The Giro passes by

Ore 11.00

“I have been sitting for two hours on this wall which runs along the Valsugana state road, next to villa Ca’ Sette. My mother, grandmother and brother Paolo are with me. We are waiting for dad, who has been away from home for three weeks. His work always takes him far away and he could not attend my first communion party. His absence weighs down on the family. I know that he always thinks about us and every couple of days he sends us a postcard. A different city each time. I am getting to know Italy thanks to his postcards. Rome, Palermo, Naples, Campobasso. Great towns and cities which I had never heard of before. Sometimes, I take them to school and show them to my teacher.
My father is following the Giro d’Italia. He drives the Wilier Triestina team car. Next to him is Giordano Cottur, the great champion who ended his career a year ago. Dad says he is a good guy, easy going and always joking around. He is the sporting director of the team that has put it all on Fiorenzo Magni. In the background there is a mechanic, Simeoni, ready to intervene if necessary… Two hours on the wall.
I can’t stand it any longer. I play with my brother and the other kids Tito, Gianni, Gimo, Ermete, Angelo and Mario, impatient as much if not more than me. But today is a special day. Mum keeps telling me off. She does not want me to move away. My grandmother is on her toes. Soon the caravan of the Giro will pass by. Dad wrote to wait for him on the wall because he wants to say hello. I can’t wait, I miss him so much. Time moves so slowly”.

Ore 11.15.

“I do not know what is wrong with my brother Flavio. One moment he gets up, the next moment he had his head between his legs and is staring at the stones.
He looks like he is in a trance. Even nan is agitated. With her heart, she should relax.
Mum is distant. Her clear eyes study the sky and then she just stares into nothing. She is wearing her best dress and has put on lipstick. She does not usually do so. We did not go to school today. Shortly after we woke up, we left hastily with a hamper full of sandwiches and a bottle of water. I just finished one of them, but it was hard work. I am not hungry. I am thinking about my father and seeing him steering the car. One day, before leaving for a race, he let me sit next to him and took me for a ride. My friends watched me jealousy. I felt important and dreamed of managing the Wilier team, the most famous in Italy, even without Coppi or Bartali. Magni is really great. Dad speaks about him with enthusiasm. I would like to become a Wilier racer and lead the group on the roads of Bassano with everybody applauding for me. Dad does not want me to though.
He keeps saying that being a racer is too hard. He wants me to study. He says there is always time for sport. In his opinion, I should play football.
Footballers do not work as hard as racers and are paid more. Perhaps he is right. When I see them pedal uphill, their faces become unrecognisable under the strain… When we arrived at the wall, no one was there. It takes fifteen minutes from our house to Ca’ Sette, because nan walks slowly. Now there are at least a hundred people. They are talking about the champions, Fausto and Gino. Regarding Gino: nearby is Gino Bordignon, he lives in the same street, one door down from us, at number 24. He is so fanatic of the Tuscan that everyone calls him Gino Bartali. He worships him and when dad tells him about Coppi’s achievements, he refuses to believe it. He think he talks about the champion to make him angry. However they agree on Magni.”

Ore 11.30.

“Paolo and Flavio are little terrors. Never stopping for a moment. Also on the ascent that from vicolo S. Sebastiano comes out in front of the church of Madonna della Salute di S. Vito, it was impossible to keep them under control. They could have at least waited for me. Instead they are off, like a shot, and mum is calling them constantly. At my age I have seen a lot but I couldn’t stay home today. Bepi wrote that he wanted to say hello to everybody. My son loves bicycle races and decided to work as a mechanic. As soon as the War finished he opened a small “workshop” in Borgo Angarano. He sold and repaired bicycles, but work was thin on the ground. Food comes before bikes and tyres. So when he was offered a job at Wilier, he accepted it even if a bit sadly. At least the pay was secure.
With a couple of kids to look after, money is always needed. However, if I had known immediately that in the factory there would be so little, I would have told him to think about it. He is always driving the car and the roads are dangerous. When he was small he got bronchopneumonia and still suffers to this day. When he wakes up in the morning, he always coughs. The phlegm never gives him peace. I do not think it is good for him to drive an open-top car.
When it rains, he gets soaked. I fear for his lungs. Ah, Bepi, try to take care. Wrap up warm in the mountains and try not to sweat… Paolo, Flavio, come here now and calm down… Anna, today these two will not listen to anyone”.

