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Giro d'Italia Prologue Weekend!
Photos and Story by Celine Tytgadt


(Click on thumbnails for larger images)


Friday - 10 May

The fun thing about starting a new job is that you meet other people. This happened about six months ago for me when I met someone from Groningen and only two weeks later it was decided I would visit him there to see the Giro. So off I was to Gironingen - called like that for the occasion. The trip over there wasnít the most pleasant one I have had so far (three hour delay on Friday and two hour delay on Monday), but the weekend in itself made up for it. 

As my flight was delayed my hopes to be just in time for the team presentation crumbled, so I stayed in Amsterdam a bit longer to make a break between my flight and the long train journey (2h30). Walking through the streets of Amsterdam relaxed me and made me very excited about the weekend to come. I would spend the weekend at home with Johan, the friend who invited me, and his parents. I received a warm welcome and even though we werenít in Groningen, but in a small town Maartenshoek, the atmosphere of the upcoming Giro was definitely there! We watched the news on the local channel, because this was the only channel that was already showing what was going on in Groningen and talked a bit about the plans we had. We would take the train at 9.20h to arrive in Gironingen about 10 minutes later.


Saturday - 11 May

The first thing I saw when getting of the train was - unbelievable but true - pink taxis! But not only pink taxis, there were also pink bikes, pink balloons, pink clothes, pink caps, ... everything you can imagine having in pink. I must say that it was actually pretty funny seeing all that pink in town. There was one family who lived on the route of the prologue to hang out all their pink clothes on the washing line! Walking around the route we saw many riders exploring the twisted prologue, for example Michael Boogerd (who was already cheered on), Marco Pantani, Mario Cipollini, Rik Verbrugghe and many others.




After a while though, we noticed it was getting a bit busier so we decided to go to our spot. For the ones who watched the prologue, some might remember that at the end of the course, there were some Belgians waving a flag for Rik Verbrugghe. Well, I was standing very close there, but too far to be noticed by the camera. It was the last curve on the last bridge before the finish, about 375 meters away from it. It was a good place to take pictures!


The atmosphere there was extremely good. There werenít too many people, but still enough to create something special. Even more so when a Rabobank rider was coming our way, you could hear it from miles away, much cheering and some say that itís even the reason why Boogerd did raced such a wonderful result (8th at only 15 seconds from Dominguez). Another rider that attracted much attention was Mario Cipollini. I already read in the local newspaper "Dagblad van het Noorden" - printed in pink for the occasion - that Mario had something in store for the prologue and everybody was very curious. And there he was, not in the usual zebra stripes, but in a leopard's outfit! Unbelievable what Cipo does to get attention. But letís face it, we all enjoy it very much when Cipo is around to give a bit of show....


As a Belgian, of course I was cheering on Rik Verbrugghe. I read in the newspaper the day before that Erik Dekker said that there were too many curves for Riuk to win, but he proved us wrong. Rikís time (8m13) was 7 seconds better than the Austrian Buxhofer. I was already getting very excited, but the guy next to me said that there were still two good time trialers to come Savoldelli and Dominguez. When the time of Savoldelli got announced in the microphone, I could almost explode, as there were so many helicopters flying around I could hardly hear it. Luckily enough I did and was relieved: 8m16! Then Dominguez interrupted my ecstatic behaviour by going one second better and taking the pink jersey and the stage.


In the news in the evening, I heard Rikís reaction as he was sitting in the commentator's box of Belgian television. He said he actually didnít think about Dominguez anymore and thought the pink jersey was his as Savoldelli crossed the line. But on the other hand, he only lost by a second and as one of the favorites this is not bad at all. Worse would have been losing by 20 seconds for example. He would try to get the pink in Ans, when the Giro arrives in Belgium. (As well all know now, he hasnít succeeded in that. Iíll cross my fingers for him to win a stage later on then!)


After the stage, we were quite surprised that everything was dismantled so quickly. We wanted to buy a pink jersey, but even the small shops along the vismarkt were already dismantled by the time we got there. It was ready for them to move on. Fortunately for us, the Daily Peloton just announced that 4 Giro jerseys can be won here, so stay tuned for this as well and try to go for one of them! (I would love to have one, thatís for sure!) Trying to get dinner wasnít as easy as would seem as all Italians filled up not only the best pizzeria in town, but also all other Italian restaurants. Since that was the case we decided to have dinner at the Chinese restaurant (which was really delicious!) and also there, you could only see people in pink.


Back in Maartenshoek, we watched the Dutch channel for the news about the Giro, but since they couldnít afford to buy the license for the live coverage, they decided on showing nothing at all, not even a resume of the stage. That must have been quite disappointed for the Dutch cycling fans, but luckily for them, they can receive two Belgian channels of which one is showing the Giro live every day! There has actually been a lot of discussion about that in Dutch (and I suppose others as well) papers that RAI is asking too much. There are only two channels outside of Italy that are showing the Giro, one of the channels in Belgium (the Flemish public channel so if they want to see it in Ans (French speaking part of the country), they will need to practice their Dutch/Flemish). So cycling fans: better all move to Belgium or Italy!


Sunday - 12 May

The next day, the Giro left Groningen at noon, so we went to the start to see all riders signing the startlist and getting their backnumbers. We were standing next to two Michael Boogerd fans (with T-shirts of the official fanclub of course!) who were well prepared for their attack for signatures. They were very enthusiastic with almost every rider in sight and thatís why the television cameras started filming them. It showed very much the atmosphere there and how happy the cycling fans were to see one of the grand tours in their home country. It had of course its advantages standing next to them as they were screaming out to all riders they didnít have an autograph off yet. Together, we managed to call many Dutch and Belgian riders and some of the favorites.



Giro Mascot


Unfortunately, near the start of the race, there were more and more cameras and photographers in our way, so catching the favorites like Mario Cipollini (in Zebra stripes this time), Francesco Casagrande, Gilberto Simoni, ... was practically impossible. I say practical, because one of the Boogerd fans, just climbed over the barriers and managed to ask them for a signature.

It was interesting seeing the differences in attention for every rider and how they reacted. Some riders just ignored our yelling, others just said hi from far away. And then there were the ones that did come to us like Michael Boogerd and most of the Rabobank team, Rik Verbrugghe, Robbie McEwen, ...Some riders didnít show anything at all, not one look on their face, just very neutral, while others where very friendly and smiled. I suppose most of them were very busy with the stage they were about to begin or with their result in the prologue, but for fans standing along the barriers waiting for just a small sign from their favorite rider, it definitely makes the day.


And yes, to all good things must end.... The start had been given (although some riders didnít have their backnumber on yet??) and in a few seconds, the Markt was empty. Just some last supporters looking around a bit lost. I doubt many of them thought about what to do after the riders left.... So, quick a bite to eat and then back to Amsterdam, back to Dublin, back to real life....


Mapei Training


Boogerd Training


Shirts going out of style?


Phonak and Telekom training


Gerolsteiner rider


Fassa Bortola rider


Coast rider


Tacconi rider


Fassa Bortola in action


Mr. Nardello


Lotto rider


Alessio rider


Photos Page Two

Photos Page Three


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