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Giro d'Italia

Giro: What if they put on a stage and nobody came?

Here in Vinadio, where the most difficult and perhaps most beautiful stage of the Giro was to finish, the mood is somber. The little girls proudly dressed in their bright course marshal’s vests are walking around perplexed, not understanding the explanation of why the riders won’t be coming through and everyone is leaving. People are descending from the mountain in droves – the sheer number of them that had made the trip up this remote, high and narrow road is mind-boggling – and without getting to see any of what they came for. It was heart-wrenching to see the effort that this small

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By Lennard Zinn

All dressed up and no race to marshal.

All dressed up and no race to marshal.

Photo: Lennard Zinn

Here in Vinadio, where the most difficult and perhaps most beautiful stage of the Giro was to finish, the mood is somber.

The little girls proudly dressed in their bright course marshal’s vests are walking around perplexed, not understanding the explanation of why the riders won’t be coming through and everyone is leaving.

There isn't much to promote or sell here today.

There isn’t much to promote or sell here today.

Photo: Lennard Zinn

People are descending from the mountain in droves – the sheer number of them that had made the trip up this remote, high and narrow road is mind-boggling – and without getting to see any of what they came for.

It was heart-wrenching to see the effort that this small town had gone to going unrequited. School children had made decorations, every business and club had made ornate pink displays, the whole town had volunteered to help with parking, marshalling and other jobs.

Elderly people had chartered buses from far away and brought long tables with beautiful tablecloths and decorations and feasts that had spent days preparing.

The town had printed book-sized bound programs of the race, and the Sant’ Anna di Vinadio brand bottled water had opened and reorganized its immense warehouse to house the offices and press conferences of the Giro for the day, along with bringing in countless phone lines for journalists to use.

Enough food to feed an army sat on long tables in the warehouse, waiting for the press and Giro VIPs who descend on the Press Room following every stage. Women patiently fanned away the flies who sensed a feast in the making.

Parties were planned for nightfall, everything was in place for a wonderful time. And, of course, fans had patiently waited in line, slowly driving up the passes where they had camped out overnight, spending hours painting the names of their heroes on the roads and putting up signs and banners.

People went to a lot of trouble all over Vinadio to welcome the Giro.

People went to a lot of trouble all over Vinadio to welcome the Giro.

Photo: Lennard Zinn

One disillusioned spectator told me, “You have no idea how big this is for us. It is like your Super Bowl being stopped at halftime and all the fans sent home while they search the lockers and buses of the biggest football stars in America.”

Another moaned, “If in 2002 they held a stage over the Colle de Fauniera and the Sant’ Anna di Vinadio, both mountains would be deserted. Today there are tens of thousands up there. And all of them have taken two days off of work and planned their week around this. I came 350 kilometers to be here, and now I can’t even at least ride up the pass. They closed the road even to bikes in order to bring down all of the material from the Giro and allow everyone to drive, ride and walk down.”

Nobody will be at today's stage-winner press conference

Nobody will be at today’s stage-winner press conference

Photo: Lennard Zinn

When an elderly man asked my wife at lunch when the riders would be coming through, it looked like he was going to cry when she told him the news that they would not be.

“Soccer is much dirtier than cycling, but they never do this with soccer players,” said one cycling appassionato. Another added, “If this happened in soccer, the fans would tear the stadium down!” But one thing you can say about these cycling fans is how polite they are. They do not get rowdy and break things. They just sigh, hug each other, pack up their stuff and slowly leave, disappointed. One said to me, “It’s not so bad, having to be stuck in a beautiful place like this in the mountains on a beautiful, sunny day.”

What a world this would be if all disappointed sports fans behaved in a like manner.

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