Ore 11.40.

“He wrote: be at the wall of Ca’ Sette at two o’clock. When the two terrors came home from school, I spotted them instantly. Best not to waste time. We risked not finding a space. It is always like that when the Giro passes by: there are people everywhere. It is a huge party. For the other people. I feel sad and lonely. This morning while I was stitching a dress I could not go any further.
My old Singer was missing stitches even though I pedalled with the usual vigour. I had to use chalk to mark the stitching. Usually I work by eye; I have been a dress maker for many years and I do not need tacking to sew in a straight regular line, without going askew. Whereas today it was difficult. Then I understood. I am more worried than usual. I can not wait to greet my Bepi. The other day, at Flavio’s first communion party I would have loved to have him nearby. He looks scruffy but has a heart of gold. I hope the Giro ends soon and he comes home with us. I wore my best dress and had my hair done. I even put lipstick on. I know Bepi does not like makeup but today is special. Who knows if he will have time to stop for a minute…”

Ore 11.45.

“The advertising caravan is passing. Paolo managed to get a hat. I’d like one too but I am too small and the others always arrive before me. Certain cars look like fairground rides. Look at that one, it looks like a pig to advertise salami. There is one in the shape of a tube of toothpaste while the one behind it advertises a liqueur. They look like carnival floats. What a sight. The caravan passes half an hour before the racers: almost there now…”.

Ore 12.00

“Giordano, take control at the entry to Bassano. I will take your place. Come on, go slowly and if you have time, stop for a moment. At the start line in Vicenza, I recommended the racers not to explode. My family is waiting for me. Simeoni’s relatives are also there. We are at home in Bassano. Everyone worships Wilier. Wait and see the party…”.

Ore 12.02

“Bepi, calm down. I can handle bikes but not cars. I will not give you my place. You are paid to drive and you must do so today… Come on, do not look at me in that way. I am joking. If I didn’t swap places, you’d be upset until the end of the Giro. Stop now and I’ll change with you…”.

Ore 12.10

“Here they come: Paolo can you see who is in the lead?” «No brainy, those you can see down there are not the racers but just the police escort. The cyclists are right behind them and behind the cyclists are the cars… Here I am!». «Dad, Dad….» «Hi dad, hi dad». «Bepi…» «Bepi, Be….» « Go slowly, Giordano, go slowly. Brake, brake. Here they come: hi Flavio, hi Paolo, hi Anna, hi mum….»

Ore 12.15

“Giordano, did you see all those people? Did you think there would be so many? And did you see my kids? If we had stopped, they would not have let me go again. Give me the steering wheel back. Now the best part of the stage starts. This evening the classification could change. In a while there are the Primolano climbs, the best will show their worth… Then the Rolle, the Pordoi and the Gardena passes will be fun. Let’s hope the weather holds.»

Ore 12.30

“Paolo, I am Coppi and you Bartali. Let’s see who gets home first?”

Ore 12.40

“Giordano there is a racer on the ground in the middle of the road. He is wearing the blue Bianchi jersey. Is he Coppi? Oh my, it is Fausto. He needs help…He is wounded and can’t move… when will the Tour ambulance arrive? I told you something big would happen today. I knew it. Where is the Bianchi team car? We are first in the convoy. Help him, it must have a serious fracture…”

Ore 19.30

“I have just finished arranging the bicycles. I gave Simeoni a hand. Have you heard about Fausto? He broke his pelvis. Goodbye Giro. Now anything can happen. How are our guys doing in the classification?”

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2nd July 2013