Editor’s note: Giant-Alpecin’s Chad Haga will be providing regular updates from the Giro d’Italia this May.
A probably fictional meeting of the Giro d’Italia organizers, date and location unknown:
“Alright, guys, we’re here to determine the perfect start for the next Giro. Last year was in Ireland, but for 2015 I want to start in Italy with a quintessentially Italian Grande Partenza. What have you got?”
“I’ve got an idea, but it’s too crazy. I probably shouldn’t even say it.”
Interest piqued, the table grew smaller as all leaned in, anticipating the next words to be whispered.
“You know how everyone hates when cyclists are racing along the bike path, buzzing pedestrians?” he began.
“Sure,” they answered dismissively, “but what does that have to do with the Giro?”
“Well, what if we make that an event? The Grande Partenza, racing along a bike path! A time trial, no less!”
With some skepticism, a few heads nodded.
Another chimed in, “What about a team time trial? That would be a true spectacle!”
The boss pensively admitted that he liked the idea, thoughtfully stirring sugar into his espresso. “It feels like it’s missing one key element, though, something to make this event really stand out.”
After a pregnant silence, an eavesdropper from a nearby table proffered, “The Sanremo bike path has tunnels …”
“TUNNELS!” they cheered.
“It’s perfect,” the boss confirmed. He voiced one final question, “Should the tunnels be well-lit?”
The sound of laughter and clinking glasses rose into the calm night air.
That’s the story I concocted after we completed our first ride of the stage 1 race course yesterday. We had arrived at the start to learn that there is a distinct difference between “open to recon” and “closed for recon.” There we were, nine riders decked out in our race gear, looking for any length of path clear enough to even approach race speeds and hone our technique. It was as busy as, well, a seaside bike path on a Friday afternoon. Our second recon attempt was more successful, as we put the team car ahead of us as a sort of plow and were able to get in some decent practice.
Early this afternoon, all of the teams got in a true practice run on the fully closed and slightly-better-lit course. Even though there weren’t many turns, it was crucial to see what they looked like after the fencing had been put up. We also found that the bike path becomes much wider when cleared of all those pesky pedestrians.
The warmup, final preparations, and bike checks all went too quickly, and I suddenly found myself on the start ramp for the Giro d’Italia. I ignored my jittery nerves and just reminded myself that it’s a bike race and I know what to do. I left my jitters on the start ramp and we set to work on the fastest bike-path ride we’ll likely ever experience.
Twenty minutes and change later, we finished proud of our effort. In the end it was only good enough for a disappointing 17th place, but the time gaps were small. We lost nearly two minutes to Orica in the Romandie TTT just weeks ago, and today’s deficit was only 49 seconds.
We enjoyed our second coastal ride of the day on the way back to the hotel, this one much more pleasant than the first. I’ll take the much more uplifting mindset of “only 20 stages left,” as thinking about the remaining kilometers is too disheartening.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check Strava and see if I managed to snag any segments. Those bike-path speed demons are never gonna take them back!