After being in Italy for a week and a half and with eight days of racing completed here at the Giro, I’ve noticed a thing or two. In fact, based on this list I’ve compiled, I’ve noticed at least ten things.
1. I’ve noticed that the final kilometer of each stage is usually hair-raisingly narrow. Presumably this makes for great live spectating as well as entertaining television coverage, but we have gone through some sections in the final thousand meters where if two people put their arms out straight, they would easily cut off the entire road. And to further complicate matters, I’ve noticed the final K is usually chalk full of roundabouts, turns, cobbles, or whatever other bits of obstacles they can find. Heads up!
2. There are these big banners displaying the distance to the finish; there’s 35km to go, 30, 25, etc, as well as each of the final ten kilometers counting down to zero. After racing both mountaintop finishes as well as ripping fast descending finishes, I’ve noticed that these final ten kilometers seem to tick by significantly faster when we’re going downhill than when we finish uphill. Go figure.
3. I’ve noticed the following things refuse to get old:
-Massage. Sometimes they’re painful, sometimes all you want to do is head down to dinner or grab a nap, but no matter what, being told you need a massage after each stage will not get old.
-The reach-around-tap. This coy maneuver occurs when rider A approaches their friend, rider B, A then taps B on the opposite hip from where A is located, causing B to turn their head away from A, yet no one is there! Joke complete. Honestly I see this a half dozen times per day and it’s always at least mildly entertaining.
-The finish line. Day after day after day, crossing the finish line does not get old.
-Support from around the globe. Every day I receive dozens of emails, Tweets, texts, and messages of support from friends, family, acquaintances, fans, neighbors, and people whom I’ve never met. I unfortunately don’t have time to reply to them all, but they’re enormously helpful in keeping the morale and spirits high. Thank you.
4. I’ve noticed that pink is a great color!
5. I’ve noticed that my fellow VeloNews contributer, Michael Barry, spends more time with his nose selflessly in the wind than any other rider. Teammate is in the leader’s jersey? Michael’s on the front. Teammate caught out of position? Michael’s riding him back up the side of the peloton. Time to get water bottles? Michael’s going back to the cars and then forward through the wind to get bottles. Time for a leadout? Michael’s on the front. Split in the field? Michael’s pulling it back. Friends, Michael Barry is crazy strong … and a super nice guy to boot!
6. Italy is enchantingly beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word enchantingly in my life, but if there’s ever an applicable use for it, it’s for describing Italia. From the sky-scraping mountains entrenched in snow, sunshine, or fog, to the beautifully antiquated villages overflowing with enthusiastic tifosi, to the sinuous roads no more than ten feet wide through dense forests, Italy is really one of a kind.
7. I’ve noticed that as soon as “Groupetto!” is shouted in the peloton, motivation generally goes the way of my subsequent speed: down. Now it’s worth pointing out that I’m under strict orders from captain Carlos here to conserve, conserve, conserve! This is my debut grand tour and to help him out in weeks two and three, as well as for me to make it to Rome, I need to save energy whenever possible. There have been plenty of days that the legs have felt strong enough, but for the sake of conserving a bit of strength I’m pulling the plug early and soft pedaling in.
8. I’ve noticed that while John Denver may have alienated his North American fan base in doing so, it would have been equally apt if he had sung “Dolamite Mountain High.” Although I’ll admit that “Rocky Mountain High” has a smoother ring to it.
9. Much to my dismay, I’ve noticed that the start village does not have a hairdresser. Thankfully our chief mechanic, Alejandro, has a set of hairclippers so I took care of my growing frock of hair. That said, the start village is still quite the site to behold.
10. I’ve noticed that three weeks is a long time. Ready, set, go! Start your watch’s stopwatch feature. Make a list of everything you do in the next 504 hours. It’s probably a lot. One day at a time!