Milano-San Remo – on The Poggio

9DF000F2-5B66-4AB6-99C8-B7280FDCCFFBGot up nice and early to yet another beautiful day. Had the usual cup of tea in the campervan, then headed to the cafe for a cappuccino. The view from our outside table was incredible – sparkling blue water with San Remo in the distance.
We walked around the town a bit, finding a small store for some bread and tomatoes. At one point I saw a cat lying on a bench – I actually watched for a few moments to make sure it was breathing and I hadn’t just taken a photo of a dead cat.
As the day progressed more and more cyclists were coming up the hill and the town was getting more and more crowded. The Poggio is a super important place in a super important race – the climb to the town isn’t very steep or long, although it is all switchbacks – the issue is that it’s the longest one-day race of the year and by the time they get to the top the racers have already covered over 300 km.
I popped into the wine store (the one where they have hoses coming out of the walls to fill your bottles from) and was asked if I wanted to try some. Did I say No? Ok – trick question – of course I didn’t. I expected to get a small sample of 3 or 4 wines, but was poured a whole glass of one, then sat down at the table with two italian gentlemen who chatted with me.
The store had put up a display of cycling memorabilia and one of the fellows was in several of the photos signed by famous Italian racers. He was a masseuse to many of the racers from twenty and thirty years ago, and it was very interesting talking with them.
Just below the cafe there’s a scallop-shell marking for the Camino di Santiago – boy old saint James sure got around!
We got a spectacular spot to watch from – just around the very sharp corner at the top of the climb, and were they ever moving fast.
As usual I didn’t really know who was passing until I looked at my photos later – turns out that Sagan was in second place at that time, followed shortly by Valverde and Alaphillipe.
As soon as they’d all passed masses of us rushed into the cafe to watch the final few km on tv – we were very pleased to see Alaphillipe victorious, with Sagan coming fourth.
As usual folks starting leaving within seconds – we went back to the campervan for a bit, before Colin headed back to the cafe to get some take-out lasagne. No luck – they’d been so busy they were out of food so we had to make do with scrambled eggs and ham.

I could hear some music playing at the other cafe/bar so walked up there to see what was happening – turns out not much. There was a DJ, but the crowd was mostly families with kids, etc. Also he didn’t have a CD player so couldn’t even listen to the Locos CD I’d brought with me – oh well, worldwide stardom will have to wait.

To The Poggio

Took it kind of easy the last couple of days – had a fierce wind storm one day that blew some of the laundry off the fence where it was drying, despite the fact that it was well pegged down.
The full moon was pretty spectacular (although my photos of it were not), and Spring has finally arrived. Colin and I both got our hair cut at the local shop in Papiano – same nice fellow. I think I came away with shorter hair than Colin did, but at least it’ll be easy to take care of.

We got away on Friday morning nice and early, and it was a good thing. We hit a lot of road works – which is great, because the roads really need help – and witnessed the usual crazy drivers. I don’t know why I’m still surprised when I see a bone-headed move, or when we pass a car – or large truck – that’s been driving eratically and see that they’re on their phone, or worse yet texting.
As we were passed at one point by a Ferrari I had the thought that Italy is the land of the best coffee, the most beautiful cars, and the worst roads and drivers. As we neared Genova we realized we might have a problem with the GPS – the campervan’s system isn’t quite up-to-date and didn’t know about the overpass that collapsed and it was the one we were meant to be on. There were pitifully few signs about what road to follow instead, and we ended up using the other GPS on Colin’s phone as well – although it was up-to-date about roads, etc, it didn’t know how large the campervan was and led us down some pretty narrow roads in our effort to get on the correct highway. In the end we made it, after taking the ‘scenic’ route through the city, which actually was quite nice.
We arrived on the Poggio just after 5, and were surprised by the number of cars and campervans already in the parking area at the top. Colin needed the guidance of two very helpful Italian fellows to negotiate a way through the tightly-packed crowd of vehicles to a space. I was no help at all – I jumped out and watched the maneuvering from afar.

Once we were settled we walked just down and over to the cafe, where we had a drink (or two) and ate free nibblies.

Sea to Sea ITT

186D51CC-DDE8-48CB-885D-6843F3BDB4B0The weather was chilly and grey as I took Mo for her morning walk – being only a block from the seaside that’s where we headed. Many of the buildings have lovely murals painted on them, almost all showing scenes of the fishing life.
Just around the corner from where we were parked in the campervan was another camper that made Colin’s seem like the Hilton. I think it was taped together in places and Colin said there was a man inside without much clothing on – perhaps he was drying everything he had at the same time.
There are many places that have plaques describing the history of the area, and luckily they are in both Italian and English.
The walk to the race site wasn’t far, and they already have the roads closed off with barriers and policemen, including bicycle cops. The road was lined with beautiful old houses, apparently built in the mid-1800’s for the owners of the fishing fleets and other rich folks.
At one point as we passed a building we noticed a couple of cats, and along the wall were a bunch of food dishes. When we passed the same place later there were 10 or 12 cats – it’s nice to see that people are feeding the strays. We speculated that they might get a lot of leftovers from the fish market just down the road.

