As you may have seen on my Tweets, I had been given the chance to drive the follow car for Liquigas' Gorazd Štangelj. How's that for a name? First, since the guys at Liquigas butcher his name, I went to Wikipedia to analyze a little...
A caron ( ˇ ) or háček (pronounced [ˈhɑːt͡ʃɛk] in English, [ˈɦaːt͡ʃɛk] in Czech), also known as a wedge, inverted circumflex, inverted hat, is a diacritic placed over certain letters to indicate present or historical palatalization, iotation, or postalveolar pronunciation in the orthography of some Baltic, Slavic, Finno-Lappic, and other languages. Š/š (pronounced [ʃ] — similar to 'sh' in she.
So after all of that Greek (actually Slovenian), Gorazd told me how to properly pronounce his name (I like to be as accurate as possible). It's "Shtongel" with a soft 'g' like 'go' and an 'o' like in 'on'. There you have it... back to the race.
Mrs. Masini and our 'children' were present as well and I can guarantee that I was the only follow car with two dogs as co-pilots.
There was some confusion from the start, as the Italians have their own ideas about directions and start areas. However, we arrived with about five minutes to spare...
And we were off...!
The course was as bad as everyone else has said. Up and down the whole way. The co-pilots got just a little bit of motion sickness and Gorazd dropped me on many of the descending hairpins. The old VW Sharan minivan doesn't quite handle like a team car, especially with me at the wheel and two complaining wiener dogs to make sick. The crowds were awesome as usual, filling the road at the top of the climbs, and also scattering themselves out into some of the more remote spots.
Gorazd finished 123rd out of 186, 10:52 behind stage winner and new maglia rosa Denis Menchov.
After the finish, it became apparent why logistically it was the right choice to follow, as there was literally one road going anywhere near there! I continued past all the other team cars and parked around the curved cliff road 1km away... and I arrived early. Others had to continue even further and walk. In the end, it wasn't too bad. It was a spectacular place for a stage. If you're ever near Genoa or La Spezia or even Pisa, then Cinque Terre is worth a trip for the hiking and the sights. This is the fourth time I've been there, but the first with a bike race.
After the race, I said good bye to my guests from the US, Tim and Caterina. They had a difficult week ahead of them, staying in Corniglia (one of the Cinque Terre, or 'five lands') to enjoy the view. Of course, we didn't have it too bad either, heading off to Florence for the weekend! I studied Italian there many moons ago and was finally able to eat tortellini again at the Palle d'Oro. The owner still remembers me as the American who ate the same thing three times a week for lunch back in 1992!
Oh yeah, Daisy made more friends and Tucker enjoyed the gum and food left on the old streets of Florence.