Eur-wrap Up: Part I - The Local Rider

It's been a couple of weeks since the Giro and the end of my first season of racing in Europe. There wasn't much time to unwind afterwards and within a couple of days of finishing the Giro I was back in the office in Melbourne, squirming in my powersuit and trying to remember how to put on make up. It's good to be back, and once I stop feeling like a steamroller has run over me, stalled, and then backed up for good measure, I'm sure I'll be itching to race again. But right now I'm still pinching myself that I was over there at all, and struggling to believe that it wasn't all a crazy, fun, exhausting dream.

I promised I'd write a wrap up of Europe and here it is. Or maybe we can call this Part I, because there are so many stories to tell that I can't fit them all here... and judging from my boyfriend's reaction to my 3-hour monologue, some of my stories aren't as exciting as I think they are. So maybe small installments is the way to go.

I've been meaning for a while now to share with you my story of the Local Rider. This makes me giggle just thinking about it, in the same way that you giggle when you remember the time when you walked out of that restaurant with toilet paper trailing out of your trousers.

During the Giro, there were a number of jerseys awarded - leader's jersey, mountains classification, sprinters' classification, young rider etc. Especially towards the start of the tour, I still couldn't recognise most of the famous riders, so the jerseys were quite useful in helping me know, for example, which one Marianne Vos was. But it was fair to say that I still had some trouble knowing some of the riders apart. So anyway, there we were in the middle of stage 2, and this GIANT of a rider comes near me in the peleton, wearing a hideous bright purple jersey. She's giggling, bumping into people, apologising, giggling again, and generally looking like a walrus in the pack. So I was looking at this rider, and the jersey, and trying to work out which team she was from. The jersey was pretty plain - just horrible and magenta, with 'Safi-Pasta' written on it. It reminded me of some of the jerseys I wore in my early cycling days, when I was too poor to buy a team replica jersey, and too crap to get a sponsored one. The knicks gave me no clue either, as they were just black with no team logos. They reminded me of the generic knicks they gave out in the Tour of New Zealand a couple of years ago to riders in composite teams.

Then I realised. This wasn't a team rider at all. This was a local rider, whom the organisers had allowed to ride in the Giro as a gesture of goodwill to the people of Italy. It had to be. How nice, I thought. Here is a local rider, doing her best to fit in maybe a ride a week down to the shops, whose dream it was to race in a big race but who would probably never have had the opportunity or talent to do it. And sure, she can't ride - I mean, there she was, bumping into people, knocking handlebars, laughing - but good on her for having a go. She is probably having the time of her life. I made a mental note not to go near her, and spent the rest of the stage thinking kind thoughts about the generous spirit of the race directors.

It wasn't until after the stage, when we were in the team car heading to the next hotel, when we started talking about some of the riders and the jerseys they were wearing. There was Ina Teutenberg in the leader's jersey, some chick in the mountains jersey (sorry, no disrespect intended, I just can't remember who you are), Marianne Vos in the young rider jersey, Kirsten Wild in the sprinters jersey.... Hang on, I said. Bronzini was in the Sprint Queen jersey. I saw her. It was blue.

Oh no, the girls said, Bronzini was in the blue jersey for the highest-placed Italian rider. The Sprint Queen was that awful purple jersey. Kirsten Wild was in it. You know, rides for Cervelo. One of the best sprinters in the world. Black knicks, bright purple jersey. Unbelievable rider. Coming second in the world cup standings. But boy, that's an ugly jersey.*

*PS - Congrats to Local Rider for winning the latest world cup in Sweden last week.