Category: Cycling

Milano-San Remo – La Primavera…from Poggio!

After a nice shower and a bit of breakfast we continued on south.  Since we weren’t in a rush we took the ‘scenic route’ rather than the peage/motorway.

Part of the drive was quite nice but part was a bit drab – narrow winding valleys and not much greenery on the trees yet.  Also the gravel works on the river weren’t that attractive.

Making it to Imperia right at noon we took the coast road west along the Sea until turning off to go up to Poggio.

The car park at the top was pretty full but we managed to find the perfect spot – right near the fence and overlooking the Sea.

It was very windy so we didn’t spend much time outside, although I did take Mo for a short walk after lunch.  We also went to the cafe/bar a little later for a quick drink.

The bar is right at the corner where the riders will come from the crest of the climb, make a sharp left and start the descent to San Remo – we’ve watched the race from near that spot twice now, staying in the same car park overlooking it.

Race day was overcast but somewhat less windy.  There are only a few other campervans in the car park with us but it’s almost full – most of the cars were there yesterday so we assume the owners must live nearby and just leave their cars all the time.

Going early to the cafe we had a nice cappuccino, then a stroll through the town.

A couple of hours later another cappuccino, this time followed by a walk across the road to the wine store – the one with the taps coming out of the walls.  I opted for a ‘bag-in-box’ red that the lady said was dry and a bit rich but very good.

Partway through the morning many of the barriers were already up and the officious fellow with the whistle was already directing people here, there and everywhere.  Many amateur riders have been coming up, and there are definitely more folks around than the last time we were here – the 2020 race that was delayed to August because of the covid.

Since crowds were gathering we walked down to stake our spots fairly early, knowing we’d have an hour and a half or more wait.  I stopped at the very same spot as I did in 2020, and Colin continued down just past the next corner.

I saw a Bianchi bike above me and wondered if it belonged to a former Jumbo team rider as it had Jumbo Visma on the cross-bar.

I made friends with both the ‘official’ guy and the policeman that was nearest me.  Lots of folks were still coming up from places below and they eventually tied a rope across the opening I was sitting at.

The policeman made sure no one got in front of me, and ended up standing just down from my right shoulder.

I kept asking the official guy how long until the racers arrived and he gave me updates – they were way ahead of schedule because of a fierce tailwind.

The first rider passed at 4:37, followed closely by Pogacar, van der Poel, van Aert and Mohoric, with the peloton right behind.

Because it’s a sharp corner the riders lean into it and swing very wide to my side of the road.

By the time the last racer passed about 20 minutes later the race was long over in San Remo.  It was a sprint to the finish with Matej Mohoric coming out on top.

We tried to get into the bar to see any replays but it was so packed we didn’t bother until later when we were almost the only ones there enjoying a refreshing beverage.

Milano-Torino from San Martino Canavese

We placed our chairs at the side of the road just across from a campervan with a couple of very annoying barking dogs – ok it was ours.  The race approached at the early end of the predicted time.

As the official vehicles and motos just in front of the riders rounded the curve below us I saw a black car in one of the driveways start to move forward.  The fucking idiot partially entered the road and the nearest official car had to swerve to avoid broadsiding him, meaning that the moto nearest to that car had to swerve also.  If not for the excellent handling skills of the moto driver I would have been flattened by a skidding motorcycle.

I just sat there screaming obsenities as the first racers passed, having seen what had happened right in front of them, with the front end of the black car on the road.  There was a breakaway of three, followed in about two minutes by the whole peloton.

The driver of the black car that almost caused carnage stood beside his vehicle looking totally bewildered, having finally backed up into his driveway a bit out of the way because of all the oncoming traffic.

How can you possibly not be aware that a World Tour Race is coming through your town?  The oldest Classic there is – 103 years now!  There are signs everywhere about no parking and pink arrows and everything – how can you be that dumb?  In addition to being furious I was also extremely relieved that I hadn’t been crushed by a moto – what an asshole.

Shortly after the race had passed an ambulance roared by with lights flashing and siren on – a rider must have crashed on the downhill not long after going by us.  We hope he’s ok. 

We watched the end of the race on Colin’s phone – Cavendish won!  The first Brit ever in 103 editions – good for him!

