Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stage 11: Bike Schizophenia

So this is Bike to Work Week and this morning the Giro stage was pretty exciting, so I only had time to get my bike and bike outfit ready, pump the tires, oil the chain and get on the road. So no morning stage pairing.

Tomorrow the stage winds up along the Adriatic from Lucera in Puglia to L'Aquila. Lucera was the last stronghold of Muslims in Italy in the 13th Century, before they were thrown out. At the time, most of the farmers were Muslims and so once they were gone there was a deadly famine there. Score one for diversity and karma being a naughty naughty girl. Saffron is a big export of Lucera, as it is in most parts of the Mediterranean where Arabs have held sway.

For wine I chose a Copertino, a lovely Pugliese red, and a wonderful kind of vegetarian lasagna, called Tiella della Suocera--mother-in-law casserole. It's potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, cheese. What could be bad?

Looking at the list of wines officially recognized in Puglia could make you dizzy. I haven't mentioned yet this year, but I need to do it--in Italy there are some 3500 different species of grapes used to make wine. 3500 that they know about. This number is shrinking as more big consortia buy out the little guys and reduce the number of kinds of grapes that are grown, but you have to think that somewhere a grandfather is passing vines on to his granddaughter or grandson, and those species are going to live on in someone's local backyard vino.

Another thing I need to mention this year is this, wherever you are, just order the house wine. It's better than anything else. And it may come out of a spigot in the wall. It may be unfiltered, but it is magic. Cheap and good. You don't need to eat fancy food in Italy, because the best food is what Mamma makes, and where the Carabinieri eat. If you are fancy and need to go to fancy places, maybe you should stay in the USA, or go to France. But in Italy there's no reason to spend money like that to have an awesome dining experience. And why spend a lot? You already spent a lot just getting there! Try the walking around pizza, the panino in the case, the fried rice balls stuffed with mozzarella. Or if you must sit down to eat, just order the appetizers. They are the best thing on the menu anyway. There's that rant done.

L'Aquila, tomorrow's finish line city, had a devastating earthquake in 2009. One of the major Italian cycling teams had "Abruzzo" stamped onto their uniforms and donated a portion of their proceeds--such as they were--to rebuild the town last year. The picture above shows how terrible the damage was. George Clooney moved the production of a film he was working on in order to help L'Aquila out. Italy loves George Clooney. And he loves it right back!

L'Aquila was the second city of the Kingdom of Naples, which for many years in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and Baroque eras was ruled by Bourbon kings. When it wasn't ruled by relatives of the Spanish royal family. When a King of Naples died, the Pope decided who should next get the crown. Which made the Pope even more powerful than you would think the Pope would be. Because he was, after all, the Pope. This network of royal families all vying to dominate parts of Italy is just fascinating to read about. It's a soap opera on a grand grand scale!

Watching stage 10 as I write this. Lots of fans out on the course today. RAI is doing its thing and showing the faces of pretty local girls in between shots of pedaling skinny guys. It's a different experience watching it in Italian. You don't get the real sense of the race if you only watch the American feed. I love the clips of folks waiting and partying at the finish line in their silly hats and outfits. Yes, I'm a cycling nerd. Deal with it. The peloton pushes forward through rolling fields of olive trees.

So in the Giro the leader in each jersey competition at the start of each stage gets a girl--very hot--wearing a dress in the color of that jersey and carrying a parasol in that color to shield him from the sun as he waits for the stage to roll out. This makes for some nice looking TV pictures. My husband likes that.

Bike to Work Week, the Giro d'Italia, and the Tour of California, all in one week! This is bike schizophrenia. Maybe next year I take a staycation on this week to deal with all my biking commitments!

Viva il Giro! Viva Italia!

Oh, and Go, Levi Leipheimer and Team Radioshack!

A domani!

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