Giro d'Italia

iamTedKing: Life in a Bubble

Bike races are a circus-like spectacle best witnessed firsthand. This is especially apparent at a race the size, caliber and prestige of the Giro d'Italia. Obviously the cyclists whizzing by at breathtaking speed and the unique dynamics of the races themselves are fascinating, but to experience the race caravan is like taking a stroll through the Vegas strip.

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Life in the peloton is very public ... in an isolated sort of way.

Life in the peloton is very public … in an isolated sort of way.

Photo: Agence France Presse

Bike races are a circus-like spectacle best witnessed firsthand. This is especially apparent at a race the size, caliber and prestige of the Giro d’Italia.

Obviously the cyclists whizzing by at breathtaking speed and the unique dynamics of the races themselves are fascinating, but to experience the race caravan is like taking a stroll through the Vegas strip.

For those unfamiliar with the race caravan, it is the collection of vehicles in front and behind the cyclists in a race. There certainly is no shortage of cars here at the Giro, since the front portion of the caravan is comprised of dozens upon dozens of publicity vehicles emblazoned in bright advertisements, with music blasting, and models precariously hanging out of the windows tossing out hats, noisemakers, key chains, and other wacky stuff. Additional parts of this convoy include police cars and motorcycles, neutral support cars with extra wheels and bikes awaiting for a breakaway sneaks up the road, photographers on the back of even more motorcycles, race marshals, as well as the lead commissaire car. And that’s just the front of the caravan.

Behind us each team has two support cars with everything we might need in a race from food to raincoats to extra bikes and wheels. Additionally, there are at least two medical cars, more race commissaires, more race marshals, more photographers, more police, more neutral support vehicles, ambulances, a broom wagon and probably a whole bunch of other cars that I’m forgetting. With horns honking, tires squealing, and at times no shortage of shouting, seeing the caravan cruise by is nothing short of entertainment.

That is a really long winded way to say that the race caravan acts effectively as a buffer between the dangers of open traffic and the cyclists. While the dynamics of races each vary from one to the next ? successful breakaway, unsuccessful breakaway, bunch sprint, mountain finish, etc. ? it allows us cyclists peace of mind knowing this bubble, so to speak, surrounds us during each race.

There’s another type of bubble that, for soon to be obvious reasons, I’ve dubbed the “Stage Race Bubble of Naiveté.” By this I’m referring to the fact that for each day this entire week I have not know what day it is. Moreover, I rarely know what city I’m in at any given time, I have absolutely no idea what’s happening in the world right now, and I certainly have no clue what the stock market has been up to (or down to, hardy har har) lately. Yes friends, for better or worse, I’m oblivious to the outside world right now.

While I won’t speak on behalf of the entire Giro peloton, I can safely say that most of my teammates and I float around in this bubble of cluelessness to the outside world. Now on one hand I can see this drawing some criticism for a handful of reasons. For one, you might find fault with me spending time in these wonderfully historic locations, yet remaining uneducated about my surroundings. Or perhaps you’ll claim that it is sheer ignorance to turn my head to the happenings of the world.

To both of these and any other faults you might have, I have just one reply:You try racing the Giro!

Not only is this race extraordinarily physically taxing, it’s equally draining from a mental standpoint. Nowhere in our fully occupied daily routine is there a time slot dedicated to catching up on the news. And there is most certainly no free minute ? nor the energy ? assigned to sightseeing. We do often flip the television on, but usually it merely serves as background noise. Of course, that’s partially due to my Ukrainian roommate, Volodi, who has seniority with the remote and it therefore either broadcasts Italian talk shows or Russian war movies, but that’s missing the point. We deserve a bit of slack for not staying up-to-date on the latest news of the week and we appreciate this leeway.

After a while, though, living in the bubble gets old. Just as these tours and life on the road tends to wear on me, where dinner isn’t guaranteed to be pasta, and where I am oblivious to the world around me, there is something equally refreshing to wake up in my own bed, brew up a piping got cup of coffee, and casually receive a smattering of news as I flip between watching TV, reading the newspaper, and surfing the web. Ahh, that is the life.

The preceding was typed on a BlackBerry. My fingers now hurt.


Editor’s Note: This year Ted King is making his professional European racing debut with the upstart Cervélo TestTeam. While first getting a taste for the European peloton with the U.S. espoir national team in 2005, King returned to the United States for three successful years of domestic pro racing. King, 26, is a native of New Hampshire and despite his affinity for hearty servings of coffee, he is slowly adapting to the smaller European portions. Slowly. His diaries will appear on VeloNews.com every few days during the Giro, alternating with diaries by Columbia-Highroad’s Michael Barry. When he’s not racing the Giro, you can follow Ted at www.Cervelo.com/team and www.iamTedKing.MissingSaddle.com. For those of you content with 140 characters or less, you can also track his activities at www.twitter.com/iamtedking.