We stayed at the roadside spot for awhile, moving later back to the place we’d spent the previous night (across from the cemetery).  I read in bed until I finished the book I was reading about the Roman legions and had another very early night, with Mo tucked in beside me.

It rained lightly much of the night and we got up to a grey day.   With a relatively short drive back to the fruit farm near Cavour we weren’t in any hurry, stopping in Pinerolo at a campervan dump and to restock with more water.

Settling in at Cascina Mombello I made a nice and tender beef stew for dinner.  As usual momma Maya, little Spreet and the big lab welcomed us.

Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 6 – Carpegna

Having driven so far the previous evening it was less than an hour to where we wanted to watch stage 6 from.  We passed very close by to San Marino – we could see the city itself perched on it’s hillside just to the north.  Going in error to the centre of the town of Carpegna we were very nicely asked to turn around by a local cop.

Eventually on the race route we only got to the base of the real climb where we were stopped by a barrier – they’re not letting any vehicles up the best part!  There were several campervans already parked on the wide verge but it felt a bit soft to us so we followed the other small road down a short distance – driving over a large patch of solid ice on the way – it’s still very cold up here.

We parked on the side of the road behind three other campervans and had another cup of tea.  I took a couple of short walks – it’s another very beautiful area.  At the foot of the steep part of the climb are several homages to Marco Pantani – he didn’t grow up in Carpegna, but he trained on the climb many times.

A farmer across the road has put up a ‘parking’ sign and over the next few hours his field became packed – at least sixty or more vehicles so I hope he has a good day.

We watched as hundreds of people trecked up the road towards the top – seeing so many fans making the effort was great.  Around 2:45 we grabbed our lawn chairs and cameras and made our own trek, although not to the top.  We stopped just after the barrier as it’s the first of 22 hairpins and the riders should slow at least a bit as they go by.

A breakaway of five, including Alaphilippe arrived at 3:17…

…and the peloton arrived just a minute later with Pogacar in blue right near the front.

The sprinters arrived in a large bunch only eight minutes later, then I decided to cross the road to shoot the second time around.

A half hour after the first arrival they made their second pass – this time a slightly larger breakaway, including, of course, Pogacar.

It took over twenty minutes for the last rider to pass us, and one of them dropped his chain rounding the corner – he was not happy!  Luckily he managed to get it back on, and with a push from a spectator got back going up the hill.

I must say a word about some of the ‘fans’ – I find many of them very disrespectful.  The riders are on the last few miles of a very long race, and the hundreds of spectators that had taken the time and energy to walk to the top of the climb were coming down in droves as the later riders were still coming up.

At one point the people walking down were taking up the entire road as riders were trying to dodge between them.  I shouted and swore a couple of times at the f’ing idiots, especially when they walked right in front of me when I was trying to get a shot.  I’ve now been to dozens and dozens of races, and can hardly remember a time when I haven’t stayed where I was and clapped and cheered until the very last rider had passed – just wish more people showed more respect.

Back at the campervan we had a little surprise, and I couldn’t stop laughing.  Henry had managed to drag the garbage bag out of it’s door-side container and had strewn the contents all over the floor – he’d chewed the crap out of the lid and yanked it off, then grabbed the bag and pulled until it came up and out.  And we had no doubt it was Henry and not Mo that did it, although she may have egged him on from her perch on the bench.

We made the drive back to Papiano in time to shower and head down to the bar where Antonio was having another festa.  John and Janet were just about to leave but we did have a quick chat.  Then we went inside for one drink while talking with Afka and Janpietro before getting our pork-in-a-bun to take home.

Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 5 – Monte Urano

Having spent another quiet night in the church parking area we left early in the morning to find a spot to watch stage 5 from.  It wasn’t too far – just back to the coastal peage and north a bit then west near Fermo.

Along the way we stopped at an Autogrill where they had full campervan facilities such as water, etc. which was very convenient.  Also nice clean washrooms and, of course, delicious cappuccino.

We chose our spot in a nice wide flat area at the edge of Monte Urano just near the top of one of the three climbs of the day.  There was a great view of a nearby town on the top of the next hill.

The farmer whose garage we’re in front of had to move his tractor, but was ok with us being there – he maneuvered past us with no problem.  After a nice lunch of spaghetti in cream sauce with salmon we waited a few hours for the race.

