May 06, 2011

Giro Stage 4 - The Legend of Pistoia

As we don't know what the racing will be like for Stage 4 - I think it's fair to say that since this stage rolls into Livorna and represents another, mostly, flat route that will likely end in a group gallop if they race at all. My guess is they will ride a la Motorola for Casertelli:

So let's talk about something else...

Not Mr Weylandt...that is a tragedy that I cannot speak to, nor would I try since I don't know him. I will say that I am proud of the racing community - from the world over, large and small, pro and amateur that have taken the time to offer condolences and a prayer for Mr Weylandt and his family during what is surely a heartbreaking time.

Rather than try to understand or comprehend, let's talk about Pistoia.

Recall that in 2004 we had our wedding in Italy and as part of the honeymoon we planned to take in a stage or two of the Giro. After leaving the Amazing Amalfi Coast on May 11th, we headed North in our little rental car intent on seeing some bike racing! Without much in the way of planning - a nod to Starr's letting me run the show since that is NOT how she rolls - we stopped in the quaint sounding town of Pistoia, just over the pass from the next days start in Poretta Terme. Smooth...

Except that Pistoia just felt wrong from the moment we rolled into town. We found an adequate room that was, if memory serves, at the top of a series of medievel looking stairs and floors. There was a single light in the room that shone bright as day, yet when out the room was darker than any I'd ever seen...So dark we slept with the lights on!

I don't recall if it was before or after we got that 'weird' feeling that we learned a bit about the city's history..but it certainly made an impression on us whichever the timeline. Like much of Italy it was full of war and treachery, occupation and counter-occupation. Michelangelo famously referred to Pistoiesi as "enemies of heaven" and there are dark days in it's history. Maybe we learned before...

We headed out to dinner and found a nice place that radiated dour. The atmosphere and staff were reserved, uninviting. Watching the people walk by on a nice May evening you'd expect young lovers awash in romance, or families enjoying the fountains - but none of that was to be seen. Shadows and dark shapes plied the night as we hurried through our meal and back to the hotel. It was a restless night of sleep.

Thankfully the next morning dawned rainy, but full of promise. We were heading to the race, but first we took in a sight or two - including the famous black and white marbled octagonal baptistrey...

We left from there for the drive to Poretta Terme and the start - it was all pink and grandiose. Cipollini was still King and Simoni wore the Maglia Rosa. Damiano Cunego's days were coming and ultimately the 2004 Giro would prove mostly uninspiring except for Damiano Cunego, who's been mostly uninspiring since. On our way out of town we got WAY lost and ended up at the top of a dead end road miles above the small town the race started in. We were deep in rural Italy and it was awesome! It took a few hours to find our way to the highway that would take us to Finale Ligure...but the day we spent there was a highlight of the trip for both being a bit weird and beautiful. It was Italy after all.

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