We passed the Eternal City to intersect the course, choosing the hilltop town of Rocca Priora for our first sight of this race, a revised version of the old Giro di Lazio. We'd heard tales of the race being run over the ancient paving stones of the old Appian Way and wanted to see for ourselves if this was true. But first - PRANZO! We parked our Fiat just below the summit of the climb and hiked up the steep hill, with plenty of time to spare before the race arrived. We saw a ristorante/pizzeria just off the course and ventured inside for pizza a mezzogiorno...something not often found outside of touristy areas, as most places don't want to fire up the wood oven at lunchtime. We giggled at this place, done up in garish Roman themes, wondering what it must have looked like 50 years ago, before the red drapes faded into purple. The garishly gold-painted statues probably looked exactly the same! With one eye on the clock and the other on pizza we waited for the race to arrive, asking for the bill in advance so we could dash out into the street.
We probably could have lingered for espresso, but not for long as we heard the TV helicopter as the first vehicles zoomed up the steep hill. No cobblestones here, but the notoriously bad pavement of Lazio was evident. I would not enjoy piloting one of these modern, super-rigid bicycles with the high-profile wheels over roads like these - but then I don't get PAID to do it either. The other interesting thing was how NOISY these modern bikes are - every sound is magnified by the large, hollow carbon structures, whether they are frames, forks or wheels, so every creak and squeak is LOUD. It would drive us crazy, but we guess it's just something modern racers have to put up with since if the pro team mechanics can't silence them, who can?
Once the race caravan had passed, we jumped back in the car and headed towards Rome. Our plan was to see the race on the Appia Antica, but sadly, they didn't venture onto the ancient stones, just the small cobblestones of the more recent roadway. We continued on the marked route until running into a ONE-WAY section...and it was not OUR way. One drawback of these open roads is the traffic is left to flow until just before the race arrives, so going the wrong way on a one-way street is rather risky. We (wisely I think) decided to leave the course at this point....
which soon turned into a game of "which way to the Colosseum?" as we weaved around the Sunday afternoon Roman traffic. As you might guess, plenty of streets were blocked by the race route and as we veered left and right, we began to realize time was running out for us to see the finish, As you can see by the photo, we DID manage to park the car in an area reserved for the teams and run over to the edge of the course as some riders passed through, but the winner had already crossed the line and other racers started to make their way back to their team cars.
We hung around for awhile, figuring this was not such a bad spot since pretty much EVERY rider from every team would eventually ride past us. Larry always enjoys looking at the team trucks and cars, noting how the bikes are transported and checking out the mechanics work setups. It's always refreshing in these days of $10,000+ racing machines to see the mechanics yank the wheels off and stack 'em up just like they did when the bikes cost $2,000. Clean and in perfect working order is one thing...but fretting over a scratch or a ding here and there is something only for the obsessive/compulsive - you don't see much of that here as these bikes are TOOLS of the trade.
The last shot is of the neutral support car provide by Vittoria. Who better to provide replacement wheels to riders with flat tires than these guys? Larry really likes their tires too.