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Giro d'Italia 49 ..... domenica 29 maggio (click view all)(24 posts)

Giro d'Italia 49 ..... domenica 29 maggio (click view all)Spirito
Jun 4, 2002 9:52 PM
(Today in Italy in 1949 it is Sunday - there is no issue of "Corriere della Sera" today, so there's no report from Dino Buzzati. The race was uneventful, and the entire field finished together in a mass sprint. AR)

8° tappa - domenica 29 maggio

PESARO – VENEZIA 273 chilometri

ORDINE D'ARRIVO

1° Luigi CASOLA gs.Benotto 8 ore 19'07" media: 32,818
2° Adolfo LEONI gs.Legnano Pirelli st
3° Mario RICCI, (Ita), gs.Viscontea st
4° Nedo LOGLI gs.Arbos st
5° Oreste CONTE gs.Bianchi Ursus st
6° Tino AUSENDA gs.Wilier Triestina st
segue il resto del gruppo a pari merito

CLASSIFICA GENERALE

1° Mario FAZIO gs.Bottecchia (Maglia Rosa)
2° Aldo RONCONI gs.Viscontea a 1"
3° Adolfo LEONI gs.Legnano Pirelli a 13"
4° Giordano COTTUR gs.Wilier Triestina a 26"
5° Fritz SCHAER gs.Stucchi a 1'30"
6° Nedo LOGLI gs.Arbos a 2'25"
7° Léon JOMAUX gs.Bartali A 2'28"
8° Fausto COPPI gs.Bianchi Ursus a 3'24"
9° Serafino BIAGIONI gs.Viscontea a 3'49"
10° Alfredo MARTINI gs.Wilier Triestina a 4'09"
11° Gino BARTALI gs.Bartali a 4'24"

Maglia Bianca: Fazio
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 30 maggio ...dino writes....Spirito
Jun 4, 2002 9:54 PM
VICTIMS OF THE MAXIMUM TIME RULE
(transcribed by Aldo Ross)

Venice, the night of Monday,May 30th.

Dino Buzzati writes.

After the first group, heads down, had made their furious final assault on the finish line, and the nearly unbearable roar of the crowds had diminished to single cries, becoming less and less hysterical, and the first rows of spectators had broken through the protective cord and like a flood had engulfed the still-gasping champions to embrace them, kiss the, touch them.

After the official timekeeper had pressed the button on his stopwatch, and the finish-line judges had somehow determined (and we will never understand how) the order in which the racers had finished in the midst of the sprint's crazed confusion, and the glass negative recording the finish sprint had been sent to be developed, to settle the almost certain disputes.

After the photographers had snapped their photos of the winner holding the bouquet of flowers, and fraternally embraced by gentlemen who were probably seeing him for the first time, but who hoped to gain a bit of reflected glory, knowing their friends back home would turn green with envy the next day when they saw their pictures in the newspapers, their faces stunned and triumphant, the winner at their sides.

After the journalists, wearing strange, brightly colored coveralls and little red baseball caps they wouldn't be caught dead wear on the streets of their hometown for fear of being ridiculed, had reported in front of a microphone, or on the radio or from the nearest public telephone, the final moments of the stage and the finish results, their voices as excited as if they were announcing the explosion of the first atomic bomb.

After the top aces, having forcefully extricated themselves from the mire of thousands of all-too-enthusiastic hands trying to grab them (even in all that uproar, there were those who held out postcards and pencils, begging for an autograph), had been lifted with great effort into their respective team cars to be taken too the hotel (colorful, open-top cars, bearing sponsor's name down each side, and strange racks on the back, loaded with colorful bicycles and glistening wheels which, during the race, spin in the breeze like graceful little windmills). And after the throngs, stampeding as if to an emergency exit during a bad fire, had poured into the adjacent streets to see them go by.

After the linotype operators in distant cities had set the news into leaden lines, and the lines had been formed into a page, and the page had been transferred onto a copper sheet, and the copper sheet had been fixed to the rotary press, and the press had been set in motion, and the first copies had appears, with their bold headlines and the winner's picture, and the newspaper boys' strident shouts had been heard in the main streets by the men shut up in offices who, shaken by the tone of those shouts, wondered if war had broken out.

After the showers in the hotels - whose lobbies were alive with an indescribable confusion of porters, bicycles, journalists, team managers, telegraph boys, suitcases, curious fans, American and Swiss tourists at the height of confusion and embarrassment - had started to work, pouring jets of water over the backs and necks of the champions, running down their limbs, dislodging the encrustation of dust and finally running, murky and gritty, toward the drains; after the masseurs had started to put some tone back into the precious muscles of their charges, while from the street rose the exasperating chorus of the fans begging for a glimpse, however brief, of their idols.

After the press office at race headquarters had distributed mimeographed copies of today's results and the revised general classification, and in a separate little room the international jury - four dignified big-wigs, two Italians, one Belgian and one Frenchman - had come to an overall agreement on what actions to tak
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 30 maggio ...dino writes....Spirito
Jun 4, 2002 9:55 PM
cont.....

After the press office at race headquarters had distributed mimeographed copies of today's results and the revised general classification, and in a separate little room the international jury - four dignified big-wigs, two Italians, one Belgian and one Frenchman - had come to an overall agreement on what actions to take, such as: a 2000 lire fine for racer X (second violation) for an unauthorized feed from his team car, and 5000 lire to the team itself for the same reason; a 500 lire fine to the racers listed below for an unsolicited push (second violation) et cetera, et cetera; a 500 lire fine to racer Z who, while having declared he was abandoning the race, had not removed his number as required; and so on.

After the last of the race caravan had left the stadium, and the champions had started off toward their lodgings (either by car, or alone on their bicycles) and the excitement had dissipated entirely, and the immense crowd, so recently full of enthusiasm and energy, had become a weary flock (the happy young faces changed to limp masks, their eyes expressionless, their aching feet dragging) and streamed away amid the bestial racket of cars stuck in the traffic jam.

After the windows, from which a few minutes before had leaned beautiful, smiling young women, had been closed, and the inevitably sad post-holiday emptiness had invaded everyone's spirits - while the city was now, little by little, getting back to its normal activities, streetcars moving again, policemen returning to their barracks, and in the empty arena, once the scene of triumph, the wind scattered trash, old newspapers, crushed flowers.

When all this had taken place, three young men arrived on bicycles, dirty and sweating, faces twisted by exertion, trying to get through the rowdy, slow-moving river of people. . .

"Excuse me, please, excuse me, please!" they shout. "Make way! Make way!"

With desperate efforts they try to make their way without losing their balance. But the crowd is too dense. They have to put one foot on the ground, dismount, and push forcefully toward the entrance to the stadium. At first they are mistaken for those pitiful cyclists who, when races are being run, dress themselves like the real champions, in jerseys identical to theirs and, electrified by their presence, swarm into the stadium at full speed, pinning their hopes on a misunderstanding; and in fact some do make the mistake, a few girls shout, "Well done," some myopic fans take them for Ronconi or Bevilacqua, it also happens that, from a distance, they are mistaken for Coppi or Bartali. But these three are not rushing away from the finish; on the contrary, that's where they are trying to go. And it is obvious they have covered a lot of ground - too much for them, in fact. They have cloth numbers pinned on their backs, and another number hanging from the crossbar of their bikes.

