Lifetime Memories at the Tour of Italy

very steep Muro di Sormano

Italy’s famous bike race on race day

The howling sirens of the Polizia letting us know something is coming. The blue and white Alfa Romeo comes whizzing past, sirens ablaze. 

The screaming whistles of the Carabinieri, Italia’s best dressed police force. Blowing their whistles so loud and hard, as if to say ‘look at me, look at my Armani police suit! 

The crowd jostles for position. In fact, there is loads of space, but the excitement gets people moving on their feet. Stretching their necks out down the road – can we see them yet?  – The Giro is coming. 

Great hotels near the race course – corsa rosa

We have landed in another quaint mediaeval Italian town. The Bikestyle team has yet again positioned us well to catch another stage of the Giro d’Italia. The old clocktower stands proud over town, dwarfed only by the spectacularly green mountain range in the background. There are pink flags and pink-painted bikes all over town. The local school has put up a massive coloured banner calling out ‘Ciao a tutti ciclist!’ Hello to all the cyclists! Nonna leans out her first-floor window to tend to her window-box garden – she gives us a wave when I go to take a photo. 

The crowd swells in town to maybe a thousand people. Everyone has picked a spot lining the road through the town. We have taken our first espresso for the day from the local café-bar and grabbed a sandwich from the local greengrocer. And now to settle in, watch the race pass, and see if we can catch a glimpse of our favourite riders and favourite jerseys.

More than a cycling race

We know the riders are getting close when we can hear the helicopters overhead. After following the Giro now for over a week, we know the drill.  Police bikes, police cars, the crazy 4-wheeled support motorbikes, the official’s cars…. And then the breakaway – 5 riders pass through town and they are flying by. They are pushing hard to get to and up the first climb of the day. Team cars are following close behind to make sure the riders are fuelled up with water, food and ready to deal with any mechanical issues.

The steady stream of bikes and cars continues. The chopper still hanging overhead – the peloton can’t be far away. And then the noise builds. A mixture of the sound of 150 bike riders stomping on pedals, the cheers of the crowd, the sirens and whistles blowing out of control, the screech of cornering car tyres as they try to keep up with the riders. 

The peloton flies by in a whirl. Even though we are part-way up the hill, they’re still doing 40 km/h plus (about what us mere mortals can do when pushing hard on the flat). And the colours! We can pick out each of the teams and the leaders’ jerseys. The eye-watering day-glow orange of CCC, the very smart royal blue of QuickStep, and the very crisp Movistar navy. But the standout is the Maglia Rosa – the distinctive pink jersey of the overall leader – very bright and very prestigious.

The race behind the race

The final riders pass through then the army of team cars and before we know it the race is gone. People swarm the streets again and the signs start to come down. Village life returns to normal. People head back indoors to watch the rest of the stage on TV, either at the café or back at home. Kids start to play in the playground again, excited about their little glimpse of the race and the Maglia Rosa. The tourists get back in their cars and head off to their next vantage point.

For the Bikestyle Tours crew – we head back to the bus, grab our bikes and head out for another ride in the Italian countryside. There will be some hills to climb, there will some nice descents, we know there will be fantastic views over the snow-capped mountains and the lusciously green valley. A better life I could not imagine – watching the pro race in the morning, and then going riding with our crew in the afternoon.

Written by: Danny Moffit