The ‘Giro’ Sweeps S. Agata

May 16, 2011 / Events
Sant'Agata de' Goti, Campania
The Giro d’Italia (pronounced Jee-row) is a long distance road bicycle race that has been one of Italy’s most passionately-loved sports events since 1909. Lasting three weeks, it covers the length of the country, starting in Torino, progressing down the boot to Sicily and then back up to Milan. The cyclist who maintains the best overall time during the course of the race wears the coveted maglia rosa (pink shirt).

The last time race came through S. Agata dè Goti was in 1998. Yesterday the 7th day of the Giro swept through my little town in the province of Benevento, as it wound its way on a 100 km leg to Montevergine di Mercogliano.

The preparations began about two weeks ago when the provincial road, a series of winding curves and treacherous pot-holes was suddenly and unexpectedly re-asphalted. I assumed this was due to the serious accidents that were constantly occurring on this stretch of road. No, I was told, it was because the Giro was passing through (probably meaning that it was the race’s sponsors who were footing the bill). They even threw in white lines and flowered roundabouts, something I’d never seen in all the years I’ve lived here!

Then about a week ago I noticed our sleepy little café were receiving unusually large consignments of soft drinks and ice-creams.

On the morning I walked my dog Sabra down the main street and S. Agata was visibly exercising the art of bella figura. Flags waved delightfully along the sunny bridge and the shiny black asphalt proudly underscored the massive plane trees along the shady boulevard where the sprint would take place. A sponsored van was selling packs of pink merchandise stamped with the race’s logo for 10 euro.

It wasn’t clear what time the race was due to arrive because there was conflicting information on when the group would actually set off from Maddaloni. The newspapers said 2pm; the website said 2:30. It would take about 20 minutes for the group to reach the town. At 1:30 pm the street was already lined with people, many in their pink caps and T-shirts, gaily clicking pictures of each other on their mobile phones.

Suddenly we heard the buzz of a helicopter overhead and in one simultaneous movement the crowd turned, craning their heads to see the cyclists round the corner. A shout went up, people clapped their hands in encouragement, and in a split second the colorful group swooped by. It was over.

You might be thinking this was much ado about nothing, but the excitement lingered on all afternoon. Men and women promenaded in the shade, children ate ice-cream or rode their bikes while the teenagers tried to look aloof, gingerly holding hands.

– Photos courtesy of Claudia Perilli. Many thanks for sharing!

Barbara Goldfield

by Barbara Goldfield

Owner of “Savour The Sannio”, www.savourthesannio.com, a travel consultancy for central and southern Italy.

9 Responses to “The ‘Giro’ Sweeps S. Agata”

  1. you described this perfectly, barbara! i’ve seen it happen elsewhere, just exactly the same way! i must admit, when the group i saw (so many years ago) whizzed by, there was a very well-recognizable giant smile in the middle of it: the only identifiable cyclist was mario cippolini!

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  2. Leslie

    What a great even to witness. Like a shooting star, it didn’t matter that the event did not last long, only that you were there to see it. Brava!

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  3. Stef

    We also went to have a look, the second day, when the Giro did its longest track, from Alba to Parma, passing close to our beloved Oltrepò Pavese. Unfortunately they did not make a small detour to climb some of our hills :-) We chose a strategic position to watch, in a corner of the road where the cyclists would have to slow down, so we could have a better look. And we were even more forunate in that there was an escapee in front of the peloton. For some impressions, pictures, see our Dutch blog article: http://duepadroni.web-log.nl/mijn_weblog/2011/05/il-giro-2011.html

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  4. Rosalie

    Unfortuntely we were not in Italy but we enjoyed by watching on Sunday thorugh the RAI Channel in USA.

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  5. I saw the Tour de France a few years ago (two locations) and the excitement is palpable. I would love to see the Giro, too. Actually a few years in a row we were within 60-75 minutes of driving to see the Giro but we ended up not seeking it out.

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  6. New York/New Jersey area held la Gran Fondo bike race on mothers day. 100km. 56 countries, 300 Italians with Simoni and Chiappucci, 2500 in all. The excitement is palpable. At the end of the race,I gave my food to one cyclist that felt light headed, another cyclist asked for my water. They told us about the treacherous road conditions full of pot-holes, limited water supply and no shade.

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  7. Mac McLean

    It’s good to see that the bike races are still so popular. While stationed there ’68 to ’69 I remember the bill boards advertizing with the racer of the area holding what ever was for sale. Most people rode bikes to work or school back then but when I returned in ’05 I could count on one hand the number of bikes I saw. Things change as time go by but I’m glad the culture of bike races is still so strong all over Italy.

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  8. Paul Goldfield

    Bravo Barbara. The Giro is indeed an important yearly event on the Italian sports scene. I can imagine how excited everyone was!

    Reply

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