Finally the crowd understands, moves aside to let them pass, and watches. However, no one applauds, no one shouts their names, no one carries them in triumph. For they are the latecomers, those who lagged behind by dozens of kilometers for the entire second half of the stage so that, instead of walls of enthusiastic humanity lining the roadsides, they met disorderly streams of people on their way back home.

They are the last, the disinherited, the destitute, the afflicted, the pariahs, the anonymous; always at the dangerous edge of the maximum time limit (the riders are allowed an extra twenty minutes for every one hundred kilometers raced). Waiting for them at the stadium's entrance there is perhaps a minor timekeeper, impatient to go and freshen up, who will record their arrival. But maybe there is no longer anyone there, and they will have to beg the jury to be lenient, claiming plausible excuses such as a fall, the support vehicle's breakdown, an accident, anything whatsoever that might be qualified as unavoidable misfortune. And perhaps the po
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 30 maggio ...Spirito
Jun 4, 2002 9:57 PM
cont....

But maybe there is no longer anyone there, and they will have to beg the jury to be lenient, claiming plausible excuses such as a fall, the support vehicle's breakdown, an accident, anything whatsoever that might be qualified as unavoidable misfortune. And perhaps the powers that be will turn a blind eye.

In truth, two of the distraught trio did not seem to take it too much to heart. Arriving late is just their job. They are the lowest-ranked gregari, required by their contract to give their spare wheel to the team leader, to run from one farmstead to another, collecting drinking water for him, to tow him if he is in difficulty, to wait for him if he is behind, to pick up at the feed zone the cloth musette containing provisions, and take it to him; a bit like hunting dogs which, running back and forth, end up covering more ground than their masters.

When they have accomplished these humble tasks, it matters little whether they arrive among the leaders. On the contrary, the team manager prefers that they not go overboard: let them spare themselves, save energy for the next day, swallow their aspirations, arrive an hour late, as long as they don't exceed the time limit. They arrive last because of others, precisely as are paid to do.

But not the third one. He had not given everything to follow his team leader today, taking him a bottle of water or orangeade. He did not hand over any wheels. He really sacrificed absolutely nothing for him. The third one had not stifled his ambitions. . . he really is defeated. He had a terrible bout of weakness and wasn't able to stay in the group's shelter The pep pill he swallowed at the start of the last climb failed to help - his strength returned for about ten minutes, but afterward things only got worse. Collapsed, destroyed, a wreck. And while the other two still have the energy to curse the people blocking their passage, he follows silently, looking about him with a dazed expression.

What has happened to him?

All around him impassive, unkind, alien faces from another world. His fiancee was waiting for him in the stadium, she had written him that she would be there. She, too, has probably left by now, or perhaps she is there, in the crowd, just a meter away from him and she sees him but does not recognize him. Or else she has seen him and is hiding because she is ashamed of him: a proud girl like her, engaged to the lowest of the lowly?

The sun is already setting amid dusty reddish halos, and the crowd continues to disperse. Increasingly congested streams of people pour against him as he struggles along painfully. The other two cyclists, cursing, have managed to get through. Now he is alone. The people bump into him, tossing him from side to side; a car, its siren wailing, obliges him to give way.

Daylight fades, the street lamps come on.

"Where is the stadium?" he asks.

They respond with vague gestures, almost annoyed.

"Excuse me, excuse me," he begs, his voice almost inaudible.

But it is already nighttime. How many hours have passed since the first ones arrived? How many days. . . or is it months?

Night has come, and beyond the crowd, the lights of the cafes shine out. And yet another throng flows toward him, like a dark stream of cruel and hostile lava.

"Where is the stadium?" he asks.

"Which stadium?" they answer.

"The one for the Giro d'Italia."

"Ah, the Giro d'Italia. those were the days." and they shake their heads pityingly.

Not hours, not days or months: It's been years since the race finished.

And he is alone.

And he is cold.

And his fiancee is out for a walk with someone else; or perhaps she has already married.

"Where is the stadium?" he begs.

"Stadium?" they reply. "Giro d'Italia? What does that mean?"
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 30 maggio ...Spirito
Jun 4, 2002 9:58 PM
Today is a rest day for the 1949 Giro d'Italia.
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 30 maggioSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:00 PM
TRIESTE REJOICES AND WEEPS, COVERING THE CHAMPIONS WITH FLOWERS
(transcribed by Aldo Ross)

Udine, the night of Tuesday, May 31st 1949,

Dino Buzzati writes. . .

The line for the intermediate sprint at the gates of Trieste was on the stupendous seaside promenade. Leoni, with one of his bird-like jumps, - you can see him breaking away suddenly from the lead group, his arms curved over the handlebars, looking just like a kite plummeting down on its prey - took the sprint ahead of Casola and Conte. Brought to life by the sprint, the cyclists entered the city, and at that point the atmosphere of the Giro suddenly changed.

All at once, there was no longer any difference between one racer and another . . . Bartali was on the same level as Carollo, Coppi equal to Malabrocca, Leoni to Brasola. We were suddenly met by fantastic crowds, appearing out of nowhere, swarming on roof terraces, a jubilant population raining flowers from the sky, and flags, flags, again and again. There was no longer any difference between the great champions and the boorish commoners, nor between the racers and members of the caravan; the same applied to Ronconi and the motorcycle messenger, Cottur and us, the reporters - we were truly equal.

Because we were all Italians.

Everything that had happened before that moment lost importance - the fact that Bartali and Coppi had not yet done battle; that ever since Venice, the race had proceeded slowly, with only a few brief thrills at the sprints, where the winners were Bevilacqua, Casola, Pasquetti, De Santi, Cottur; and that, thanks to the one-minute time bonus for those intermediate sprints, the pink jersey had (virtually) passed from the shoulders of Fazio to those of Leoni. For several minutes the overall classification had no importance, neither did the strategies of the different teams, nor the aspirations of the Giants, nor the dreams of the young novices. One single thought dominated; even the Champions understood, and they pedaled as if they were on parade, forgetting their rivalries.

The Giro had come to Trieste three years ago, one day before the United Nations declared a Free Territory. At Pieris, the riders had been assaulted, a notorious event which magnified the poignancy of that day. There had been extraordinary demonstrations in the city, a sort of farewell to the Italian homeland, and those who were present tell of how even the most unfeeling people wept like children.

Today, three years later, it was almost like a reunion for the people of Trieste, moments of tremendous joy and, at the same time, of bitterness because we went by like a whirlwind: no sooner were we sighted than we had vanished, like someone welcoming a brother unexpectedly returning from a long exile, who is about to kiss him, then realizes that he has barely had time to enter the house before he must leave again.

