On Tuesday, the Giro d'Italia started its 4th day of cycling with a trip through downtown Padua. The city last hosted these excellent cyclists nine years ago.
This year, they went through Prato della Valle, up via Roma, past Piazza dell'Insurrezione, under Ponte Molino and onto Limena to finish that day's race in San Martino di Castrozza (TN).
I got within five minutes of actually seeing Lance Armstrong, but had to go back to work, 6th period at a language high school. The late launch of the race that day delayed his rolling through in time for me to catch a glimpse of this mythic American athlete, racing in Italian territory.
I did get to see a long procession of dozens of cars, tagged with ads dedicated to the Giro's sponsors and the police motorcade. Then there were the regular Paduan citizens who were still using Via Roma to commute somewhere in the last moments before the race went through. During our long wait, the crowd started to cheer them on as if they were the racers. I even recognized one of these people as the mother of one of my ex-students, pedalling away with her 55-year-old legs and styling her blond hair-sprayed coif. She looked happy with herself.
The whole city started with celebrations over the weekend before Tuesday's scheduled arrival of the men-on-wheels. Prato della Valle was full of stands and the city decorated itself in pink banners, special window displays and bus stops featuring a variety of messages and announcements. We were also celebrating the hundredth anniversary of Italy's most famous race.
I even tried to take my high school students down to see the race when I knew I had to be with them during those critical moments. It was my last attempt at being part of this particular historic event in Padua, but the principle forbade me from doing so. It just wasn't meant to be.
As you might know, Lance was injured earlier in the season so he has not been cycling at top form. I probably wouldn't even have recognized him, wearing sun glasses and a helmet like everyone else. I didn't even know what color his team's shirts were for this race.
I had already seen a "famous person" over the weekened so perhaps I wasn't supposed to see another one. The other (Italian) VIP was Cristiano, the famous gay TV personality who participated in Isola dei Famosi this year and often appears of shows with Simona Ventura. That sighting happened by accident while having lunch in Milan near Porta Venezia.
On May 14th, the fourth day of the Giro d'Italia, Danilo Di Luca finished in the lead, 162 km from Padua.