Nearly a year ago we took over ownership of Saddle Mountain Hostel. During the first couple of weeks we had a lot of work to do. And any spare time we had was spent glued to the television watching our favourite cycle race of the year, the Giro d’Italia. Today the Giro begins once again, this time in the Netherlands for the first few days. In between running the hostel and getting out on our own bikes we will be following the progress of the race on Eurosport.
The Giro may not be as famous as its French counterpart, but for us that’s part of its charm. The Giro always seems to have some surprising new place to visit or variation on the theme of a normal race stage. This is the race which brought us Monte Zoncolan, the downhill prologue time trial (!) and the strade bianche. On top of that the race leader, of course, wears a fetching pink jersey.
We also love watching the gorgeous Italian scenery. We have done some cycling in Italy, although never in the high mountains. We have also had many trekking holidays in the Dolomites and the Italian Alps. That means that there’s a good chance that in any given year the Giro riders will race past somewhere that we have been ourselves. It’s a great feeling to be watching the race and suddenly say to yourself “I was there”.
It’s always a pleasure to look at the Dolomites in particular. They are, without question, the most distinctive mountain range we have ever visited. The road passes, hemmed in by rock towers, are haunted by the ghosts of Italian cycling legends of the past – men like Fausto Coppi, Felice Gimondi (technically not his ghost since he’s still alive) and Marco Pantani.
Three years ago we were lucky enough to trek the Alta Via 2 high level trekking route through the heart of the range. It took us over many of the most famous road passes in the area – Sella, Gardena, Pordoi, Marmolada and many others. Passo Pordoi in particular was a great place to visit. As well as spectacular views it also has a statue of Fausto Coppi and a race bike donated by Gilberto Simoni (one of our favourite riders of the 2000s) embedded in stone.
When the Giro begins it seems to us that summer has finally begun. Even if it’s grey in Scotland we will be looking at almost continual sunshine on the television for three weeks. If you haven’t followed the race before then why not start now. It will make you want to get your own bike out on the road and maybe you’ll end up in our part of the world on your next cycling holiday.