One grand tour and one smaller tour are underway. It’s nearly crunch time for training, and for fund raising. By the time most folks read this, I’ll be out on my bike.
The weather has been nice, and while I’ve talked about it plenty, I try not to complain too much about my collar bone. I was surprised to discover just how far this column goes and how many people have heard about my injury.
I was hiking up to Gem Lake about 10 days ago and met a gentleman from Denver. He noticed my camera gear and sling and correctly guessed who I am. On Tuesday night, I was doing a shoot for Children’s Hospital, all the way down on their new Fitzsimmons campus. It was an event with big donors, department chairs and hospital and foundation executives. A donor, again after spotting the cameras and sling, asked if this was my column. It’s nice to know this is read all over.
So, I mentioned Children’s Hospital and donors. I got to see the new hospital up close. I got to see a few of the many children this facility helps every day. I’ve also managed to meet some of our locals over the last few years, who have benefited from this great hospital. It’s nice to be a part, even a small one, of helping this hospital. You can be a part, as well.
I am still trying to put together my team for the annual Courage Classic bike tour. The important part is the fund raising. Riders raise money for the hospital, providing funds for them to purchase equipment, recruit top-notch talent and finish this state-of-the-art facility down in Aurora. All of this for the benefit of Colorado’s children.
There are two ways to help out. You can join me. Go to couragetours.com/2012/team/estes and sign up. Do to schedules, we are low on riders. We would welcome new team members. If you can’t or don’t wish to ride, you can always donate. Go to the same web address, pick a rider, and donate. It’s actually pretty easy.
If you don’t already know, the ride, itself, is three days around Leadville, Vail and Summit County. The riders are friendly and pleasant. The scenery is breathtaking and the support is the best of any ride I have ever done. The support consists of volunteers mostly from Children’s Hospital, so they’re cheerful people, anyway. The organizers also promote a contest among the aid stations, so they are competitively happy and enthusiastic. The real heart-warming icing on the cake is Team Courage. This is a team of kids and their parents who have been treated at Children’s Hospital. The festivities on Saturday night include introduction of the team, to cheers and hugs. On Monday, the last day of the event, the whole team masses and then crosses the finish line together.
Riders of the event get medals at the end, but the real reward is knowing you’ve helped this wonderful hospital. This will be my fifth year, and I hope to do it for many years to come. I would love to have some new friends to join me.
In the professional world, 22-year-old Slovac Peter Sagan of the Liquigas-Cannondale squad has absolutely dominated this year’s Amgen Tour of California. The young sprinter has won the first four stages, and has worn three of the for competition jerseys; best young rider, sprinters points and the yellow jersey of the overall leader. He may have trouble on Thursday with the Bakersfield time trial, however. All of the top GC contenders, including defending champ Chris Horner, are withing 30 seconds of the lead.
Friday will also be a challenge for most sprinters as the stage starts in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles, and heads west for a big climb and a finish at Big Bear Lake. The problem, for the rest of the field, is that Sagan won the climb to Big Bear last year. If Sagan can hang tough in the time trial, look for him to win the race and take home his first tour overall win.
Over in Italy, irony took headlines at the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday. Roberto Ferrari won the bunch sprint after yet another crash in the final kilometer of the stage. Before Wednesday, Ferrari was best known as the erratic sprinter who crashed world champ Mark Cavendish and GC leader Taylor Phinney in the last 100 meters of the first road stage of the race, a week ago Sunday. Phinney has not ridden very well since and Cavendish has looked tired, though he did pick up a sprint victory last week.
Joaquin Rodriguez of the Katusha team leads the overall. Canadian Ryder Hesjedal of the Garmin-Barracuda squad is 17 seconds back. Several overall contenders are within one minute of the lead and the race has not yet hit the high mountains. The year’s Giro is completely up for grabs with eight stages left. This should be fun.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding. Really.
Saturday marks the start of the 2012 Giro d’Italia, the tour of Italy, and it should certainly be a good one. The flash and style, the torturous climbs, the lightning-fast sprints and the tiffosi, the crazed Italian fans, the Giro is an amazing event.
While the Tour de France has its traditional feel, awarding what looks like a Greek bowl as its award to the winner, Italian style abounds and is reflected in the Giro’s trophy, a two-foot tall spiraling gild ribbon with the names of past winner etched in it. It is Italian art all by itself.
As you might imagine, for most Italian riders and teams, the Giro is the most important of the three grand tours. To race in front of the home fans on the roads on which many of them train is a rare treat. In every one of them is the fantasizing boy, chasing Fausto Coppi or Marco Pentani up the near-vertical climbs. Each sprinter, though now a pro, imagines himself sprinting against the Lion King, the legendary and flamboyant Tuscan, Mario Cippolini, record holder for most Giro stage wins. It’s the brutal beauty of the epic stories, like Andy Hampsen’s heroic conquest of the snow-covered Gavia Pass. But cycling is so much a part of Italy, and Italy so much a part of cycling that there is much more than even the Giro to celebrate.
Cycling is such a part of Italy that the fans have their own special name; the Tiffosi. They will push riders. They have been known to assault others. They will ride the same roads and wait for a week to catch a colorful flash of their favorite riders as the fly past.
Take a ride to a coffee shop. Sip espresso with your shaved legs up on a chair. Sport that retro cycling cap. My wife hates that cap, by the way. I own five of them.
I own a replica of the 2007 sprinters’ kit awarded to Italian Alessandro Petacchi. It is an outrageous magenta. Imagine a giant-thighed sprinter in hot pink coming at you like a missile. That is Italian style. In this edition, the sprinters will fight for a bright red jersey, the shade of the stripe on the Italian tri-color flag.
Waif-like climbers have worn the other prominent color of the flag, green, until this season. This year, with a change in sponsorship of the best-climber category, blue will be the color of the Re delle Montagne. Blue, of course, is steeped in Italian sports tradition, itself. The Italian national teams, whether soccer, rugby or cycling all ware the fabled azzuro.
Like the other grand tours, white is the color for the best young rider of the Giro. Maglia Blanca was won in 2007 by Andy Schleck. At the time, fans knew he was the younger brother of Frank Schleck, but until he nearly stole the GC from The Killer, Danilo Di Luca, no one knew how good this kid was. A rider must be 25 years of age or younger. The idea being that a rider really needs to be a certain age before a body can handle the demands of three weeks of racing.
The one jersey every Italian cyclist dreams of, however, is the color of a baby girl’s blanket; pale pink. The Maglia Rosa is the shade of pink once sported by the Gazzetta dello Sport, the Italian national sports journal. The paper was the driving force behind the race in its infancy. It is still a major force behind the organization, though it is a more traditional newsprint color today.
The pink jersey has been worn by the superheroes of cycling. It was won by Eddie Merckx on five different occasions. Italian legends Learco Guerra and Alfredo Binda each took five pink jerseys home, as has Costante Girardengo and Roberto Visentini. Fausto Coppi accounted for six pink jerseys, though even he was not the best of the best for the jersey. The great Francesco Moser holds the record. Moser won eight Maglia Rosas between 1976 and 1985.
So grab some espresso and a plate of brioche with some marmellata on top and get ready for three weeks in Italy. The Giro is about to begin, and it will be a good one. Ciao!
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding, if only in my imagination.