Strade Bianche

Got up nice and early, packed up (way too much stuff) for our first little trip, and got on the road by around 11.
Took a little detour at Lago Trasimeno so we could have lunch at ‘il Ristoro’ – once again didn’t get exactly what we had ordered, but it was, as usual, delicious. We were the first ones there – they hadn’t actually opened yet but they let us sit down to wait a few minutes. By the time we left the restaurant it was totally packed – not an empty table to be found. I didn’t see any of the cats, but I’m sure they’re around somewhere.

After lunch we were off towards Siena to check out the last 30 km or so of the route for tomorrow’s Strade Bianche that starts and finishes in Siena. We followed the route into the city so we’d have an idea where we might want to park tomorrow, then found a nice campground for the night.
Race-day morning was blue skies and sunshine – had a nice hot shower, then drove down closer to where the race was starting. We ended up parking right across the road from the place we’d stayed at last year, then just followed the crowds up into the old town.
The start was at the stadium, and all of the team buses were parked in a large area just below, with crowds of people milling about, some waiting outside a particular bus for their favourite racer to come out.
One photographer made us stop and look – he had at least 3 or 4 cameras mounted together on a hand-held contraption that looked very heavy – I wouldn’t want to carry it around for long.
We walked partway up to the start area, then stopped so we could take some photos of the riders as they approached to sign in. Everything at the point is still casual – riders go up the road smiling and relaxed.
Vincenzo Nibali was the last to come up (of course) and I was about to take a head-on photo with him looking right at me when a large fellow stepped right in front of me, even running alongside Nibali as he passed. I felt like smacking him in the back of his big fat head for ruining my shot so completely but he’d already passed, along with my shot.
We then moved up the road just a bit to where the group would come around a sharp corner and be going slowly past on the roll-out. Afterwards we consulted the city map we’d geen given at the campground, but ended up having to ask a policeman how to get back down to where we’d parked.

The area around the stadium is quite nice – there’s a park with a carousel and stuff for kids, as well as a couple of nice statues and memorials.
We left the city planning to go back down the highway a bit then follow the route of the last 30 km or so (like we did last night) to find a place to park and watch. We made it to the turn-off but didn’t get any further – the road was already closed for the women’s race to pass. They had started a couple of hours before the men and had a shorter course so were already almost finished.
After about 30 minutes we were allowed to proceed so we drove to the town of Castelnuovo Baradenga where we turned west to follow the route and find our spot. We ended up at a nice wide pullout partway up a small hill where we setup the table and chairs and sat down to wait.
Another few groups of women racers passed by – the last small group didn’t look like they were even trying, and we saw later on tv that many of them had gotten off their bikes near the end and pushed them up the hill rather than riding into the Campo.
The first group of 15 or 20 of the men arrived around 2:40, with Nibali passing by a couple of minutes later – this time I got a decent shot of him with no fat-head in the way. Most of the riders and all of the cars were covered in dust from the ‘white road’ sections – some cars you could hardly tell what colour they were. One of the Vini Fantini riders near the end saw me taking photos so threw his empty water bottle right at my feet – another prize!
After the last cars had passed we drove back home via Perugia, stopping at a home-store so Colin could choose his new sofa. I walked thru the store with him – kind of setup like Ikea where you walk thru a virtual maze of rooms, but Colin knew where he was going so I didn’t need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find my way out. After testing a few sofas out he knew which one he wanted so we continued to the checkout. It took several minutes for them to find a salesperson that spoke english but they were all very nice. Colin went back with the young fellow to discuss delivery, etc, while I returned to the campervan to keep Mo company while we waited.

Business done we made it back to the house at a decent time and had a lovely salmon with mashed potatoes dinner.

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