Sometimes the Light
by dane hamann
Sometimes the light catches them just so as they pour down a snaking hillside road that they each flash like a grain of sun. But then one by one they slide like knives into the forest again, becoming dappled beasts descending to the coast of one sea or another. They climb consistent as conveyor belts past tree lines, out into the wasteland of rock and snow on the high mountains. Stucco wall shadows shepherd them around the curbs of narrow city streets, trattoria awnings fluttering like flags, until they pop into the light-box brightness of a cobbled piazza. It’s May, and the riders are leaving so much on the pastel roads of Italy. For three weeks their hearts hammer against the anvil of breastbone. Fire whipping through lungs. Their minds somersaulting as they churn across sunbaked tarmac. Sometimes, with the warbling shriek-song of disc brakes and fishtailed wheels, they crush together like a murmuration of starlings, a compression that threatens to spill them across the road, leave them sprawled in ditches. Then suddenly they unravel from each other, a long string of carbon fiber stretching into a new dark shape between the shoulders of the road. Sweat-blurred finish lines morph into the peaks and valleys of heartrate charts and wattage graphs. They study the numbers, recon the percorso, bookmark a spot where a dynamite move will catapult them from the bunch into the beautiful openness of closed roads. They redline and paceline. They break away and chase. They ask questions of themselves the cameras can’t quite capture. They falter. They find themselves donning rosa, ciclamino, azzurra, bianca. They triumph. They stumble into embraces for sacrifices made in the hot lingering air of Italian late afternoons, the dust of the day sticking to their shining faces. Road buzz never quite leaving their bodies. Sometimes the light reveals just how deep they’ve descended into the well of effort to make it to the line. for the 105th edition of the Giro d’Italia
Dane Hamann is a Chicagoland editor and poet. His first book, A Thistle Stuck in the Throat of the Sun (Kelsay Books, 2021), is ostensibly about running. Occasional tweets @donnyhamms.