We walked all the way to the end of a smaller road that’s lined with stalls, all of which have great photos or murals. The road ends at the sea, and there’s a really good statue/memorial to fishermen.
There were several different areas where the team buses were parked and we were free to wander all around and watch as some of the racers warmed up or went out to try the course – it’s the Individual Time Trial, and is the last stage of the race.
There was a crowd gathered outside the Quick-Step bus waiting for Alaphillipe to return from his warmup ride and give interviews – apparently he was a little late but that didn’t deter the reporters.
A little further down Tony Martin was warming up, and was having trouble with one of his monitors or something, and in the next parking lot a throng awaited Peter Sagan’s emergence from his bus. We waited for a few minutes, then gave up and went into the nearest restaurant for a nice pasta lunch.

When we finished eating we found that Sagan was finally out of the bus and warming up, then we walked down to about 200 metres from the start line to watch from.
I chose to watch from the median, where I could see racers coming from the start, or cross under the tape/barrier and see them coming from the other direction towards the finish.

Colin had picked up a nice little booklet about the race as well as a start-list for today’s ITT – he passed along important info to an older italian gentleman who passed it along to others about who was coming next, etc. Afterwards the fellow pointed out his house, which was right behind them – nice!
Once the final racer, Simon Yates, had passed we made our way back to the campervan – we found out later that he lost the overall race by one second. I felt so sorry for him – seven days of racing and losing by a single second.
Somewhere along the way back to the campervan my water bottle either fell out of my backpack, or was stolen – bummer.
Getting onto the motorway out of town was impossible so we took the minor highway right next to the sea north as far as Civitanova Marche where we got onto the highway southwest through the mountains. Arrived home to Papiano in time for dinner – an excellent little trip.

Cool in Jesi – more TA

60748C20-13D6-46FF-A3BF-1F0090B136D2The day started as the last few days had – very warm and sunny. We left our free camping spot at a decent time for the trip slightly north to Jesi, where the racers will do a short finishing circuit three times.
We followed the circuit all the way around and picked a great spot on a corner, then settled down to wait. We sat outside under blue sky without even a sweater but that soon changed – grey clouds moved in and temperature dropped from 19 to about 10 in the space of an hour or two.
We ended up inside the campervan to wait, although it never really did rain – just a bit of spitting now and then. It was cold enough that I actually got to wear my winter coat, hat and gloves.
A couple more cars joined us in our spot, and several more folks walked down from a side road to watch as well.
On the first pass there was a lead group of seven or eight followed about a minute later by the rest of the bunch. They passed so quickly they almost blew me over and most of my photos, even in sports-mode, were blurred.
For the second pass same thing – I got a few not bad shots and lots of blurred ones so I changed my settings to see if it would help. Basically I got a few less blurred shots, but the exposure was very dark and the flash didn’t co-ordinate properly with my camera.
Upon closer look I did get a couple of decent photos when I lightened them up a little so all was not lost.
When we left we drove back to the coast and along the motorway south to San Bernadetto Del Tronto, and part of the way it just poured rain – we were lucky to have missed the worst of it when we were outside and the race was happening.

We parked for the night right down at the port, since both the start and finish of tomorrow’s time trial are within walking distance.

More Tirreno-Adriatico

E90F2F8B-C9D7-499E-BD27-FF4C7DF2260CWoke up early to another beautiful day – blue sky and sunshine once again. We left our nice free site around 10:00 and headed to Senigallia, which is on the sea. Did a bit of food shopping, and made our way to Recanati, which is where today’s stage ends.

Once we had passed the town of Loreto we followed the route to the end – they actually do a circuit three times before finishing in Recanati. There aren’t any real mountains on the route, but the hills are steep and punchy – we ended up pulling into a church parking lot where a couple of other campers were already parked. The churchyard has excellent views of the wide, flat valley below.
We are partway up one of the steeper climbs and have 3 different kinds of officials to control the cars and people. Two of the policemen are right on top of things – no one is going to get in the way of the racers with them around. One of them speaks very good english so we all got to chat a bit.
There was a group of Italian men just down the hill from us and they were having a picnic – proper wine glasses and everything. I think they downed 3 bottles of red with their lunch, then one of them had a snooze under a tree for awhile.
The racers reached us the first time around at about 3:20 with a breakaway of 12 or 13 riders, and each time they passed they were more strung out – each circuit took about 40 minutes.B1C96590-B566-4E42-A9E1-57D669B39862
On the last circuit Daniel Oss shared some words with the fellows that had the picnic, but I couldn’t catch what was said in Italian – they got a laugh out of it, though.
The sprinters (including Peter Sagan) passed in a group a good half-hour after the first riders had, but they didn’t give up.
I wanted to get a photo of the two policemen but they told me, with a smile, no. The younger one did, however, turn around so I could get the badge on his shoulder bag.
Packing up took no time – we’d only put one flag pole up since we were right under a tree. Our destination for the night, Castelfidardo, was only a short drive away, made longer by mis-direction from miss GPS that took us down very narrow streets, including a dead-end. A group of young girls watched as Colin had to backup and turn around with no space to spare – at least they got some entertainment out of it.