At about two o'clock today Trieste was stirringly splendid, with its delicate cobalt-blue sea, a white-hot sun, and flags waving as far as the eye could see: red, white and green fluttered everywhere. It's been a long time since we'd seen such a sight.

They shouted "Hurrah for Coppi!", but it was something else they wanted to say.

"Hurrah for Bartali!" but it was something else they were referring to, not Bartali.

"Hurrah for the Giro's little guys!"

"Hurrah for Cottur. Hurrah for Leoni!" they shouted, and it was always something else the people of Trieste referred to today - something that had far more grandeur, something that's felt more painfully, something that they had now become accustomed to keeping well-hidden within themselves. Today, they could at last roar it openly, and the racers with numbers on their backs understood they had all become equal, that they were only Italians, no longer champions, locomotives, human bullets. As one, they push forward amid all those powerful waves of affection, forgetting they were e
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 30 maggioSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:01 PM
cont.....

As one, they push forward amid all those powerful waves of affection, forgetting they were enemies.

Just last evening, by coincidence, a colleague and I were discussing the concepts of patriotism, nation, European unity, etc., and he told me that the idea of homeland is now out-of-date. He stated that he feels much more than simply Italian, he is a citizen of Europe, and of the world. So I asked him if, for example, he would be sorry to see Italy wronged. He shook his head and asserted that, in all fairness, he was distressed whenever an injustice was done to any nation whatsoever, Italy or Sweden, England, or even Persia. He maintained that he had freed himself from old style patriotism, as if it were a petty annoyance, and in exchange he had acquired a new patriotism, much more noble, one which embraces all of humanity. A highly gifted man, then, one must admit. But today, as we were passing through jubilant Trieste, I observing him closely - his car was right behind ours, so I was able to keep an eye on him. Oh, this citizen of the world, this philosopher soaring so high above humanity's old and naïve fundamentals - his lips were pursed in an odd way I had never seen before. He put on large, dark sunglasses, which he usually did not wear. This citizen of the world, full of shame, did not want to be seen, for he was weeping, I swear that he was weeping!

The exclusive and ardent "love of homeland" that existed in the past is certainly out-of-date, but today in Trieste I have seen thousands and thousands of my fellow men waving pieces of cloth of every size, but all the same colors; waving them like flags, waving them with all their might, so that we would be sure to notice them, until they were exhausted, for they too, like the racers, have their physical limit. Still they hold out, their faces calm, gritting their teeth - perish the thought that those little flags would stop waving until the whole caravan had vanished completely: to them it would have been like a betrayal.

I saw grown men wiping their eyes with the backs of their hands, seeing nothing through the veil of tears but muddled blotches flying past in the dazzling sunlight. I saw young men on motorcycles passing again and again, holding gigantic tricolors aloft in the wind. I saw the cerini (the civilian policemen in English-style dark blue uniform and British red berets) looking around in astonishment, unable to believe their eyes. I saw an old lady on a balcony greeting us as if we were her children - she had put on her record player that ancient song - that says "Oh, Italy, Italy, dear to my heart", and the strident voice spilled out over the street, ringing out over the rumble of the cars, the music wrenching at everyone's heart.

After that we climbed the hill leading to Villa Opicina, across the first humps of the Carso, a romantic and still green limestone massif, where we dipped down toward Gorizia; here, the enchantment ceased, and we resumed our daily routine. Doni - who is an adoptive citizen of Udine - broke away with Biagioni and Frosini, and joined forces with Leoni, Pasotti, Tonini, Pezzi and Castellucci. This group of eight riders flew away, while the two super-champions, sticking to a script which becomes stranger day by day, did not react. So the eight men arrived in Udine about three minutes ahead of the next group that included the aces.

But now, looking back, we can no longer envision the wild gallop along the marvelous road from Gorizia, and it is only two hours ago, nor can we picture the impressive array of people in Udine, nor the scenes of enthusiasm in the stadium, nor Leoni's second relentless sprint ahead of the dangerous little Pasotti, ahead of Pezzi, Tonini and the others. At this moment we are still unable to understand the new situation in the general classification that sees Leoni in the lead with an advantage of 4:43 over second-place Fazio, and about ten minutes over Coppi and eleven
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... OOPS......-> 31 maggioSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:03 PM
At this moment we are still unable to understand the new situation in the general classification that sees Leoni in the lead with an advantage of 4:43 over second-place Fazio, and about ten minutes over Coppi and eleven minutes of Bartali - won't such a gap begin to weigh against the two aces? And are they really so sure they can, in the twinkling of an eye, cut that to nothing on the alpine climbs?

All that the mind retains of today's events is the image of a jubilant city on the seashore, full of sun, flags, happiness, bitter anguish, tears and laughter, an entire city roaring "Hurrah for Bartali! Hurrah for Coppi!", shouted almost with despair; "Hurrah for the Giro! Hurrah for Cottur! Hurrah for Doni!"

But they wanted to say something quite different.
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... resulti...... 31 maggioSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:04 PM
9° tappa - martedì 31 maggio

VENEZIA – UDINE 249 chilometri

ORDINE D'ARRIVO

1° Adolfo LEONI gs.Legnano 7 ore 01'20" media: 35,459
2° Alfredo PASOTTI gs.Benotto st
3° Luciano PEZZI gs.Atala st
4° Olivieero TONINI gs.Cimatti st
5° Giuseppe DONI gs.Frejus st
6° Serafino BIAGIONI gs.Viscontea st
7° Luciano FROSINI, gs.Legnano Pirelli st
8° Leo CASTELLUCCI gs.Arbos st
9° Aldo RONCONI gs.Viscontea a 2'53" -
10° Fritz SCHAER gs.Stucchi st

CLASSIFICA GENERALE

1° Adolfo LEONI gs.Legnano Maglia Rosa
2° Mario FAZIO gs.Bottecchia a 4' e 43"
3° Aldo RONCONI gs.Viscontea a 4' e 44"
4° Serafino BIAGIONI gs.Viscontea a 5' e 29"
5° Fritz SCHAER gs.Stucchi a 6' e 13"
6° Giordano COTTUR gs.Wilier Triestina a 6'43"
7° Luciano PEZZI gs.Atala a 8'41"
8° Nedo LOGLI gs.Arbos a 8'42"
9° Léon JOMAUX gs.Bartali a 8'45"
10° Fausto COPPI gs.Bianchi Ursus a 9'41"
11° Alfredo MARTINI gs.Wilier Triestina a 10'26"
12° Gino BARTALI gs.Bartali a 10'41"

Maglia Bianca: Fazio
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 1 june...ahhh Bassano del GrappaSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:07 PM
TOMORROW, A GREAT BATTLE ON THE CLIMBS AND DESCENTS OF THE DOLOMITES
(transcribed by Aldo Ross)

Bassano del Grappa, the night of Wednesday, 1 June, 1949.

Dino Buzzati writes.

Portentous weather.

