through the nation’s highway AutoGrills, Panini in one hand a cappuccino in the other. We’ve exited the Autostrade, sworn at ourselves for our poor navigational skills, and pulled U-turns before reaching the tollbooth.

We’ve blindly followed the little pink signs that point our way through start and finish towns to press parking kilometers away from the actual press room, hoping beyond hope that the navette driver won’t decide to take a coffee break and leave us stranded.

We’ve fought with Italian police over parking spaces close to the finish, inevitably being sent sulking away to the end of a long row of cars that all had the same idea. When no police are near, we are the Leonardo Da Vinci of inventing parking spots, creatively driving up forested hills in the woods, on sidewalks in town, down the wrong way on one-way streets. With our pink and green press car stickers, we feel invincible. (We are not.)

The daily schedule is always subject to change — skipping a start here, or a finish there, depending on logistics. Mornings start slowly, barely making the hotel breakfast around 9, perhaps getting out for a short ride in whatever town we’ve found ourselves.
More inner beauty found in the Partner Tepee: It’s big enough to fit a bike. Ride until lost, ask Garmin to get you home.

The real day begins an hour before the start, when team busses arrive and sign-in begins. Start times can range from before 11 to after 2.

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