A day at the races

There is a certain joy is seeing a professional bike race in person. If you haven’t yet taken the step to see your skinny, lycra-clad heroes in person, let us encourage you to treat yourself to a day of fun.

Team KATUSHA ALPECIN is currently racing in Italy at the Giro d’Italia and it would be an excellent opportunity to take a day off and venture out to see a stage of racing.

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The Giro is celebrating 100 years this edition and taking every opportunity to celebrate everything Italian, with pink being the color of the day, symbolized with the leader’s jersey, the Maglia Rosa. Your adventure to a stage of the Giro should begin with an early departure from home to make it to the start before the peloton rolls out. At the start you will have the chance to see the cyclists sign in for the day, and many hang out at their team buses to sign autographs and smile for photos before their day begins. It’s a good chance to get close.

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Once the flag is dropped and the cyclists roll out, try to re-locate to a spot on-course so you can see the peloton fly by. A good chance to see some action is at a sprint point, especially when the full group arrives and the fast men of cycling are vying for points toward the sprint jersey. They will ramp up their speeds and do a full-on mini-sprint if there are still points available. Feel the wind on your face as they zoom by at speeds hard to comprehend for mere mortals.

Feel the wind on your face as they zoom by at speeds hard to comprehend for mere mortals.

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After the peloton goes by, see if there is a route and way to get to the finish. You will find plenty of souvenirs and food booths in the arrival village, and it’s always a good idea to enjoy a bite to eat and an espresso before the racers arrive. If it’s a sprint final, get ready for dangerous speeds coming into the last few kilometres as the trains line up and ramp up their speeds before launching their sprinters for the line. Try to see it in person if you can get a good view of the finish line, but if not, situate yourself near a big screen and enjoy the show. If a breakaway artist has foiled the sprinters on this day, be on hand to cheer the brave rider who just earned a stage win in one of the biggest races on the planet.

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If you are planning to see a mountain stage, skip the start and get going early to find your spot on the mountainside. Most climbs allow bikes or walking only, so plan ahead to be self-contained with food and drink all day and then get going to find your spot. Settle in with hundreds of your newest best friends because you could be there for many, many, many hours and the crowds will be loud and rowdy. The Italian fans, the tifosi, are known for their enthusiasm, costumes and joy of life, so let your hair down and join in the frivolity while you wait for the action.

The Italian fans, the tifosi, are known for their enthusiasm, costumes and joy of life, so let your hair down and join in the frivolity while you wait for the action.

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Locating yourself along the road at a steep hairpin curve is always a good bet because the riders will often get out of the saddle to produce more power. Another bonus on a real steep part is that the riders come through at their own pace so they are separated and easier to identify. It can often be hard to correctly identify your hero, so try to look up their race number ahead of time and then when they ride by, ignore the helmet and look them right in the face – there, that’s him, the guy you cheer for the loudest.

look them right in the face – there, that’s him, the guy you cheer for the loudest

Stay in place after the GC group goes by because more heroes are headed your way. They won’t be winning any stages this day and their names won’t be at the top of any leader boards, but they will find a way to ride the exact route the “winners” do despite the mountains not being high on their list of favourite places. These riders really appreciate your cheers and will often give you a little smile or wave as they make their way higher and higher toward the finish.

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When it’s time to leave there is no reason to be in a hurry because the traffic will move slowly and it will take awhile to get down the mountain. But your spirit is buoyed because you’ve just spent a day at the races and you’ve seen your cycling favorites up close and personal, so revel in the day’s adventure and think about doing it all over again tomorrow.

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Photo credit: JoJo Harper