This evening, in the hotels and small inns - while big, ominous clouds continue to pile up to the north, toward the wall of the Dolomites - no one is talking about today's stage, which brought us one hundred and fifty kilometers from Udine to the base of Monte Grappe. They talk only about tomorrow.

Thursday, June 2, 1949. . . the holy day of Sant'Erasmo Vescovo, will be the day of decision, the time of the bogeymen, the most difficult test, where the advice of one's companions, the easy answers on crib sheets, the formulas copied on fingernails and shirt-cuffs, will not be worth a damn. These Mountains will not permit themselves to be misled - they stand solemn and impenetrable, wrapped in an immense blanket of thick clouds, hiding destiny within.

Big words, these, normally reserved for describing wars, revolutions, disasters, and other major tragedies, not a minor detail of life such as the Giro d'Italia. But this evening, here in Bassano, the Giro is anything but a minor detail; it's by far the most important thing in life in the small world of the Giro, in which we resemble wandering gypsies. And the thought of tomorrow's climb into the Dolomites keeps our senses on tenterhooks, almost like the anxious wait for the Allied landing in France during the last war.

Today's stage, while short and mostly flat, was nothing to be sneezed at, for it was hard fought (but not by the great Champions, of course, who continued to avoid conflict). Even though it was pouring down rain - no more pleasant views of fields in the sunshine, bare-armed girls, no more fights for the buckets of cold water set out on the roadsides, but instead an endless array of shiny umbrellas, slick asphalt, and the ridiculous transformation of the cyclists, whose little waterproof rain jackets billow in the wind, transforming the riders into monstrous hunchbacks - it was a continuous series of attacks.

It began right as we left the gates of Udine: Guido De Santi (gs.Atala) took off alone, his intentions not exactly clear, followed by Renzo Soldani and Luciano Frosini (both from gs.Legnano) and Franco Franchi (gs.Frejus), but the three of them couldn't keep up with De Santi. Frosini went again, this time with Mario Ricci (gs.Viscontea), Luigi Casola (gs.Benotto) and three others; and this time they made it across. They caught De Santi at Pordenone, but not before he had pocketed the cash prime.

Entering Treviso everyone was back together, but in the town there was another escape - Giuseppe Doni (gs.Frejus), leading under the intermediate sprint banner, took advantage of the opportunity to step hard on the gas. After him went Giovanni Corrieri (gs.Bartali), Fritz Schaer (gs.Ganna), and Pasquale Fornara (gs.Legnano). Schaer missed a curve, ending up in the crowd, so then three were left, and in the gusting wind and rain, the trio pedaled for all they were worth, between two solid lines of raincoats, oilskin capes, and umbrellas. . . a line which remained almost unbroken even in the open countryside.

After Montebelluna, there was no more asphalt, and the wheels started to throw up streams of mud.

Corrieri accelerated.

He looked back.
He saw that the other two were weakening, so there he was, dashing off toward the finish line in Bassano, without the annoyance of escorts.

"Bartali, Bartali!" people shouted on seeing his team's yellow jersey.

"Bartali!" they continued to yell, even when the fugitive was upon them. . .

Who could have guessed that it was actually Corrieri?

The mud covered his face like a mask, bringing to mind one of those African witch doctors, whose face is all tattooed in white.

True recognition came only from behind, when peo
cont... ..... 1 june...Spirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:08 PM
cont....

True recognition came only from behind, when people could read his number through the mud.

And that is how Corrieri won today's stage, with more than a minute's lead (no change, however, in the overall classification).

It was a splendid stage, despite the rain and mud, and yet it has already been stored away in the archives, and it appears that the preceding stages have been relegated to the archives as well, because those wise men, the old foxes, the oracles, the professors, the astrologists, the chosen few who understand cycling lore, grant no importance to what has happened so far.

In their opinions, the route covered through today, all 2296 kilometers of hardship, tribulations, sweat and suffering, were little more than a mere prologue, and the two great tenors have yet to test their scales (they haven't even cleared their throats. . . not even a little trill, as a test).

Up until now, they have only been fencing with very slender foils, but tomorrow at last the warriors will take their broadswords with both hands, and bring them down full force.

What does it matter if, in the first onslaught, he received a few superficial nicks in his armor? Tomorrow, in a single forceful thrust, the knight will slash his enemy to pieces.

What does it matter if Coppi and Bartali currently have a handicap of ten minutes?

It is true that Leoni is in surprisingly good shape and dominates the sprints, but how will he perform in the mountains?

"Yes, in the Dolomites, on the climbs, tomorrow," snigger the experts, "a ten-minute gap will mean nothing."

"Up there" they say, "only the powerful voices of the Titans will reign supreme in the silence of the sheer valleys."

Glory is a fragile thing, even in cycling. The merest trifle is enough to turn the praiseful trumpets in another direction. We saw a little of that yesterday evening in Udine when, contrary to expectations, the cheers for the two champions were less sustained, and the crowds in front of their hotels were rather sparse. Instead, the biggest cheers and the thickest crowd were concentrated beneath Leoni's window.

But the myth of Bartali and Coppi remains intact - it is touching (speaking as a heretic) what blind faith these sports enthusiasts have in those two.

But what will happen tomorrow, on the Rolle, Pordoi, and Gardena passes?

That is all they talk about during secret discussions taking place within the teams, at the dinner table, at the bar, from one bed to another in the dark before sleep takes over.

Rita Hayworth's wedding?

Obstructionism in the United Nations?

The situation in Italy's African colonies?

The congress of Christian Democrats?

The day laborers' strike?

You never hear anyone speak of them. . . rather, it is "What will Bartali and Coppi do on the Pallidi peaks?"

In response to this question, a sly smile lights up the face of Pavesi, that wise old Silenus (faithful confidant of the wine god Dionysus), who tutored both men and knows more about cycling than Einstein knows about physics and relativity. He excludes only one possibility from the list: that the two will break away together, taking turns at pulling. "No, that would require," he says, "that both Coppi and Bartali change into different men overnight."

But excluding this, anything is possible: that Coppi attacks, beating his rival; that the contrary happens; that the two, obsessed with watching one another, give up fighting.

It is also possible, and we hope it will happen, that some young unknown will shake off the great aces, in the manner of a Great Champion, that roaring cheers will greet the "revelation of this year's Giro d'Italia" and that, beginning tomorrow, a new name will echo throughout the world.

But the professors shake their heads. "It is absurd." they say, "Bartali or Coppi - there can be no one else in the Dolomites."

Tonight, those peak
cont... ..... 1 june...Spirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:09 PM
cont....

Tonight, those peaks, so arrogant and threatening, loom over the sleeping racers: visions of terrible precipices, roads that make the blood turn cold, without guardrails, carved out of solid rock, a monster following them as they struggle up the slopes above the abyss, while Salvation waits for them at the top, where there is a passage between the cliffs, where one never seems to arrives.

Even Fausto Coppi.

Even Gino Bartali.

It's absolutely certain - They awake with a start, gasping.

