Some Sanctuary

Stage 14; Castellania – Oropa, 131km

The start in Castellania was our hero from yesterday’s blog’s birthplace (not the Parma Ham) but the campimisimo – Fausto Coppi. With heavy rain promised during the day we made good progress on the fast-running and perfectly flat 100km across the Po Valley.

Infinite rice fields defined the ever-changing décor, we were crossing the most important rice production area of Europe. In spring the rice fields are put under water using an ingenious irrigation system. It gave an impressive sight of huge lakes in with villages and farmhouses forming temporary islands.

The rice is harvested in September and October, dried in silos and turned into the white grain we know and love in Risotto.

For just over an hour in the rain we managed 38kph and swapped turns with two new chums Tom & Laurent.

The rain desisted but two hours later 10km before the start of the climb it returned, but this time it had brought the heavies in. We were bombarded for 5 minutes with hail the size of garden peas, we took sanctuary under a tree. You know it’s bad when the locals in their cars follow suit and pull over to the side of the road.

Shivering, we started the 1st category climb to The Sanctuary of Oropa which has been given the moniker of “Montagna Pantani” for the 2017 Giro d’Italia, recalling Marco Pantani’s great achievement during stage 15 at the 1999 Giro, when he made a breath taking comeback after a mechanical incident at the foot of the climb. Chasing all the way from the back to the front of the race and nailing an unforgettable victory.

The 11km climb, with gradients over an average of 7% and peaks topping out at 13% a few kilometres before the finish.

Climbing all the way to the sanctuary, past Biella the gradient was low in the first part, up to Favaro. After a km or so I started to warm up. the climb reached its steepest gradient of 13% and I managed to get on top of the 28 sprocket and kept a rhythm, across the cobble paved centre of Fava and then continued to the finish, with efforts out of the saddle on the drops Pantani-esque, but far from his tempo. 

But nethertherless I was pleased as finished strongly, it was an enjoyable climb for me, and stepped of the bike to be greated by the support team, Jim & Bob, have certainly got a job to do on my bike it was filthy.

So what about Pantani ? He was a leading light of his generation of cyclists in the 90s, a phenomenal bike rider who could ride mountain roads faster than anyone else riding a bike

He was brave, aggressive, enigmatic; he styled himself as ‘The Pirate’, with bandanna, beard and earrings to match. And Italy loved him, but in truth he seemed like a shy guy who hide behind the cartoonish mask of The Pirate to protect himself.

Pantani was riding at a time when it was difficult to operate as a lone wolf in professional cycling. After the sport’s apparently endemic use of performance enhancing drugs was revealed in 1998, his name was consistently linked with doping and he spent five years suffering through various court appearances. Pantani’s behaviour grew increasingly erratic during these years. He was, as he wrote in a scrawled note on a torn out page of his own passport in 2002, publicly “humiliated”.

He had won the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia in the same year (he remains the last cyclist to do so) earning millions of dollars from sponsorship and enjoying the adulation of cycling fans around the world, but he died a broken and lonely man.

His last days are a case study in the mental damage professional sport can cause. He checked himself into a hotel room in the seaside town of Rimini and surrounded himself with boxes of medicine and bags of cocaine. For five days Pantani stayed in his room, phoning reception each morning to extend his stay for another 24 hours. Those who saw him – a cleaner, a pair of hotel guests, a man delivering pizza, spoke of an emaciated figure who emitted a foul stench. Eventually, the inevitable happened. On Saturday February 14, 2003, Pantani died from acute cocaine poisoning. He was just 34.

Cycling is an inherently masochistic pursuit. It’s about pushing your body through to the max, where you can’t stand up any more. Particularly in the mountains. You fight every force of nature. It absorbs every ounce of humanity.” Professional cyclists need a superhuman drive to force themselves up mountainsides; you can see why Pantani excelled, his motivation came from a dark place. He had a will to destroy his rivals. It wasn’t just about the victory, it was his rivals seeing that he was the best. He just wanted to win, at it would seem at the ultimate cost-

I strongly recommend watching the film about him – the Accidental Death of a Cyclist.

If you would like to support us by donating then here’s my page-

Thanks from all at Cureleukeamia


~ by theboxterboy on May 19, 2017.

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