Sunday, November 12, 2006

the 1949 giro d'italia stages 6, 7, 8, & 9: for the sprinters. although the giro began with a brutal mountain stage, it eventually settled into a battle of sprinters. with time bonuses unheard of today [the "new" intermediate sprint and finish both awarded bonuses of 1:00, :45 & :30], they allowed the maglia rosa to pass around the best of the day, taking some of the spotlight, but none of the expectations, away from the aces, coppi and bartali. the world was very different then. the giro passed through regions that had been ripped from the face of the earth just four years earlier by war. there was truly great cause for celebration as the race rolled by. and boy, did they roll: stage 6, 233 km in 7:07:50; stage 7, 298 km in 8:01:06; stge 8, 273 km in 8:19:07; stage 9, 249 km in 7:01:20. think of that: four days, four stages--1053 km in 30 hours 30 minutes, and that's for the winners. rules in effect at the time provided a cut-off of 20 minutes for every 100 km raced each day, meaning that some riders made the cut by putting in nearly 34 hours of RACING in four days. and note that, even though this was classic "piano" racing, the winner of stage 7, the longest of this year's edition, raced nearly 300 kilometers at OVER 37 k/h. on one stage, a group of 20 riders attempted to stick a break of over 200 kilometers. the 20 fell to three, as the hard-charging peloton cut their margin to under 2 minutes by the finish. overall, coppi sat in 10th, still a minute and two places ahead of bartali, as the dolomites awaited, as did all of italy. and well worth the wait. the prelude, a short, rest day-like 154 km roller to adjust the legs for the battles ahead, was run under growingly threatening skies. conditions of the day, and the tensions that built, were described with the same adjectives used for "the anglo-american landing in france during the last war." so fresh was d-day in their memories that historians had yet to give that battle its name. but conditions during the run up? the roads were "an endless array of shiny umbrellas, slippery asphalt, and this ridiculous transformation of the cyclists in their little waterproof tunics billowing, forming monstrous hunchbacks." and yet, one survived: corrieri, bartali's teammate, his mud covered face like a grotesque mask akin to "those african witch doctors all tattoed in white," who won by more than a minute. and yet, the preceeding 2296 kilometers are described as a mere prologue, insignificant to what will follow. fleeting fame? "glory is fragile, even in cycling: a merest trifle is enough to turn the trumpets in another direction." the 32d edition of the giro d'italia, the REAL giro, begins tomorrow.

here's something amusing, for some.

yesterday, i spent a few delightful and nastalgic hours at cyclocross farms, west of alleman. i had been there before, but this was moving day, a beginning. it is a splendid estate, the kind of place folks from iowa are fortunate to have in their experiences, whether as owner, in-law, child, grandchild, or hell, even friend and teammate. it has magical potential, this farm on the hill. the are countless out buildings. there is a panoramic 360 vista. neighboring farms are at a healthy, respectful distance. it is my hope that civilization never touches its boundaries. from the cool old unfinished basement with its nooks and crannies [perfect for hiding oneself, or one's treasures] to the upper floor rooms and their bird's nest vantages, to the kitchen stool that automatically transforms its occupant into a sun-drenched cat, contentedly purring, awaiting the promised tasty morsels, to the varied structures whose future uses are limited only by the imagination of those who reside at the farm. i wish them all the best, and look forward to many visits. to play, to share, to ride and race, to party, to reminisce, and to imagine. you oughta give it a try, too.

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