A truck pulled up at one point and erected small banners – we’re at the ‘500 meters to go’ to the top of the climb mark.  One other campervan joined us and wanted us to move a bit so they could pull in but we didn’t want to block the farmer’s access to his own garage.  No problem, though, as they just backed in behind us and were happy enough.

I lay down for a half hour rest and when I got up we had many new neighbours.  In addition to the other campervan there were now dozens of cars, including several team cars with folks preparing bidons, etc. for their riders.

At the house across the road from us was a lab that seemed quite excited by all of the extra people – he barked from time to time but not in an aggressive way – more like he wished someone would come over and pat him on the head.

Just ahead of the predicted schedule a breakaway of 12 or so riders arrived at 3:44, with the peloton in one large bunch 3 or 4 minutes back.

Even though we’re on a climb they passed at a very high speed and were gone in no time.

Because we hadn’t put the flags up we were able to leave almost as soon as the race had passed.  Heading again for the coast peage we drove north for a couple of hours, then west almost to San Marino.  We stopped before dark and pulled into a large parking area at the edge of a town along the road – not sure exactly which town but we’d made good progress towards our chosen area for stage 6.

Tirreno Adriatico stage 4 – Camera

Another chilly night, and having to ration water.  We spent a very frustrating few hours trying to find the nearest campervan dump and went up and down and around and around following signs – no dump, although we did see a bit of the local sites.

We finally got help from a couple of folks at an aire – an aire (or Sosta as they call them here) without water or dump facilities.  I think the couple work for the municipal recycling company, and they looked up on their phone and gave very clear directions on how to find the nearest place.

Finally we were able to empty water (etc. !) and take on water.  We then headed to a campervan place not far from Pisa to have the heating checked out so we don’t keep losing water at night.  The fellow said he’d be out in five minutes to have a look, but as soon as we returned to the campervan and did a final check the heating worked!  We did wait about fifteen minutes for the guy to come have a look over, but when he didn’t appear we left, and relocated a bit down the road to have lunch.

Refreshed, and with a bit of a drive ahead we were on our way again – southeast towards the Adriatic coast, going right past Perugia – so close to home, but we kept going on our way.

With night closing in we stopped at the town of Caldarola, in a very nice parking area just off the motorway.  It was nice and quiet and once again (becoming a habit!) had another early night.  I did read for a bit – Julia Child’s book ‘My Life in France’ – my sister gave it to me a few months ago and I’m really enjoying it.  And having the heat working meant no more freezing in the morning, or losing the water, and also – I get to do dishes with hot water – what a treat!

Another early start and we were on our way via the motorway/peage south towards the small town of Bellante, near Teramo.  After doing a loop of the next day’s race route we settled on a churchyard near the outskirts of the even smaller town of Camera.

It’s a quite beautiful area with small villages on every hillside, and overlooked by large mountains topped with snow.

We had a lovely roast chicken for lunch, with plenty left over for a cold meal as well as soup, which is after all, the best part of roasting a chicken.

A short walk down a nearby lane introduced us to many of the local dogs, and a couple of cats.

Also on the next hill a local flock of sheep…or should it be a flock of local sheep?

The morning of stage 4 was again beautiful and sunny, although the breeze was a bit chilly.

The race passed our spot twice, and in the first pass there was one leader, followed within a minute by a small chase group, then another small group containing Evenepoel, Pogacar and Ganna just behind.

The sprinters, including Cavendish, were another five minutes back.

Right on the predicted time schedule the race reappeared 29 minutes later, still with the lone breakaway rider but with the peloton back together and within sight of him.

We read later that Pogacar had won again, and in very convincing fashion too.

Lido de Camaiore for Tirreno-Adriatico ITT

Leaving the aire before 8:00 we headed north towards Lido de Camaiore, stopping along the way for a fabulous cappuccino at a highway rest stop.

We got to Camaiore in good time and drove along the Lido, passing several of the team buses in the best parking areas.

Most of the parking areas were taped off for the teams and other race officials but we came to a perfect place near the Hotel Joseph.

There were some other campervans there already so we figured it was a good place to stop.

