Category: Cycling

Giro, Anzio, Lido di Ostia and HOME

The rain started right on time at 8:00, and many more campervans and cars had arrived during the night and over the morning.  We had tea and breakfast and stayed inside most of the morning but just after noon the clouds parted and the sun came out.

The team buses and cars went past in a convoy up to the finish at the top 1.5 km from us.  We went for a walk down to the bar that’s at the bend below us, following a walking track part of the way.

We had a cappuccino and shared a prosciutto and cheese panini while keeping an eye on the very black clouds that were moving in.

We quickly left but still had a ways to go when the rain hit.  I tucked my camera inside my coat – I had the merino wool long-sleeve on as well as the winter coat and was glad of it – and carried Mo part of the way up back to the campervan.  We got back ok, just very wet and a bit chilled.

The first two racers arrived at 4:13 in pouring rain – an Ineos rider and an EF rider who was wearing their special jersey designed just for the Giro – I find them a bit hard to look at without going cross-eyed.  The EF fellow ended up winning the stage so good for him.

I had a large umbrella with the handle tucked into the pocket of my coat to keep my camera dry while the riders straggled past in small and large groups.  The last few – including Alex Dowsett and Tony Martin – came by at 4:52 looking quite bedraggled and a bit miserable.  PS – huge kudos to Dowsett for winning a stage a couple of days earlier – congrats!

We’d already decided to stay another night rather than fight traffic down the mountain in the dark so settled in and watched as most of the other folks made their way down.

It was a much quieter night than the previous one with hardly any traffic going by.  The next morning we left nice and early – it was a longer drive than we expected to reach the coast near Anzio.  We found a lovely campground that turned out to not be open but they were kind enough to ‘make a deal’ with Colin – we had our pick of spots and got nice hot showers to boot.

Feeling very refreshed we had an early night then headed out again after breakfast the next morning.

Right near the campground we passed a couple of ‘ladies on chairs’ – we’d seen some before and Colin had noticed a group of them on the way here.

One of them was dressed up with a short skirt and high red boots, but the other looked bored and didn’t seem to have put much effort into attracting ‘clients’.

Since we were so near Anzio I wanted to see something from the war – we weren’t that interested in going to the museum so I chose the Beach Head War Cemetery.

It’s a beautiful and immaculately kept place, and is for Commonwealth soldiers, sailors and airmen that fell during and after the Allied landing in Anzio to free Italy from the nazis.

Most of the headstones show dates of early 1944 and I only noticed one Canadian marked with the maple leaf, although there were many showing only ‘a fallen soldier’.

Colin waited just outside the entrance with the little ones – it looked to me as if he was sitting in Henry – haha!

We left the cemetery and drove north along the coast to Lido di Ostia where we planned to spend the night as it’s so close to Fiumicino.  Along the way we passed many beach access places but most of them were closed.  Across the road from one were a couple of young ladies and Colin said ‘oh look – they’re in their bathing costumes – they must have been swimming’ but as we got closer to them I noticed their fishnet stockings and heavy makeup and replied ‘they weren’t swimming – they’re fishing’!  We laughed so hard!

Arriving at Ostia we parked across from a restaurant on the sea and went in for lunch.  We shared an antipasto of mussels, which were excellent, then for my main course I ordered the calamari, although that’s not what I got.

Instead I was given a large platter of assorted seafood, and was it ever good – there were four or five different things that were all very tasty and I needed help from not only Mo but Colin as well to finish it.

After lunch we walked around a bit, stopping at a farmacia so I could get some wet-wipes to wipe down everything on the airplanes the next day.

I think Mo must have sensed that I was about to leave as she cuddled close to me in my bed all night.  Up at 5:00 we had a nice cup of tea and a quick bite to eat then it was off to the airport.  We got there in plenty of time and said a quick but heartfelt goodbye until next year – fingers crossed.

I was not looking forward to wearing a mask for over twenty hours but it wasn’t quite as bad as I’d feared.  Air Canada had changed my flights several times and I was now flying Lufthansa to Frankfurt, then again with them to Vancouver.  The security check in Frankfurt was easy – he just looked at my passport for a minute, stamped it on the last page and waved me thru.

The flight to Vancouver was long – over 10 hours, but I had a window seat and no one had anyone sitting next to them.  We went north over England and Scotland, then across Greenland and northern Canada.  I watched three movies and a series of documentaries about villages in the Alps but didn’t really get any sleep.

Most of the time it was cloudy, but a couple of times it cleared and the views below were awesome.

I had to go thru security again in Vancouver- the fellow was very nice and we chatted about how long I’d been in Italy and why.  He reminded me that I need to quarantine for two weeks once I get home and I was passed thru.

I had to collect my checked luggage as my final flight was Air Canada and Lufthansa doesn’t pass along the bags so after ‘checking in’ again I was finally on my way home.  A very long day of travel by the end, but so good to see my dear sweetheart D waiting for me.

It was a truly awesome trip, and being ‘forced’ to spend so much time in Italy turned out to be a bit of a gift.  Arrivaderci – until next year!

World Championships – Men’s Road Race

Quite a few more people walked up the hill past us, and a group of folks set up a canopy complete with an air-horn (which I can’t stand).  The weather was very unsettled – fairly windy with threatening looking clouds.

