One of our site's most loyal readers, Italy's own Francesco Grandi, was among the lucky ones who had the chance to watch many of the best legs (in cycling terms, of course) on this planet battle it out in Verona over the past week-end. And we are very thankful to him for sharing his opinions on his World Championship adventure (Italian risotto included) with us. Although we are a bit less grateful to him for not putting some risotto aside for us ... :-).
THE VERONA EXPERIENCE
If you love cycling, if your passion is a 10 kg. bike, if your idols are those people who ride bikes like they were ancient knights in epic fights, then the best place to live is probably Italy. The Milano-Sanremo, Giro d’Italia, Giro di Lombardia, and hundreds of other more or less important competitions make every fan living here happy, and this year the possibility to follow even the World Championships in Verona was the best season end one could have hoped for ...
Thousands of people crowding the streets, the usual cheerful atmosphere you can find among cycling fans... but this time there’s something different. Everybody came here to support his country, and it’s nice to notice the orange spot of Dutch followers just side by side to Pantani’s yellow fans, the Philip Gilbert Fans Club and the Czech people close to me, and a Danish girl all dressed in white, with cotton wings on his back, to contrast with the famous German “Diablo”, who was obviously here in Verona too.
You can find every kind of people, from the best connoisseur to the man who is just passing by coincidentially ... so a man explains me that Alexander Efimkin, who broke away during the 3rd lap along with Cristophe Le Mevel, is a promising Russian cyclist, who just moved into the “Elite Circus” a week ago; another guy, surely less fond of cycling, thinks that the Russian can win the race ... "He’s in front and he’s got a lot of minutes of advantage, don’t think they’re going to catch him!". Cycling is even fantasy, and I don’t want him to be disappointed, so I look at him with a smile ... "Who knows, everything is possible...".
The Crime Scene, also known as Circuito delle Torricelle in Verona.
That's where it all took place.
When watching a race on TV, you can follow every moment of it, but when you watch it “live”, you get clear and unmistakable feelings ... I immediately understand the race is too controlled, and the Torricelle climb can’t make the gap. The Spanish team goes up at fast pace, and only a champion like Bettini could perhaps make the difference with an attack! But let’s see the peloton climbing again ... Damn! Paolino is off the back struggling with a suffering look, something has surely happened.
The news spreads very soon, Bettini feels pain in his knee, he can’t do it ... indeed he breaks into tears and stops. There’s big disappointment among all the Italian supporters, it’s hard to think of the race without the best man for “one day races”, especially as everyone here remembers well his great success at the Olympics.
Minutes go by, the peloton gets thinner by the lap, but it’s too late, just a shiver runs down the spines of fans along the roads as Basso attacks, but then it all comes down to a sprint .... 1st Freire, 2nd Zabel ... the strongest: that’s right! Paolini gets the bronze medal, not so bad at all!
Oscar TRE-ire – serial winning World Champion!!
The most regretful one is Auro Bulbarelli of Rai TV, the Italian television... he has just lost a lot of money betting on Vinokourov victory!
The day is coming to end, emotions are leaving room to fatigue; we walked for 10 km. throughout the Verona periphery without realising it! We get back into town and have a last idea: why not going to have dinner at “Osteria Mattarana”, like we did the day before? Special and typical food at the right prices! In a while we are sitting down at the Osteria with a real “cyclist hunger”; risotto all’amarone e zucca (rice cooked in red wine with pumpkin) and frittura di pesce (seafood selection) give us real satisfactions ...
And in the end, just a question left: “Why do they organize World Championships only once a year?” :-)