They turn on the light.

They look at the clock.

They sigh - it is time to leave.
resulti..... 1 june...Spirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:10 PM
10° tappa - mercoledì 1° giugno

UDINE – BASSANO DEL GRAPPA 154 chilometri

ORDINE D'ARRIVO

1° Giovanni CORRIERI gs.Bartali 3 ore 45'41" media: 40,942
2° Giuseppe DONI gs.Frejus a 1' e 14"
3° Pasquale FORNARA st
4° Adolfo LEONI gs.Legnano a 2' e 05"
5° Glauco SERVADEI gs.Viscontea st
6° Oreste CONTE gs.Bianchi-Ursus st
7° Vittorio SEGHEZZI gs.Edelweiss st
8° Marcello Paolieri gs.Arbos st
9° Luciano FROSINI, gs.Legnano Pirelli st
10° Nedo LOGLI gs.Arbos st

CLASSIFICA GENERALE

1° Adolfo LEONI gs.Legnano (Maglia Rosa)
2° Mario FAZIO gs.Bottecchia a 4' e 43"
3° Aldo RONCONI gs.Viscontea a 4' e 44"
4° Serafino BIAGIONI gs.Viscontea a 5' e 29"
5° Fritz SCHAER gs.Stucchi a 6' e 13"
6° Giordano COTTUR gs.Wilier Triestina a 6'43"
7° Luciano PEZZI gs.Atala a 8'41"
8° Nedo LOGLI gs.Arbos a 8'42"
9° Léon JOMAUX gs.Bartali a 8'45"
10° Fausto COPPI gs.Bianchi Ursus a 9'41"
11° Alfredo MARTINI gs.Wilier Triestina a 10'26"
12° Gino BARTALI gs.Bartali a 10'41"

Maglia Bianca: Fazio
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 2 juneSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:12 PM
AS A STORM RAGES, COPPI DEFEATS HIS MAIN OPPONENT IN A CLOSELY FOUGHT DUEL

Bolzano, the night of 2 June, 1949.

Dino Buzzati writes. . .

It was up there, where the line of fir trees begins to thin out - higher up there are bare meadows, with traces of purplish-blue scree, and the hotel which was visible from the Passo di Rolle; still further up lies the formidable pedestal of Cimon della Pala, immersed in a storm of black clouds - it was there that Bartali, who was leading the group, tried to break away.

We saw him from above, rocking in his saddle, as he shot ahead a few meters, and at the switchback slowly turned to look back, revealing his sly and suspicious face. Were the riders behind him weakening?

For several moments he saw, out of the corner of his eye, that the road immediately behind him remained empty. At the same moment he felt the burst of warmth as the sun appeared between two black clouds. Then, all of a sudden, he had a feeling that a shadow was sticking to his back, then two, three, four shadows following closely.

He looked - could there be the least bit of doubt? It was Coppi, and also Alfredo Pasotti and Giancarlo Astrua (both gs.Benotto), Aldo Ronconi (gs.Viscontea), Vittorio Rossello (gs.Legnano), and Giordano Cottur (gs.Wilier Triestina).

Perhaps he mused to himself: "He's holding on well in the mountains, that little one Pasotti! He's still a bit fragile, to be honest, and rather young, but could he end-up being my successor? And what to do now? Should I persist? It's unlikely that they will stay in line, wheel-to-wheel, after one thousand-eight hundred meters of climbing. But perhaps it's too soon? There's an awful lot of work left to do today. Thank goodness I feel in control. This morning I was so nervous; that never used to happen."

He estimated the distance - it wasn't very far to the summit, too late to try for an escape on the grand scale, so he didn't persist. Nonetheless, he continued to ride imperiously at the front, slowly accelerating. The peloton had collapsed - he hadn't been wrong. He saw it in tatters, scattering down the curving road.

The wind.

An ominous and sinister red glow on the edges of the Colibricon.

The roar of the crowd waiting at Pallo di Rolle annoyed him - he could hear them shouting his name.

A "King of the Mountains" bonus sprint, with it's precious prize of one minute. . . he pounded savagely on the pedals.

He felt strong.

Someone else's front wheel appeared alongside of him, trying to pull ahead. Enraged, he lifted himself out of the saddle three times, using all his weight to bear down on the pedals.

(God, what a tough climb!)

Something, perhaps a flower thrown from the crowd, struck him in the face.

The wheel beside him began to fall back - he crossed the line first, then, carried by his own momentum, launched himself down into the valley, headed for Predazzo. Coppi followed, as did the others - they had regrouped except for Ronconi, who was fussing with his wheel at the foot of a fir tree - a blowout.

They found themselves still together, plummeting down a dizzying gravel descent through a forest. The clouds overhead were black in the extreme, and frayed underneath, darkening the forest. Now and then they'd catch sight through the mist of massive, rugged rocks - the Dolomites.

Hail began to sting their faces and thighs - a storm in the mountains. The scenery and the struggle grew gradually more impressive. The austere fir trees along the roadside rushed away, bent by the speed.

Mud.

Brakes squealing, like kittens calling their mother.

There was not a living soul up here - nothing but the sound of the bicycles, the violent click-clock of the hail, and the squeal of the brakes. Consequently, nothing could be decided - there were still too many riders in contention at the feed zone in Predazzo.
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 2 juneSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:14 PM
cont......

Consequently, nothing could be decided - there were still too many riders in contention at the feed zone in Predazzo.

Down there, at the bottom of the valley, the sun reappeared. . . no more hail or wind. The racers were able to catch their breath. Soon the ordeal would begin again, but for now, on an almost flat road, a large group reformed in an informal truce. The riders could eat, drink, clean the mud from their faces. Nerves relaxed a bit - some of them were joking.

So, will the decisive attack come on the Pordoi?

Bartali peals a banana with his teeth, focusing on the fruit for only perhaps two seconds, but when he looks up again, he sees three racers bursting clear. "They're breaking away!" he hears someone shout. He flings the banana away, leans over his handlebars, stretching his back in that distinctive way of his, flattening himself on the bicycle, and speeds after them.

He doesn't need to ask who they are - Coppi's silhouette, seen from any perspective, is well planted in Bartali's mind. Then there's the pink jersey of race leader, Leoni, and little Pasotti. They are moving away at top speed, but luckily for Bartali, he has one of his lieutenants with him - the excellent Jomaux. The others in the group - Astrua, Pasquale Fornara and Rossello (both gs.Legnano), Serafino Biagioni (gs.Viscontea), and Ezio Cecchi (gs.Cimatti) - certainly won't give him any help.

So, it's on this nearly flat section, where it seemed the least likely, that the great, oft-delayed duel began.

Bartali: The devil with that damned banana! How is it possible that I let myself be taken by surprise like some child? What a stupid blunder - and here, on the flat, where they fear me the least! "Come on, Jomaux! Faster!"

But Jomaux can only do so much, and Coppi pulls away.

