A Fantasy Giro

SenzaGiro, the day before


Torre d’Isola, 8 May 2020
By our correspondent Claudio Gregori
The SenzaGiro logo is by Osvaldo Casanova

Giro d’Italia never dies. Even suspended, it stays alive and stronger than any wound or ban. This Fantasy Giro proves that: creativeness heals the disease and defies Coronavirus. Giro d’Italia is not just about playing with muscles and numbers. It’s about dreams and passion. It stays alive even when the wind of the race stops. It seethes. It draws over epos. Even when sleeping, it donates the whisper of singing. Homer did not die with the Trojan War: he is still alive, three thousand years on. 

We do not have anymore great bars, such as Alfonso Gatto or Dino Buzzati, Achille Campanile or Vasco Patrolini, Orio Vergani or Bruno Roghi. Still, there is a bunch of authors and Dante would call them della fazione della rota, on the side of the wheel. They ride bycicles as steeds; inside them a passionate fire flares. Their readers are their judges as they paw on the starting line. Their weapon is what the great Romantic poet John Keats used to call the Fantasy. They all follow his suggestion:  «Leave always wandering the fantasy, /…/ Opens you the door to the cage of the mind, / and, you will see, it will launch flying into the sky».

The Giro 2020 route is a road to be flown. It’s beautiful and diversified. The leaders on the starting line are excellent. Four of them already won: Nibali, Dumoulin, Froome and Carapaz. Others among them – Simon Yates first of all – dwell on great expectations. The magnificent bunch of sprinters – with Ackermann, Viviani, Demare, Groenewegen, Ewan, Kristoff, Cavendish, as well as the wondrous Peter Sagan – is set for remarkable frays. Two youngsters can be sensational: Evenpoel and Ganna. Giro d’Italia, we know it, is a continuing revelation. 

«Giro d’Italia is a marvellous human race, whose finish line is happiness», Alfonso Gatto wrote. Everyone seeks happiness there. Even the last of the second-line riders has a dream, with the magic fluid of hope in his water bottle. We have it as well. The Great Start is in Hungary, the homeland of Sándor Petöfi, the Hungarian Mameli. Budapest is a pivotal city in European history. A wonderful city we love, because the Budapest rising on 1956 lighted our interest in politics. For the fourteenth time in history, Giro d’Italia starts from abroad. Why? Because it’s a boundless race. While Coronavirus separates, isolates, Giro d’Italia is a moving bridge drawing everyone together. A joyful message of peace brought forth by a herd of two hundred young men from all nations and all creeds. A great worldwide sport.

In the initial time trial, Giro d’Italia crosses the heart of Budapest: from Pest, on the plain, to Buda, on the hill, with the Danube in between. Liszt’s Hungarian rhapsodies will be resounding all around. The Paul Street Boys and The Merry Widow will be on the side of the streets, as well as Ferenc Molnar’s and Franz Lehár’s phantoms. Puskas will be there too, with his Honved teammates, and the boxer Laszlo Papp with a platoon of sabreurs, waterpolo players, great swimmers and even a Rosa, Gianni Brera’s grandmother. They will meet in the street surrounded by the scent of goulasch and the sound of gypsy violins.

We will climb the Sestrière again, the first mountain top over 2,000 m to be faced by the Giro riders, in 1911. We will climb the Stelvio, where Coppi knocked Koblet out in 1953. We will graze the Monreale Cathedral and the Valley of the Temples, castles and palaces and precious hamlets. Giro d’Italia is a geography lesson with digressions on history, literature, gastronomy. It’s a wonderful open-air university.

We will discover the places of Imre Kertész – 2002 Nobel Prize for Literature and an Auschwitz survivor; the places of Marai, Bartók and Kodály (Budapest), of Pirandello (Agrigento) and Verga (Catania), of Marino Moretti (Cesenatico), Fellini (Rimini), Zanzotto (Pieve di Soligo), Alfieri (Asti), Fenoglio (Alba)… The route will tell us tales of men while the Giro, on that route, will move on and on.

Giro d’Italia is life: giving birth, waking up, switching on. We all hope that this Fantasy Giro lets wonder blossom, sows smiling seeds, spreads stardust on the dark wave of the virus.  The real race is a hard adventure, sometimes drama, sometimes ordeal. This Fantasy Giro will have the lightness of fable instead. The weakest will be able to ride 3,578.9 km. The heaviest will be able to climb 45,000 metres over Etna, Piancavallo, Stelvio, Izoard, all mountains graven with bygone carvings, and still without suffering.  

Giro d’Italia is memory. “Red Devil” Gerbi is waiting for us in Asti. Malabrocca is beside him: the black jersey, a century old invention. Silent, with no fuss. This race will be silent as a book. We will proceed through its pages without any anger or cursing. Without dust, without sweat. Without back-breaking slaps. 

Still, such a Giro is not aseptic. It has a great advantage on the real one: a continuous amazement. In the real Giro there is but a director: logical consequence. Directors here are twenty-one instead, one writer per stage: a guarantee for unpredictability. Next year we will go back to respecting hierarchy, breathing the pollen of the race, being smacked by storms. We will go back to interpreting with eternal amazement the dusty hieroglyphs by Bartali and Coppi, hidden in asphalt coffers. And we will remember this Fantasy Giro as a timeless dream.

Time, here at the Giro, is heavier, because of the passionate supporters and the crowded memories. Time suffers from an extreme compression. In our pink chronology, Ganna is Neanderthal, Binda is Tutankhamun, Coppi is Ceasar (he came, he saw, he won), Merckx is Napoleon. Such potted history has thousands of other characters. 

We will leave tomorrow. Fantasy Giro still hides its secrets.  We will see where this chorus of narrating voices will lead us. In the meantime, let’s jump on the sailing ship, as Dino Buzzati did heading towards Palermo for the fabulous Giro 1949. We won’t have an interview with the ghosts of Montecassino: still, when the ultimate duel will come, we will stand as he did by the Porta Scea, as witnesses of the moment when Achilles will be piercing Hector with his long-shadowed spear. Smiling.


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