We eventually made it to the camperstop, which was 4 free spaces next to an ambulance place – there were no emergencies during the night.

Wild Boar, Olive Oil, and – oh, a race

Got organized fairly quickly – gave the fridge in the campervan a little wipedown, packed our stuff up and were off. We put our destination into the GPS but didn’t like the route she chose for us so ended up just following the map.

The first stage we’re going to starts in Foligno and follows the same road part of the way that we went on last year to see the Giro. We chose to follow the entire stage route rather than taking the faster roads to our destination of Monteguiduccio.
The whole way was beautiful – once through the mountains it was rolling hills, bright green fields, orchards and vineyards. Small, winding roads connected little villages on the top of almost every hill, and the route seemed to go thru as many of them as possible. As usual they were still doing road repairs in some places – nothing like leaving it until the last moment – at least the local villagers will be happy.

At one point I got quite excited saying ‘oh look – there’s a deer!’ in the woods to the right – then we realized that it was a deer farm as there were dozens of them eating from a bunch of hay bales. We drove a bit further than needed so we could scout out the best spot, then backtracked to a nice wide flat place on the side of the road to camp for the night.
The next morning was bright and sunny, getting warm already by 9:00. After a cup of tea and a bite to eat we drove a bit further up the road to a nice field we thought would be good to park in.
We got the flags all up, setup the table and chairs, and prepared to wait for the race.
We’d been sitting reading for awhile when I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye – there was a small brown animal trotting happily towards us. I thought at first it might be a dog coming from the house on the hill above us, but upon closer look I realized it wasn’t a dog at all – it was a wild boar!

It took me a moment to realize that it was just a little one – not a giant male about to attack. By then I’d let out a noise and made a movement that startled the small animal, causing it to stop and retreat into the nearby hedges – my camera, for once, wasn’t within reach so I didn’t get a photo. I waited and waited but the boar didn’t show his snout again – shy little guy.
A couple of hours later a red car pulled in beside us – we wondered if it was the local landowner come to chase us away, but he didn’t. What he wanted was for us to email him some of the photos we were going to take of the race, and in return he presented us with a 5 litre can of extra virgin olive oil – grown from his trees ‘just over the hill’ from where we were!
The racers arrived right around 3:20 with both Dumoulin and Yates in the first small group. We’d picked our spot carefully – on a fairly steep hill just after a very narrow, winding part. As we were the only ones on that part of the road we ended up cleaning up on the bottles – got seven in all without even trying. It was great with no kids to compete against!
Peter Sagan had a stomach virus for five days prior to the start of the race so isn’t a contender overall – we’re just glad he was there and hadn’t given up and gone home.

After the last racer passed we took our time getting the flags down, etc, and ended up going through the finishing town of Fossombrone on our way to our stop for the night in the town of Corinaldo. We made our way to a camperstop that was totally basic but free (!) – we had electrical hookup, as well as water dump and fill.

Chairman Meow and Mia

DA896583-028A-498D-BA11-B73A059E8282Had a few quiet days – Colin re-planted the pansy that Chairman Meow had dug out of the top flower box while we were gone in Siena. Colin now feeds Meow when he’s here, and apparently Meow wasn’t pleased that we’d gone away for a day. It’s kind of funny because it seems that Meow’s human – Angelo next door – is actually home right now so should also be feeding him.
One afternoon there was a fierce wind-storm for about an hour, then another even more fierce in the middle of the night – but the morning dawned clear and sunny. Walked down to the Other Bar around noon each day for a cappuccino, read a bit, watched highlights of Paris-Nice.
Little Mia, a beautiful beagle puppy that some neighbours got recently, follows us from time to time, and is constantly jumping at Mo wanting to play. She’s just a bit too exuberant after a while, and desperately needs some training. We’re worried that she wanders around the whole village alone and doesn’t seem to be supervised at all.
Some of the village cats are still around from last year, but we haven’t seen the cream-coloured ones with the grey/brown ears yet.
The weather has generally been pretty nice – warm enough when in the sun, but definitely need a sweater or light jacket if in the shade. One afternoon rain had been forecast for around 4 in the afternoon, but didn’t arrive until about 7 – when it did come it just pounded down.
At one point we noticed that the streetlights were all out – lightening must have hit something. Mo felt the need to bark at the first few thunderclaps, but eventually settled down.