It’s been World Cycling championship in Florence and it’s been a pretty amazing experience for everyone. Florence has been a spectacular setting for the races, although at the speed they travel I am sure most cyclists hardly had time to appreciate the Duomo (Cathedral) as they raced past.
There was such a hubbub about the event that by the time it started some locals had done enough shopping to last 10 days under siege, thinking they would be stuck at home and unable to use the car or even get to work! Streets were repaved and lots of deviation signs went up, as well as one way streets changed direction to cater for maximum mobility and minimum interference with the racing.
In fact since I don’t follow cycling I didn’t think I would even go near town to avoid what I had thought would be chaos. Then a friend sent me a photo of the Australian support car…..she had meant to take a photo of the Aussie cyclist but he had gone past so fast she had missed him! I know the feeling as my brother had pushed us to go and see the Tour de France when we were on holidays in Provence last year, and my photos were much the same. I missed the lead boys in the
excitement and got the stragglers or the technical support cars!
That night I heard the Australian – Damian Howson had won so my curiosity was aroused. The following day I went down town and captured some of the cyclists along the Arno River and around the Duomo. It was a treat to see, a surprise for many tourists, and the city centre felt like a giant pedestrian mall; just delightful.
The city teemed with volunteers helping with crowd control, creating thoroughfares when there was a lull, or redirecting lost cyclists!
In the afternoon I was back home and off to the paint shop when I saw people lined up along my country road and within seconds a group of cyclists whizzed past. Oh
my, here we go again, no photo but wait… there were more coming and this group zoomed by. Wow!
Unfortunately the last day was spoiled with stormy weather and there were multiple crashes after they left Lucca and it was quite a challenge for cyclists to stay on the road. The Italian favourite Nibali fell, nevertheless he was back on his bike in a flash and just pipped at the end to come in 4th after the 2 Spaniards and Portuguese Rui Costa the leader.
Yes, as you can see I may turn into a fan yet!
Florence was definitely showing off with the event and the smooth organisation was a credit to the city. In the same week, Gino Bartali, a famous Florentine cyclist from the 1930’s, was honoured with Israel’s ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ award for wartime activities, having hidden a Jewish family in his cellar and smuggled many false documents in the tube of his bike on his long cycles. He is known to have narrowly escaped being shot by Nazis at a road block when a Fascist yelled out that he was ‘Bartali’ the famous cyclist and they let him pass unharmed. A few hours later he was in Assisi with the hidden documents for many of the Italian Jews hidden between the two floors of the magnificent Basilica of St. Francis.
So it’s been quite a proud time here, and we are almost disappointed to return to the normal traffic jams and chaos of everyday life.