I watched a Tivo’d copy of the Giro di Lombardia last night, the last of the one day classics in cyclings ProTour. This is the traditional end of the professional cycling season, a 240 km circuit through the Lakes region of Northern Italy starting in Switzeland’s Ticino canton before circling the shores of Lake Como.
I know Ticino and the Lago Lugano region from my days working with a Swiss entrepreneur who had a weekend estate just over the Swiss-Italian border in Porto Ceresio. I used to envy the pelotons of cyclists who rode the lake roads, and always wished I had a bike with me when I was over there.
This year’s Tour of Lombardy was extra-cool because of the performance of Paolo Bettini — “The Cricket” — the current world champion of pro cycling and the winner of the gold medal in the Athens Olympics. He’s a little guy who personifies the traditions of Italian road cycling, a superb tactician with amazing heart. Two weeks ago his brother died in a car accident and as the commentator, Phil Liggett said, two people were pushing the pedals on Bettini’s bike.
His descent into the finish was insane. After attacking on the climb Bettini went for broke, nearly wiping out at 60 mph as he dove into the hairpins. I was literally on the edge of my seat as he held off the attacks of the German rider and crossed the line, tears on his face, looking upwards to heaven and his brother.
Doping scandals aside, cycling is still my passion.