The sun has disappeared, but at the top of the valley, the snow-streaked walls of Sassolungo are glistening like a fantastic cathedral at Christmas. Bartali is preparing to take the lead again when his rear tire suddenly goes flat. "A wheel, quickly!" His team car is close by and ready - five, six, seven . . . ten seconds. "Is it ready? Let's go!"

Working with Jomaux, he catches the other pursuers, and takes command once again. It will take more than a flat tire to scare him off!

Now the climb begins - that's Bartali's cup of tea, and he feels a fine kettle, with not the least of concerns. But how is it that Coppi and the two others have vanished up ahead, invisible for as far as the eye can see? Damn that momentary distraction!

But is it all the fault of that small distraction? Is it really, or is there something else as well? Look at Fausto Coppi - is he climbing? No, he is not climbing. He is simply riding, as if the road were as flat as a pool table. From a distance you could almost think he was taking a pleasant spin.

From a distance, that is. . .

But up close we can see his face becoming more and more wrinkled, his upper lip drawn back, giving him an expression like a rat caught in a trap.

And his two breakaway companions? Leoni is outdistanced, momentarily overcome with pain, while Pasotti somehow manages to hang on. Perhaps this is Pasotti's first great day? Could he be the next new star? But alas; one look at him is enough, for there's a quiet, resigned suffering, tightening his child-like face. His eyes are lackluster, it looks almost as though he is blind. Ten more meters, and Pasotti falls apart.

And Coppi is alone.

We followed his terrible undertaking for quite awhile, up to the Pordoi summit, down into Arabba, up through the Passo di Campolongo (another gain of two hundred fifty meters up a very steep climb), then down again to the Plan Gardena crossroads. He proceeded calmly, standing occasionally out of the saddle, rising up above the handlebars, rhythmically moving those long tapering legs, solid at the upper joint, but so slender at the calves.

H
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 2 juneSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:15 PM
cont.....

He doesn't turn to look behind. He asks no advice from his team manager, Tregella, following in the team's light blue car a few meters back.

He keeps pedaling, pedaling, beneath the fantastic Boe peaks, so livid and gloomy in the stormy atmosphere, then climbing among the thin pastures, always profoundly alone.

A racer on a bicycle.

We in the car are not truly passionate fans, and yet, there is something stirring about this slender young man riding in the mountains, day after day, with nothing more than the beating of his heart.

Downhill he does not force the pace, but instead matches the increasing speed with casual thrusts of the pedals; he tenses on a curve, relaxing again as the road straightens; methodically, always true to himself, his physical pain hidden within himself.

And always more alone.

No people in the fields.

No roaring motorcycles.

No headlong avalanche of cars.

Verratti drives past him, shouting "Bravo, Coppi! You're five minutes ahead!"

Coppi lifts his head and opens his lips to say something, but not a sound comes forth.

Yes, Bartali crossed the Pordoi five-and-a-half minutes after him, behind Leoni and Pasotti.

And now we have reached the final torture - the Gardena Pass: another six hundred meters to climb. Dismal crags loom ahead, ominous, as are the wild gorges from which wintry blasts descend. Coppi slows a bit - they are saying he has reached his limit - then he lifts himself from the saddle, and after three or four turns of the pedal, he has regained his former rhythm. His triumphant flight in the storm comes to a pause . . . strange rumors arrive with the motorcyclist who left Bartali a short while ago - Bartali had dropped the others, and was pressing on alone. Bartali had gained two minutes on the descent. Bartali is only now beginning to work full-force. If Coppi weakens for even a moment, Bartali will be right on his heels before the final summit.

Coppi catches sight of his rival by chance, on a curve. . . far away, awfully far below, still on the first slopes of the climb. But he is making progress.

And how he stands-out in the dreary landscape, in his yellow "Bartali Bicycles" jersey, with his yellow team car following close behind. We stop to observe him, this man who is striving with all of his might. He is actually writhing on his saddle, like a salamander surprised by a hiker in the middle of a trail. But it isn't a sign of exhaustion - this is his style on difficult climbs. And he alone, among all the racers, keeps the exact same facial expression he had at the start this morning in Bassano - cunning, sad, and displeased, like certain ancient masks of the Medusa.

A feeling swept over the valleys, hard to describe - a kind of spiritual tension, pity, astonishment in the presence of this desperate duel. Would the old champion be able to save himself? Or had his moment of destiny finally come knocking? The blast of a horn echoed off the peaks, reverberating - the horn of a motorcycle messenger, but it seemed more like some solitary mountain god giving a signal.

Then Coppi stopped swaying above his saddle - he'd found a second wind from some unknown source, the invisible hand of victory pulling him to the top, then pushing him down the other side of the Val Gardena. He was flying now, and extremely happy, although his face spoke only of pain.

He entered Bolzano stadium, did a final lap, and finished in triumph. The empty minutes went by.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

Five.

Six.

Seven. a resounding roar announced Bartali's arrival. He wasn't alone, for the intrepid Leoni and the young Astrua had managed to catch up with him in the final stretch. Bartali battled to the very last for second place, like a soldier fighting to the end although he knows he has lost.

Long intervals separated the other as they arrived. . .

They looked as if
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 2 june resultiSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:16 PM
cont........

They looked as if they'd been crucified.
______________________________________
11° tappa - giovedì 2 giugno 1949

BASSANO DEL GRAPPA – BOLZANO 237 chilometri

ORDINE D'ARRIVO

1° Fausto COPPI gs.Bianchi Ursus 8 ore 13'35" media: 28,809
2° Adolfo LEONI gs.Legnano a 6' e 58"
3° Gino BARTALI gs.Bartali st
4° Giancarlo ASTRUA gs.Benotto st
5° Vittorio ROSSELLO gs.Legnano a 12' e 47"
6° Giordano COTTUR gs.Wilier Triestina st
7° Andrea CARREA gs.Bianchi Ursus a 14' e 43"
8° Alfredo MARTINI gs.Wilier Triestina st
9° Leon JOMAUX gs.Bartali a 15' e 31"
10° Nedo LOGLI gs.Arbos a 16' e 18"

CLASSIFICA GENERALE

1° Adolfo LEONI gs.Legnano (maglia Rosa)
2° Fausto COPPI gs.Bianchi Ursus a 28"
3° Gino BARTALI gs.Bartali a 10' e 12"
4° Giordano COTTUR gs.Wilier Triestina a 13' e 17"
5° Giancarlo ASTRUA gs.Benotto a 14' e 39"
6° Mario FAZIO gs.Bottecchia a 16' e 30"
7° Aldo RONCONI gs.Viscontea a 16' e 31"
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 3 juneSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:18 PM
THE ROLE OF A LOSER IS NOT FOR HIM
(transcribed by Aldo Ross)

Bolazno, the night of 3rd June, 1949.

Dino Buzzati writes. . .