After a bite to eat we went for a walk back towards the start of tomorrow’s ITT – it was a bit of a ways and there were no cafes open or anything.  We did enjoy the excercise and fresh air, however.

There are several teams staying at the Hotel Joseph, and the mechanics, etc. are all in process of washing the time trial bikes and everything.

There are all sorts of sculptures and art pieces along the Lido – some of them are quite nice and some of them a bit puzzling.

Also, because we’re so close to Carrara there’s lots of marble – some of the sidewalks are actually made of it!

After a very early night and a good quiet sleep we were up early again.  Wanting a cappuccino we walked north this time along the Lido, eventually asking a policeman where a cafe might be found.  

Following his directions we shortly were seated outside a very nice, and increasingly busy cafe at one end of a large plaza.

Across from the plaza were more sculptures, and a lovely long pier that was very well made with stainless steel handrails – quite impressive.

There was a fellow playing the harp partway down – I think I even recognized the song he was playing which was something Italian and classical that I don’t know the name of.  

The beach here looks excellent – very wide and flat with fine white sand.

For a few hours in the late morning most of the riders were doing re-con of the course, then the police motos and photo motos took their turns.

The first racer left around 2:00 – it’s a straight north ride for almost 7 km, then a hairpin turn and back south to the finish, so each rider passes us twice, once in each direction.  I got the Cav…

…a heli – what??  They’re alway sneaking into my shots…

…someone coming from the beach who didn’t care at all about the race…

…Alaphilippe…

As some of the riders finished they slowly rode back to their hotels – sometimes on the race road and sometime on the sidewalk.  At one point I looked up and coming towards me was Richie Porte!  I waved and smiled (not having time to take a photo) and he smiled back and said ‘Hi’! – almost the highlight of my day.  I also got Ganna…

…Evenepoel…

…and Pogacar…

A very fine day of race watching, followed by another very early night.

To Italy and Strade Bianche

Flights over weren’t too bad and passing security in Munich wasn’t a problem.  Both at my initial checkin at home and the guy at Munich airport were initially a little perplexed by my having two covid vaccine certificates – one from home last May and the other from France/EU in September.  In the end, perhaps because I had a swab test prior to leaving home it was all ok.

The only slight hitch was after I’d arrived in Rome as I waited an hour and a half for Colin to pick me up – I was starting to wonder if all was ok when I checked my ipad and saw I’d missed a facetime call from him.

Apparently I’d arrived at a different terminal than any of my previous trips – I was waiting outside terminal 1 while Colin was parked outside terminal 3.  The difference, I believe, is because my final flight from Munich was on Air Dolomitie, rather than Lufthansa, thus a different terminal.  In any case we finally connected and I was transported to Papiano.

The next morning we drove up to Pila, where our hair cutter now is – we found his new place no problem and both got cuts.  His space is brand new and looks very nice – we hope he does well.  Pila is larger than I expected, and looks like a lovely and prosperous town.

We met Janet and John in the bar later in the afternoon for a quick drink – so nice to see them again and get caught up.  The scaffolding has come down on both the bell tower and the apartment building below us.  For some reason the bell in the tower isn’t ringing yet, and the scaffolding has now been moved to the house right next to us.  We’re kind of happy we’re not going to be around while the rest of the construction is happening.

We got going early enough on Friday morning to stop for a quick cappuccino at the bar before hitting the road towards Siena.  We stopped at the same spot we’d watched the Strade Bianche from in 2020 – although that year it was held in August rather than early March because of the covid.

This time rather than sweltering in the heat we were near freezing.  We lost the water in the early morning because of the cold so had to do dishes, etc. with our bottled water.

No matter – we were in a beautiful place and awaiting our first race of the year – nothing to complain about.

Race day was mostly sunny, but very windy and cold.  I put on a double layer of pants, merino wool sweater, Icelandic wool hat, gloves – the whole shebang.  

We had a delicious chicken stir-fry with mushrooms and green beans for lunch while we waited for the race to arrive.

Several fans congregated at the side of our campervan as it cut the wind for them – I did the same until we saw the helis in the near distance and I finally relocated just a bit down the hill.

We had heard on the live feed that there had been some crashes but Alaphilippe and Pogacar were both at the front of the first bunch to pass.

