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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I was going to create a thread about my experience at the Giro which references photos in-line but with so many pictures it soon became apparent that this was going to take considerable time and storage space somewhere which allows for direct HTML links back to RBR. Instead, what I decided on was to dump some of the better pics into a Flickr album and arrange them chronologically and place just a few in this post. My suggestion is to view the Flickr album full screen (top right corner of screen when you get to first pic) as that bumps up the picture size considerably. Also, Flickr's description integration forces one to scroll below each photo to read notes, which I opted to skip. Instead I have this write-up.

LINK TO FULL PHOTO ALBUM.

Mountainous landforms Mountain range Winter Glacial landform Slope

We flew into Geneva, rented a car and headed toward Italy for stage 18 and stage 19 of this year's race. We could have flown to Milan but the rental needed to go back to the same place and our last day there had us in Risoul, France closer to Geneva and figured the shorter drive would work best after a long day in the sun out in high mountains (this proved itself as the smarter plan on the last day when we got off the mountain spent, scorched and worn out).

Fresh out of the airport we stopped in Chamonix (only 45 minutes away) to check out the Mont Blanc observatory. My buddy balked at the 58 euros it cost to go up on the tram to Augille Midi 3,842m IIRC and since I've already done it I just shrugged my shoulders and we made our way to the nearest coffee shop. We gave a youth hitch hiker a ride home on the way out of town and headed to Italy.

The next morning we were in Muggio, of Monza racetrack fame, a north east suburb of Milan, to check out the stage start. The town center was all done up and decorated in pink with locals buzzing about. After our coffee/croissant routine and armed with detailed city maps we set off in search of the team buses. Walking from bus to bus was pretty neat, the riders were inside for the most part (they did not warm up on trainers) with the franchise riders out for pix and autographs. I enjoyed walking from car to car and taking note of the different setups on bikes. One of the pictures is of Nibali's scarred chain stay, from when the reach mech wrapped around it on the prior days TT. I bumped into Oleg Tinkoff hobbling around on crutches. Had a good laugh and chat with Jonsey, the guy who puts together the fantastic OGE Backstage Pass videos. Spent the rest of the morning milling about, taking pictures of equipment taking notes of setups, poking around, etc. One by one the riders departed their buses and pushed off to go sign in and line up in the start queue.



Bicycle tire Bicycle wheel rim Bicycle part Bicycle Bicycle wheel

We left Muggio before the race started and made our way to Pinerolo (250km away) to catch the finish of that day's stage. I researched this ahead of time and we had three goals: (1) catch team buses in the morning and (2) that days' stage finish, then (3) get into the alpine pass early enough to set up camp at altitude and enjoy a mountain stage experience. I printed maps and time cards for each days stage so we knew exactly when the peloton departs and what time it crossed each town. Big help! Always have time cards and maps handy.

We got to Pinerolo with ample time to spare (all highway no mountain passes) and watched the stage end. From my failed experience with the world championship in Richmond I knew that the best spectating to be done at the finish is pat the finish line and not right at the finish. In Richmond I stood ten rows deep at the finish only to see things fly by in a blur, meanwhile, 100 feet down Sagan was tossing his crap into the sparse crowd and high-fiving riders as they coasted by. Lesson learned. Standing past the finish permits one to spectate the neat stuff like riders coasting by, turning around being met by team personnel, doing interviews and being whisked away to the doping control tent. Things you don't normally see on TV, like one of the Tinkoff riders pulling to the side to kiss his girlfriend who posted up on top of a tall junction box and yelled for him.

What I learned in Muggio that afternoon is that there are more trophies presented than what you see on TV. In addition to the main jersies there was also best team - so everyone from Quickstep shuffled out to receive their caps or whatnot- and two other presentations which I forget now. Also spotted Ashley and Jered Gruber the husband wife cycling photohog team.

Sky Atmosphere Aircraft Air travel Propeller

With the flat stage done and dusted we focused on getting into the Alps before police closed the pass. We asked a stranger with plenty of Giro credentials about closing times. He didn't know but asked us to wait and entered into an intense Italian exchange with another man who had not only more credential than the first around his neck but was followed by an entourage of six. The rapid fire Italian stopped and the verdict came down: roads close just hours before the riders pass through. Apparently, this was not Le Tour and we wouldn't have to sleep at altitude.

We left Pinerolo and headed into the foot of the pass where we would spend the night in a hotel, passing a lot of Giro cars on the way out of town. There were the amateur riders being followed by their own SAG car blocking traffic (you know the do the tour ahead of the riders thing), a car full of gorgeous podium girls, press cars, etc... Lodging was reasonably attainable. I had to stop at two b&b's and do my patented pop my head tilted to side and snuggle against two palms folded into pillow routine before I found a free place to stay. Eighty euros for two beds, a shower and great breakfast. I had a decent boar in wine sauce that evening, checked in with mah lady and crashed for the night.