At this point in our story, it would have been a good opportunity to tell the story of the great aging champion, who quits the race and begins an irreversible decline. It would have been so moving, so true to our emotions, which first rejoice for the winner, then are moved by the drama of the defeated. The result would be even more effective because, in this case, the man is no longer young. Nor can he expect revenge in the future - the time left for him is very limited. The past is the past. . . this last frontier, beyond which young hopes are forbidden, is no vague myth lurking beyond the horizon, but is now imminent, clearly visible, and far too real.

For someone writing about the Giro d'Italia, it would be so easy to move the reader's emotions by insisting on such a bitter outcome, for no one in the world is more deserving of pity than a man plummeting day-by-day from the heights of glory, for no fault of his own, until he finds himself back where he started, when no one pointed him out in the street, and his name gradually loses the magic that gave him his fame, and he reverts to being just one of the countless names listed in the phone book.

It would have been so splendid to describe the champion who, immediately after the finish, shut himself in his hotel room, took a shower to remove the coating of mud, but then found that the warmth of the water, the clean smell of the soap, the fresh and immaculate bed awaiting him, the rest day to come, the crisp copies of today's newspapers, the huge complimentary Milanese cake with it's tricolor ribbon sent in homage. . . found that none of these things comforted him as they usually do.

On the contrary, all of those things only aggravate the wound, reminding him of other showers and other evenings of rest during the golden times when, anytime he wanted it, victory was his.

On the street, the fans who have remained faithful call to him, and for the first time this evening he listens to them with noticeable interest; and he peaks out, desolately, between the slats of the white shutters. What faint voices, and what a miserably small crowd, compared to the roaring masses of the past. He hated them then with a sort of repugnance - dear, simple, generous friends, where are you now?

The scene at dinner: all the cyclists on the team are seated at one long table with the manager, the masseur, the mechanics, etc., but this evening the normal liveliness is absent. No one has the courage to be the first to speak - the way it must feel in the house of a condemned person, right after sentencing.

The champion himself is the one who finally breaks the ice, uttering something unimportant, with not the slightest reference to what happened a few hours before, as if it were just another evening - like during the first training camp each spring, when it's difficult to find a topic suitable for conversation at the table.

But his forced indifference only serves to increase the uneasiness. . .

No one answers his trite remarks, and in the painful silence, his teammates keep their eyes glued to their plates, pretending to be extremely busy de-boning the chicken.

One of them coughs.

Only the waiters, standing motionless a little to one side, stare anxiously at the defeated giant, with the obsessive and indiscreet curiosity aroused by great physical deformities.

At night, the champion in decline is awakened by bad dreams. Bartali is one of the few racers who smoke - he lights a cigarette, then walks in circles around the room, to ease his mind. Inside and outside the hotel, no one says a word, no one is thinking about him right now - they have all fallen into the black abyss of sleep, and take no heed of him.

Think of the overwhelming sadness of this man, surrounded by gho
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 3 juneSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:19 PM
cont........

Think of the overwhelming sadness of this man, surrounded by ghosts of the past - then consider his present fate. From the corridor, and from the nearby rooms, the sound of the rhythmic snores of his teammates reach him; for tonight they are still his devoted subjects, but tomorrow, right under his very own eyes, they will throw themselves into breakaways, and for the first time he will try in vain to keep up with their irresistible pace.

The young generation! They are snoring like animals, storing up more strength, like warriors secretly working at sharpening their weapons, while he smokes and paces and wastes his dwindling resources.

* *****

It would be easy, and to our advantage, to insist on this fascinating story line. . .

. . .but in order to do so, it would be necessary to turn the world upside-down, for it isn't really the truth at all - the champion of whom we speak is not someone defeated by life, he is not a romantic hero, nor a pathetic figure betrayed by the inexorable march of Time.

Rather, we are dealing with a peculiar being, tough, obstinate, in a certain sense not very human, for he is quite unlike us. He doesn't recognize despondency or the depressing influence of adversity. He grumbles and complains and protests continually, that is true, but he does so out of habit, even when things are going well for him. A rough, thorny stronghold, in which there is no room for discouragement. He has been beaten, he knows that, but he does not look for excuses. Instead, he is exactly as he was before. The idea of giving-up doesn't even cross his mind, for he feels in top form, no more or less so than during the greatest days of his career. So he isn't sad, he doesn't have to play a part to show he's calm, he doesn't feel the least bit defeated.

The manager of the Italian national team, Alfredo Binda, who led Bartali to victory in last year's Tour de France, and who yesterday followed the stage through the Dolomites to size things up for the upcoming Tour, told us that Bartali was riding just as well as he had done last summer: but in France, in 1948, Coppi was not there - that's the whole story.

But, the drama of physical decline is not for him, not yet. It is inevitable in the future, but there's no question of speaking of it today. Yesterday Bartali was hounded by bad luck, so says his team manager Vittorio Colombo. The rotten luck - he tells us - began right after the feed zone at Predazzo, when the racers were eating. Aware that his rear tire was slowly going flat, he mentioned it to his faithful lieutenant, Jomaux, who then made the mistake of shouting the news to their team car at the top of his lungs. Coppi heard, and since he's the cleverest racer who ever existed (or so says Colombo), Coppi took advantage of the opportunity by attacking.

Meanwhile, Bartali, always the malcontent, wasted precious time arguing with Colombo about whether or not to change the wheel right away, and then debated about the gear ratio of the wheel itself. And when he finally did launch himself in pursuit, he forgot to eat, and when you are racing, food is like coal for a boiler. So, at a certain point, he found himself short on fuel, and his progress down the Gardena Pass was quite bad, at a frightfully slow pace for a normally-very-fast descender like him.

That is what Colombo said - explanations that could almost sound more like excuses. These were certainly not the words of Bartali, who knows if he loses to take the punishment without accusations. Nor does Bartali torment himself with regret.

Where, then, is the figure who would have served us so well for the most moving chapter in our story? How can anyone feel pity for a loser who does not feel defeated? Or a poor devil who's unfazed by misfortune? Or a relatively old man who does not know the misery of old age?

Therefore, last night Bartali found the same consolation in the shower and at dinner as
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 3 juneSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:19 PM
Therefore, last night Bartali found the same consolation in the shower and at dinner as he would any other day. At the table, he did not feel the need to feign false serenity, and he groused and grumbled as usual. He did not awaken in the middle of the night to mull things over; indeed, he slept right through until nine this morning.

So do not cry for this defeated champion, not quite yet. And do not feel sorry for him. Do not think of him as a hero in decline. Do not send sympathy cards.

He doesn't need them, and if any one of you suffering from the pains of old age thinks you can be consoled by comparison with Bartali, you are mistaken, for Mr. Gino Bartali is not old, nor is he discouraged or sad.

And he is far too sure of himself to offer excuses.

This morning, someone asked him "Did you really puncture two or three times?"

To which Bartali replied "Puncture? We never puncture."
Course Map of the Giro d'Italia 49 .....Spirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:24 PM
"Grote bergprijs" is a mountain sprint.

"Tijdrit" is a timetrial.

The people with flags, standing next to Rome, are us.