We watched the end of the race on Colin’s phone – Pogacar won in very convincing fashion – he’s so amazing!

Shortly after the race had passed we returned to Asciano and the nice aire they have.  We partially filled up with water and had a very early night.  Once again it got very cold and we lost all of the water in the early morning.

Il Lombardia – Race of the Falling Leaves

We got going to Selvino nice and early so there was no chance of getting caught behind a road closure.  The drive up the twenty hairpins was a bit hairy at times but the number of amateurs going up wasn’t too bad.  The road crew we’d seen the other day had done a pretty good job, and we couldn’t see too many bad spots on the surface.

We settled on a parking lot a very short walk from the main road through the town that was part of the route.

Taking the dogs with us on a walk to get a coffee we noticed that a great many of the locals also had dogs – every one of which Henry barked at if he saw them.

We returned later to the same cafe/restaurant for lunch, which was very nice and had wonderful views back towards Orezzo and beyond.

After lunch we settled the dogs back in the car and got ready for the race.  On the way to the spot we’d chosen to watch from we passed an Israel Startup Nation team car and I immediately went over to them.  I told them I was Canadian and showed them the flag on my backpack, as well as the bidon I use that is the old Israel Cycling Academy one.

I said that Michael Woods (Canadian!) rocks and they said ‘maybe it will be him today’.  They then gave me a new ISN bidon and I was happy!

As usual we knew when the first rider was approaching…

…and it was Pogacar!..

…all alone in front, with a local Italian rider not far behind…

…and then a group of eight that included world champion Julian Alaphilippe, Vuelta a Espana winner Primoz Roglic, former world champion Alejandro Valverde, and – Michael Woods!

I was shocked at how fast they were all going – they had just finished the last of several very difficult climbs just over 20 km from the end of a very long race and they literally whizzed by us.

A few minutes later another small group arrived that included Daniel Martin, who is retiring from pro cycling at the end of this race – we’ll be sad to see him go…

After the last rider had passed we scooped another bidon – this one from Bahrain, whose car had parked very near us.  They had a bunch of bidons ready to hand out but since we’re so close to the finish they weren’t going to be needed so several fans got lucky.  We then headed back to the bar/restaurant and saw the last few minutes on their large tv.

The locals were all, of course, cheering for the rider from Bergamo so I was rather subdued in cheering when Pogacar sprinted for the win.  To be honest I also would have been happy if Masnada had won instead.

Another wonderful il Lombardia – one of our favourite races.  One thing that we discussed at length later was the behaviour of the eight ‘chasers’ – it seemed that rather than try to catch Pogacar and Masnada and have a 10-man sprint for the win they were content to play catty-mousey and ride for third – kind of disappointing.  Other than that, though, it was a thrilling race through some of the most beautiful countryside around.

From Viegu back to Santa Eulalia de Oscos, and on to Quintans – More Vuelta!

Shortly after the race passed our nice little spot in Viegu we got going north towards the coast, stopping at an aire not far from the town of Ribadesella.  That’s the town that’s made headlines recently for it’s tongue-in-cheek response to criticism from tourists that had complained about the noise from roosters and church bells, etc.

We stopped in Gijon to re-stock on food, then continued straight west on the motorway until just before Ribadeo where we turned south along the route for the next day’s stage.

We followed the route to the town of A Fonsagrada, where we stopped so Colin could get some salve for his insect bites.  I haven’t been bitten at all, but they seem to really go for him!

Backtracking to the village of Santa Eulalia de Oscos we once again took advantage of the aire.  The race goes by on the road below, although it doesn’t actually go thru the village.

After a lovely glass of rioja we had a nice early night – there are only two other vans this time, as opposed to being almost full two weeks ago.

Early the next morning we followed the route several miles on and picked a nice wide spot to park and watch from.

There was a very large breakaway that arrived at 1:49…

…with the peloton, led by Jumbo Visma – with current overall leader Primoz Roglic – only two minutes behind (love his blue shoes!)…

…and team Ineos and Bernal not far back.

We once again saw our ‘friend’ the photographer who stopped right at our spot to take some photos.

We’ve met him several times now, including the Tour of Burgos three years ago and the world’s in Harrogate two years ago.  He liked the book I was reading that I’d set near my chair and commented on it.

