The mystical place where passion becomes Rosa

The air is thin on the slopes of the Three Peaks of Lavaredo. Clouds come and go: flashes of sun, then a few drops, then more sun. From the Auronzo hut you can hear screams echoing through the valley, occasional roars also come and you wonder what’s going on since the passage of the cyclists is still several hours away.

If you go down the route of the stage, you can notice those who are already set with tents, grills and ice-cold beers; many of them write the name of their idol on the street; some rest on the asphalt, exhausted after conquering the climb that in a few hours will feature the heroes of the Giro; others sing and toast in company. Everyone feels at home, as if they’ve always lived on the edge of that climb. If you try to ask what drives a person to follow an event that lasts three weeks like the Giro d’Italia, fighting against rain, sun and wind, the answers you’ll get will be peremptory and you can sum them up in a single sentence: “that’s how I feel alive.”

After the choice of the ideal spot, the main activity of the day begins: cheering. Anyone can ride the route until a few minutes before the start of the stage – you just need a bicycle or your own feet – and those who have already reached the spot can do nothing but support those who are still trying to finish the climb. They are men, women, boys and girls, and even children. They all want to ride the same climb as the Pros, and they all deserve encouragement.

Flags of all nationalities and many Italian localities can be seen at the roadside. Everyone has his or her own group of friends, popular songs to sing in company, designated spots, and a favorite cyclist, but that doesn’t preclude cheering on whoever is trying to make it to the top. When someone in trouble comes by, the decibels go up and the cheers become a chorus.a

As the professional runners pass by, everything is hyped up. Since the crack of dawn those on the way up are vocally cheered, but when those on the way up are the heroes of the Giro, trumpets, homemade horns, whistles, cow bells and any object that can make a helluva noise are added to the shouts. Everyone wants to lend a hand to those who are searching for the peak.

With only a few kilometers to go, the first place goal is a luxury few can afford, so for others the aspiration is just to get to the top, exactly like the fans who got on their bikes a few hours earlier. And at this moment everything becomes complete: everyone has seen the race, everyone has ridden the same climb, everyone has participated in the hours leading up to it, and everyone has screamed as all the cyclists pass by. Thousands of people crowded on the same mountainside enraptured by the spectacle offered by the cyclists and the nature around them.

When we attend a sporting event, the urge to participate is often so strong that once the event is over we lock ourselves in the gym in order to satisfy that desire. When fans watch a bicycle race, on the other hand, they actively participate just to get to the right spot. And if, as someone said, “freedom is participation,” then a mountain stage of the Giro d’Italia is an exciting moment of Freedom.

Photo Credits: Rise Up Duo
Text by Giorgio Remuzzi