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By Lennard Zinn
Dinner started normally enough for me and my family in the San Remo Panrama Hotel. Across the dining room sat the iBanesto.com team, eating huge dinners of pasta, tortillas and steaks. The waiter asked the riders to sign a team photo for his daughter. After obliging, the riders slowly filtered off to bed before the toughest stage of the Giro. The team managers, soigneurs and drivers continued to relax around the dinner table, having dessert and talking, when a guy in normal street clothes came in.
My wife poked me and said, “That guy is flashing his police badge at those Banesto guys.” Other police in casual dress appeared from all directions, bringing into the dining room the riders from their rooms. The racers generally seemed disoriented, and many had their pajamas on.
One cop directing the action from a table saw to it that each rider was accompanied back to his room by another plainclothesman, who later returned with the rider and a plastic bag full of various bottles. This was repeated with each rider. Another cop chased the cook and another iBanesto.com entourage member out of the kitchen and inspected it from top to bottom.
All of the rooms and vehicles of the team were searched, and each time a bag of bottles was brought in, the rider or director with whom it was associated was asked to sign a form, while we looked on, attempting to not be too open-mouthed.
The faces of the iBanesto.com team managers got ever darker and more grim. None protested; they just had the look of a deer standing in the way of bright headlights. The riders, these young men who so proudly ride their bikes and sign autographs for the passionate spectators trying to get at them each day, looked like scared teenagers. These riders, being mostly Spanish, were also dealing with police in a foreign language far away from home and had no idea what kind of trouble they were in.
We felt as if we were in a Hollywood movie. This started at 9:30 p.m., and it took a couple of hours for the riders to be questioned and sent back to bed. But the team directors were kept up, and the operation was not completed with this team until 5 a.m. And they thoughtthe next day’s stage was going to be tough! It couldn’t have been much tougher than this. (Editor’s Note: Stage 18 was subsequently cancelled.)
A similar action of about 10 policemen per team was taking place simultaneously all over San Remo. The police at our hotel were from Florence and Padua. Our waiter, who knew the local cops in San Remo, said none of them had come. Indeed, it appeared that the entire operation had been conducted without the knowledge of local police.
It was a dinner my family and I will never forget.