Several minutes later, as usual, were the sprinters and others, including Jacobsen and several of his protective Quickstep team members.

After taking down the flags we had a somewhat leisurely drive back past Santiago and a bit south to the town of Padron – it’s the starting point for Sunday’s final stage that is an Individual Time Trial.  We know we’re not going to watch from Padron, but it has an aire that was pretty easy to find.

We actually didn’t really care for the site – it’s right across from a canal, and also right on one of the many Camino routes.  In fact there’s a marker showing that it’s at km 26,770 of the trail – not sure where they started counting from – China, maybe? Or, perhaps, as Colin reminded me, they use the comma and the decimal backwards here, and it more likely means 26.77 km to go to Santiago – maybe?? Hahaha.

The problem with the site is that it’s surrounded on two sides by large apartment blocks, and since it was Friday night there was a lot of activity, including drunken shouting and verbal altercations from some of the suites.

Leaving as early as possible the next morning we headed out on the route, looking for a spot somewhere on the one large climb of the finale on Sunday.  We passed a spot that Colin liked but I wanted to press on and see what was ahead – we ended up going another 15 km or so before turning around and parking in the first spot.

We were eventually joined by another campervan, and many more cruised up and down the road looking for places.

Vuelta from Viegu

We left our lovely aire and made our way north back to Asturias.

Along the way we passed thru some beautiful countryside that reminded me a lot of home.  Not far from the border there’s a reservoir/lake and the water’s so low that cattle are grazing on lands that used to be underwater.

There’s a pullout just before the town of Oseja de Sajambre and it has a trail down to a platform with wonderful views of the deep valley and surrounding mountains.

We left the main road shortly after entering Asturias and headed a few km west to the village of Viego – or Viegu, depending on what signs you look at.

We’d passed a couple of possible parking spots for the race tomorrow before we got to the village but continued on, stopping at a cafe/bar/restaurant for a coffee and to discuss our plan.

We quickly decided to stay where we were rather than continue up to the summit.  The cafe served food and good wine – why leave?

We had a nice fairly flat parking space right in front – we did move a bit to allow more customers to park but were assured by the waiter that we could stay overnight.  We promised to eat and drink there – he spoke very good english, and is also a cycling fan.

We had some tapas for lunch and got to watch the last bit of the day’s race on the tv inside.

We went for a short walk a bit further up the road – it’s very twisty and quite steep in spots so there’ll be plenty of good places to watch and shoot from.

There are several large dogs that roam around and aren’t on leads.  They don’t seem to be aggressive, but Mo and Henry bark at them anyway.

We’ve seen quite a few campervans going up the road, only to come back down again a short while later.  A couple of large ones came back to the village and we had fun watching them trying to squish into places to park.

Two boys carried a small soccer net to the square and a bunch of the local kids were playing when some slightly older ones arrived with brooms and started clearing the ground.

They did a very good job in a very short time.

A steady stream of vehicles went up and down the road the next morning, all hoping for a decent place to park.

As the morning progressed our little cafe got busier and busier and it seemed like the whole village gathered along the roadside.

The campervan next to us has a tiny dog we refer to as ‘rat dog’ and their friend that was parked down the road a bit has a fluffy little shi tzu.

We ended up parking the lawn chairs right behind the campervan to take our photos from.

The caravan passed by and I almost missed it – it’s nothing like the one for the Tour.

The first riders appeared just before 2:20, with several QuickStep riders protecting their green jersey holder Jacobsen only four minutes back.  It’s so, so good to see Jacobsen doing well again when only about a year ago he was in an induced coma from crash injuries.

About half an hour after the first pass it just started to pour…

…and pour…

One of the local ladies and her family were all wearing white t-shirts with ‘Viegu’ in black – I’m now the proud owner of one and put it on immediately.

The second pass of the race arrived just over an hour after the first – the rain had slacked a bit by then – Bernal and Roglic were alone in the lead by a few seconds.

The group was much more spread out this time taking over 15 minutes to pass us.  As soon as they were by we scooted inside the cafe to watch the last hour on one of their two tv’s.

It was a thrilling finish up the dreaded Covadonga with Roglic and Bernal staying out in front and Roglic finally getting away and putting over a minute into everyone else – very dominating and exciting ride!