The racers first appeared just after 10:30 and there was already action – a group of seven had gotten away almost immediately and already had a four minute lead by the time they got to us.

They made the circuit every 50 minutes or so, and I moved across the road a few times for a different view.

I got a decent shot of Nibali…

…as well as Michael Woods…

Before the last pass I hiked down to the agritourismo to see if they could sell a bottle or two of wine – no problem!  Although it did take a bit to track down the right person.  First – it looked like just a large private house – no signs or anything.

I walked all the way around and looked in one open door – it was the ‘restaurant’ with one person in it – he didn’t speak english but he did call for the cook to come out.  She directed me across to the ‘bar’ that had several people at tables drinking and watching the race on tv, but no one that looked like they worked there.

Just then a fellow came in that I’d seen up on the road – I think he’s the one with the air-horn – he spoke pretty good english and understood what I wanted.  He located the right person who opened up the wine room and got me what I asked for – success!  And I must admit that the air-horn wasn’t nearly as annoying as I’d expected – I think they were surprised by how loud it was and ended up hardly using it.

The breakaway slowly began to fall apart, and was eventually swallowed up by the peloton.  There was, of course, more than just Woods riding for Canada – I especially like the maple leaf on their socks.

Then big news – Alaphilippe attacked on the second climb of the final circuit!  After most of the riders had passed I went to the campervan next to us – the fellows were watching the finish in Imola on tv.

I was very happy that Alaphilippe managed to hang on and is now world champion!  Shortly after the finish the parade of spectators coming down the hill started, and all of the cars and campervans around us left.

We decided to stay the night where we were as the journey home was way too far.

World Championships – Women’s Road Race

The morning of the women’s road race was bright and beautiful.  We happen to be parked right across from a sign indicating that we’re on the ‘Strada del Sangiovese e dei Sapori’ – basically the road of excellent red wine and good food!

The women today and the men tomorrow follow the same route, although the men do four more circuits.

The Volvo that was parked next to the road last night was now encircled by red and white tape, and partway thru the morning a race organization car pulled up.  The two men asked everyone if they knew who owned it – there were by now a couple more campervans and cars – but no one knew.

They then phoned the licence plate number in and tracked down the owner, who I think was at the agriturismo upon whose  land we’re all parked.  Eventually someone arrived and moved the car further off the road, which was lucky for them as not long after a couple of large tow trucks passed with vehicles on them that had presumably also been parked too close.

Throughout the morning the usual parade of amateurs rode by, but since it’s a fairly short circuit we got to see most of the men doing recon rides as well for their race the next day.

The women did five circuits of the course, first arriving at 1:34 as a basically intact group with only a few stragglers .

By the third pass there was a breakaway of several riders, including a Canadian.

The peloton was by now quite broken up with many small groups and single riders strung out over several minutes.

On the fourth round there was a sole leader – dutch rider Anna van der Breggen, who won the ITT two days previously.

She managed to stay in front thru the last circuit and was victorious in Imola once again – brava!

World Championships – Men’s ITT

The morning of the men’s ITT was quite blustery but at least the thunder, lightning and rain we experienced during the night had passed.

As we were having our morning cappuccino in the cafe I said ‘I just felt a raindrop’ but there were absolutely no clouds anywhere near us.  It was a very misty kind of rain, and the waitress came out and cranked up all of the large umbrellas – it was very strange, and must have been due to the sometimes fierce wind.

We returned to the campervan and decided to go just out of the town to a roadside spot we’d seen the night we arrived.  We said goodbye to our Belgian neighbours and relocated a couple of km north.

The weather conditions changed every fifteen minutes, blue skies one moment, threatening rain the next.

It never did actually rain, although the wind was pretty constant.

I got decent photos of Brit rider Geraint Thomas…

…Belgian Wout Van Aert…

…Dutch Tom Dumoulin (winner of the ITT in 2017)…

…as well as defending champion for the last two years Aussie Rohan Dennis.

Dennis was unable to repeat again as Italian Filippo Ganna came thru the fastest to the delight of the local fans.

We took down the flags – one of the poles had partially collapsed in the wind – and drove east a bit to pick up the route for the next two days’ road races.  We thought we’d found an ideal spot at the top of one of the two climbs, although it was extremely windy.

We’d just had a lovely dinner and I was finishing the dishes when there was a knock on the window – we were being told to move as we were in a restricted area.  The fellow was nice enough but we had no choice.

We drove a bit further and stopped at a fairly large pullout – there were already a few campervans there, as well as some police having a somewhat heated conversation with a german lady.  We wanted to know what they were discussing when a car pulled up and the man inside told us he had a place we could park.

We turned around and followed him but he turned off the race route and was leading us too far.  We thanked him for the offer and returned back past the other campervans to another likely looking spot that had one campervan well off the road, a Volvo near the road, and a couple of policemen.

We pulled in and asked if we could park there – they said they didn’t know whose land it was but as long as we were at least four meters from the road they wouldn’t make us leave.  The place is on a very fast part of the course – downhill from the summit of the second climb and just past a tricky s-curve so they’re concerned about crashes and don’t want any vehicles too close to the road.