__________________________________________
thanks to aldo ross
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 4 juneSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:26 PM
THE GREAT ONES DON'T EVEN FLINCH WHEN LESSER MEN BREAK AWAY

Modena, Saturday 4th June, 1949

Dino Buzzati writes. . .

Imagine on a magnificent morning on the road from Bolzano to the plains of Verona, with the race caravan revitalized by an entire day of rest. From our perch high on the mountain we can see it all - here is the lead vehicle, a jeep with a closed body, shaped very much like an ice cream truck, with four journalists aboard, and driven by our stocky colleague Slawitz, who woke up late, missed breakfast, and is now hurrying ahead in search of food.

The jeep moves on, and we enjoy of minute of quiet before the arrival of the caravan's first outriders - the cars belonging to radio stations and the press, fitted with odd, insect-like antennae; then the cars belonging to the race organization, the race jury, the time keepers; and amongst these, the noisy confusion of motorcycles, with reporters, messengers, photographers, couriers, and the tireless Milanese traffic police; and also on motorbike, the very popular Corsi, a giant in the hearts of the children, everyone's favorite, as happy as a bird in springtime. . . he is performing acrobatics leaps and stunts with his motorcycle to entertain the spectators lining the road.

There are uniforms of every type in the caravan; big fur-lined jackets, cowboy shirts, swimsuits, crash helmets, red American-style baseball caps, big pirate-style neckerchiefs. Normally-sober family men take advantage of the Giro to display the most outlandish, clownish items of apparel, things they wouldn't dare dream of wearing at home.

A few minutes later the main group appears: first a formation of traffic police on motorbikes, and right behind them, the racers - a multicolored swarm which from a distance sparkles and glistens like a carnival.

Immediately after the riders comes the dynamic race director, Giuseppe Ambrosini, his little red flag in hand. Then come various team cars, bristling with racks full of spare wheels and bicycles, each car painted in the team's colors.

More press cars, more motorcycles, repair trucks, press vans with huge loudspeakers mounted on top, blaring out the latest news and little tunes.

At the tail end of the peloton we see a rider struggling to catch-up after having a flat tire, but we are too far away to see who it is.

And finally come the two rear-guard motorcycles, and an unruly train of fans in cars or on motorcycles or on bicycles, proud to breath the same air that, moments before, had been in the lungs of Coppi, or Bartali, or Leoni.

It's a fine sight, the Giro's caravan, so new and cheerful, and it inspires faith in life. This morning it made its appearance in perfect order, well-groomed, newly shaven, glowing like an athlete after his bath. And it doesn't seem to be in a hurry.

We come down from our spot in the mountains and rejoin the cars at the front of the procession. We never go faster than twenty-seven kilometers per hour. The warm sun temps us to take a little nap. But all of a sudden, a car carrying the logo of a well-known newspaper careens past at an insanely high speed. Why? What has happened? Has someone broken-away from the peloton, and is now right at our heels? Should we race ahead too, to avoid creating a jam of vehicles?

Nobody knows anything, but the mere sight of that speeding car sets-off the alarms. An illogical hysteria grips the drivers and motorcyclists. Another care shoots off after the first one, and then a third car, sirens wailing, tries to get ahead of them. We feel as if we're on the race track at Indianapolis! There's an awful bellowing of car horns resounding through the valley. . . the speedometer wavers around sixty kilometers per hour.

At last the lead vehicle is all alone, out of view when we near the Adige River.

We look back - not a living soul in sight.

We stop.

Silence.
Giro d'Italia 49 ..... 4 juneSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:27 PM
cont......

Sparrows chirping.

A minute passes.

Then two.

Then five.

Finally, the other start arriving. But what had happened?

Nothing, absolutely nothing.

The riders are all still together, move at the speed of a spring outing.

Again we are gliding along very slowly, and begin to doze. . .

When all of a sudden it happens again - a motorcyclists rushes past, waiving his right hand furiously, as if he were announcing an enemy attack. What is happening? Nobody knows anything. Tensions rise once again - we think we hear Leoni's name mentioned when a colleague leans out of his car window shouting at us.

"Did Leoni break away?" we ask.

He replies "Oh, really? Did Leoni break away?" having misunderstood our question.

And away we go again at top speed.

And the others follow.

And once again a chaotic moment, "much ado about nothing," until we are far away in the silent valley, completely alone.

So we stop.

"What has happened?"

Nothing. The riders are still in a group, still moving at a snail's pace.

This happened four or five times as we drove through the valley, but absolutely nothing was happening among the racers. Our nerves were constantly strained. The battle between the two super champions is like rumbling volcano about to flare up. There, in the calm group, and from one moment to the next, it could explode, even if the flat road is completely wrong for any such battle.

At each excited shout, at each motorcyclist's gesture, and at the least little sign of anything that could somehow cause alarm, pandemonium would break out: ten minutes of superfluous fever, which subsided again into the lethargic rhythm of before.

And during this time, as we gradually moved south, the sun became brighter, the roofs of the houses became less peaked, the surrounding huddle of mountains increasingly lower. The Adige River became more austere - fewer and fewer men wearing blue aprons, fewer cliffs crowned with ancient castles, the trees became more stately, and the girls less and less fair-haired.

"Hey, are the racers sleeping?" asked some young boys who had already been waiting for several hours. Not really asleep, but you could almost believe it.

A breakaway attempt by Sante Carollo (gs.Wilier Triestina) just before the town of Roverto was quickly quashed. . . two riders caught up to him, positioned themselves on either side, and, wedging him with their elbows, politely escorted him to the back of the field. The small attacks which followed also had no effect, other than to get the cars all worked up over nothing.

So. . . a stage without a story? Almost.

Cycling historians certainly won't remember Antonio Bevilacqua (gs.Atala) taking the intermediate sprint at Verona, ahead of Oreste Conte (gs.Bianchi Ursus) and Adolfo Leoni (gs.Legnano). Nor (at the risk of seeming cruel) will anyone remember the breakaway by Armando Barducci (gs.Frejus)and Umberto Drei (gs.Benotto) outside the town of Ostiglia, which was quickly caught by Bevilacqua, then six others - Conte, Andrea Carrea (gs.Bianchi Ursus), Nedo Logli (gs.Arbos), Vittorio Seghezzi (gs.Edelweiss), Luciano Pezzi (gs.Atala), and Oliviero Tonini (gs.Cimatti). It was predictable, and since none of the nine could upset the overall classification, the others let them go.

The arrival of these runaways in Modena, Conte's victory, and the time gap to the great ones, are all recorded on page 18 of the newspaper, but we should mention some other things here: unequaled sunshine, entire populaces packed along the roadside and almost hysterical with enthusiasm, a sort of apotheosis within the overflowing stadium. . .

And the difficulty for those of us writing to concentrate, due to the uproar of the crowd in the street outside - because, unfortunately for us, the public has discovered that Fausto Coppi is staying in our hotel.
thanks aldo... :-)....NmSpirito
Jun 4, 2002 10:28 PM