The drops of rain make a hole in the stone, not by violence but by oft falling. – Lucretius The only safe place is in bed. Coffee, tea, something warm in a cup. But that’s not the job. Pain. Cold. Biting at wet gloves, stripping soaked jackets, blowing grimy road spray from numb nostrils and lips. Slick streets. Shattered bikes. Sickness. They say that’s the job. Italy can’t seem to shed its rain clouds as easily as the race sheds riders. The job is to write a story of perseverance. Three escapees. Victory only after leg-crushing kilometers in alliance, then seconds of foretold betrayal. \\\ How else to describe water but as attritional? It bleeds Italy—oxide stains run down concrete retaining walls and bridges like the aftermath of a broken nose. It eats at the stone fortresses capping green hills. It tears the land. It tears the riders into tatters— none dare slice too close to the corners of descents. It doesn’t matter—gravity and water have shaken hands this race. Riders tumble like matchsticks from a box. Those worse off are unable to reignite the furnace— like cool, soaked embers, they’re carefully scooped from the roadside, loaded into wagons. Even the hungry break won’t risk biting at their stems— they stay upright, but the jaws of the sprint teams finally close around them as they gnash toward a raindrop-margin win. \\\ Wrapped in the haze of distance, dark green foothills float almost softly on the horizon. The snowy passes beyond seem too otherworldly for now. The high mountains are ghosts that haunt the main contenders. The pink jersey and its entourage roll through the stage, none too eager to face the demons of altitude and cold. The sky for once withholds both rain and sun from the riders. A large break forms, then another crafty trio finds freedom at the head of the race. Wringing whatever energy they can find in their spectral legs, the sight of the finish brings the three back to life. They dash for the line, digging deep despite the days to come. \\\ If anything, we learn the race, when lopped in half in heavy rain, can still erupt like a volcano. A mountain quietly waits as the riders disembark buses. Then, a sudden surge and shock of watts. Heat builds beneath rain jackets. Riders boil out of the bunch. Crossing the peak, they slow, front tires sticking to the damp and dirty descent. They pour lava-like into the valley. The half-melted mounds of snow give way to phalanxes of grape vines. Italian rain gives way to Swiss sun. A brief reprieve it would seem. Weaving through the vineyards on the final climb, the small break of climbers must be able to taste that night’s glass of victory wine. They desperately urge their bikes up the switchbacks, one rider attacking again and again. Perhaps one attack too many. \\\ Once more the road dances incessantly with water. Flourishes of tire spray. Restless tip-tap of raindrops. Everything’s wet— steely mountain lakes are filling in the riders’ shoes, cold water numbing their open mouths. It’s a day of jackets and gilets, dropping back to the cars to change out dripping gloves. A day of two races—staying safe and warm-ish versus stoking the furnace of the big breakaway engine. A day of two-wheeled fury as the shattered lead groups chase each other through roundabouts and road furniture. A day, like most days on this Giro, of heartbreak and individual jubilation—the scene playing out much like it has before. \\\ Shadows! Which can mean only one thing— the sun is falling playfully across the road, warming the sloped shoulders of the riders. Their silhouettes tangle with each other, with the webbed shadows of trees, absorb into the dark blocks and spires cast across dry tarmac. The narrow roads roll joyously around the doorsteps to the high Alps. Out of another big break, a trio is unleashed, attacking and bird-dogging each other. Dig. Follow. The shape of the lead triad stretches in the bright Lombard daylight. The rule of thirds seemingly applied to the closing kilometers. Three riders. The tension of space, open road. Their shadows chasing each other like dark arrows. Only one can strike the bull’s eye of the win.
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Love how these poems don't simply set the riders in the outdoors. The cyclists are part of the natural world alive in the rain, cold, rocks and greenery. Subject to the conditions around them despite all the technology and support offered by their teams. Striving against their own natures as much as they are in competition with each other.