Window Property Town Neighbourhood Building

5:30AM wakeup. We shuffled downstairs for early breakfast even beating the amateur SAG wagon supported Spaniards. We drove towards the mountain pass and about thirty minutes later the road started turning up. We drove past plenty of RV's parked on the side of the road right before a police checkpoint, which gave us the ok to proceed. We drove until we hit the second checkpoint, this one was exponentially more selective in who it let through, and directed us to park in a large field. The rest of the way would be on foot. I packed a baguette, prosciutto, gouda, chocolate, a six pack, plenty of water and we headed up stopping for what else but an espresso shot from a mobile food truck parked nearby.

The walk was long but the killer views made up for it. It was also here I committed what would become a grave tactical error by refusing to put cheap Italian budget brand sunblock on my now profusely sweating forehead (I did get the nose and ears just noting above the eyes). We got to the pass 4 hours before the peloton was to pass through. We passed time by chatting with spectators, checking out bikes, hiking to the summit, admiring riders who have cycled up there, drinking, eating and looking for a urinal at 2,744 meters (the highest point of this years Giro). I peeked at some of the Garmins on the bikes and was amazed that everyone and their grandfather just banged out 35 miles and 7,500 vertical feet to get up there while we were chugging beer and broiling ourselves. Very impressive and I can only imagine a matter of acclimatization... for us this was the Giro but for them this was basically their weekend ride.

Two hours before riders were set to roll through the weather changed on a dime. A damp mist set in along with heavy fog. Interestingly enough it was sunny on the French descent side of the pass (where Kruijswijk flipped after overcooking a turn). The party was getting going, the Caravana semi tractor trailer rolled through, people were anxious to see the first of the riders through the fog and the beer was hitting hard at altitude (two cans on an empty stomach - oxygen = plenty good time).

About an hour before riders were set to roll through the Astana car dropped off a soigneur who set up shop right next to us. We got to laughing, talking (he was the teams English speaking team acupuncturist) and the next thing you know my buddy is helping to pack Astana's musettes which was a very memorable experience. Vinny would go on to win that day and turn his Giro around; you're welcome Italy!. The soigneur had a radio with him which pierced the anticipation and fog with up to date race radio and happenings. We heard something frantic about a rider down and requests for team cars to let the medical car through, later finding out it was for the Katusha rider who went into a ditch.

Recreation Winter Outdoor recreation Jacket Adventure

The riders passed by surprisingly fast considering they were climbing for kilometers at this point. What the TV does show you is the pain, the confusion and suffering in their faces. Snot hanging out of both nostrils, dirty and disoriented faces, pain, misery and more pain. One of the riders dropped their musette and I picked up the pink newspaper he was about to unfold and stuff under his jersey for the descent (which I framed in a felt backed wooden display case along with a cycling cap). An endless parade of team cars and back end riders followed.


Then came the longest walk back to the car after a sporting event ever. It was like Hannibals' crossing, people on foot, cars, vans, cyclists all making their way down a narrow mountain pass. You think walking to parking lot D after a football game is long? Bah!

We got to the car drove back to Geneva, I used some points to score a hotel for the night and we flew home the next morning. Wrapping it up because I have to go but would recommend to anyone. Apparently the Giro is 90% of the excitement of the tour with 50% of the foot traffic.

Link to full Flickr album: https://flic.kr/s/aHskB22q1H
 

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Great write up, thanks for posting! Sounds like you did it somewhat on spur of the moment; when those work out it's the best kind of trip. Giro is on my list of events to see, so glad to read of your experience.

Possibly my favorite sports day ever was Alpe D'Huez, turn 6 in 2011. We stayed in a small village on the other side of the Alpe and hiked the 3K over - like you, backpack full of bread, cheese, water, bottle of wine and Kronenbourg 1664. Greatest day ever! Urinating was a challenge, I usually ran to Huez, where there were a couple of places to go, also had the ubiquitous water spout for refills. The people watching, chatting, getting updates from the people with TV's was part of the fun. Watched an old guy ride up the mountain with his lawn chair tied to the back and his grandkid on a little bike.

Is there a caravan in the Giro?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Is there a caravan in the Giro?
There is but probably smaller than the one in Le Tour. They had a giant semi truck with speakers on the back hauling ass through the mountain pass with mere inches of clearance on either side.

Alpine urinal = tall mound of snow with a lot of tiny holes in it

Completely last minute. We left Tuesday evening and were back Saturday morning.

We were going to hit Alpe d'Huez on the way back to Geneva - as we had to cross the mountains somewhere - but it was getting dark so we crossed at Col d'Iozard instead which wasn't as far out of the way. I remember seeing names of 90/00's legacy riders properly painted at each turn (were talking paint bucket and wide paint roller). Twisty as hell and zero guardrails with a very rock like landscape at its highest point.

Next time... with a bicycle.
 

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This is a great thread. I have always wondered what a grand tour experience would be like.
 
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