Well, while many of you anglophools* were watching a florid Charles shuffle to the throne, I was watching the start of the race that would award the prized rose jersey to the latest monarch of the bike. That is to say I was amid the throng at the Grande Partenza of the Giro d’Italia, which this year took place down on the lido of Fossacesia.
Fossacesia is no stranger to cycling. Au contraire! Every weekend, you have to keep a lookout for teams of cyclists while you’re navigating tortuous roads and highways here. Moreover, Fossacesia is the birthplace of the cycling champion Alessandro Fantini, for whom the town’s central piazza is named. Born here in 1932, Fantini died in 1961 after a terrible crash in that year’s Tour of Germany. His ashes were returned here to fanfare just two years ago.
To celebrate the Grande Partenza, Fossacesia was festooned in pink, the signature color of the Giro since 1931 (though the race itself dates to 1909. The color is an homage to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the pink newspaper credited with creating the Giro.). Even school art classes got in on the act.
The race was to start at 1:50 p.m. Come noonish, I joined the people who, like me, were heading down to the marina on foot rather than puzzling over the confusing bus schedule. I ended up following those who took a shortcut through the woods, which proved to be quite a steep descent, rocky and uneven, and at times I built more speed than I was entirely comfortable with. It's not just that I didn't want to injure myself; it's also that I’ve reached an age where strangers might be alarmed to see me careening out of control and try to help me. That's humiliating. (There are no photos, because I was unable to stop to take them.)
What I was picturing as the explosive launch of bikes at the starting gun turned out to be a bit of an anti-climax because the cyclists were released one by one, each preceded by a police motorcycle and followed by a truck carrying spare bikes. I should have known, of course, that that was the drill. But I didn’t. I thought they’d start in herds. It took some of the verve out of the whole thing for me.
I marveled to see that some competitors had their faces almost perfectly parallel to the ground as they pedaled. How on earth could they see the road in front of them with their heads down like that -- and traveling at such a clip? Either they're part bee or they have a sophisticated system of mirrors inside their goggles.
I’d arrived at the lido by about 12:45. Sometime around 3 o'clock, having seen 15 or 20 cyclists take off, I’d had enough. Unfortunately, I was trapped there until 5-ish, when all riders would be safely launched and out of the area and we could all cross SS16 to get back up to the center of town.
What to do but find an open table at one of the beach restaurants? Of course, most of the local folks had come in groups and arranged to make a day of it, nabbing tables early or settling into picnics at the beach. I had no company, so it wasn’t quite so festive for me. Nevertheless, I was glad to park my bones, order a plate of pasta, and relax until I could cross the street and head home.
Alas, relaxation wasn’t in the cards, thanks to a little girl at a nearby table who commanded a very shrill whistle. She sounded that whistle pretty much constantly, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was more than annoying; it actually hurt my ears. Even after she and her family forsook their table, there was no escaping her aural tyranny. She and her gang were hanging around on the nearby beach, the infernal whistle forever dangling from her mouth like a cigar from the lips of some 1930’s hooligan.
All in all, the Giro was something of a letdown for me. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful day on the lido that gave us a first taste of summer, and I’m glad I went. Now I can say, “Been there, got the cappellino.”
*No offense intended. I, too, am something of an anglophool.