Sometimes luck and good timing combine to offer you unexpected opportunities. When we planned a few days in Tuscany, we knew the World Cycling Championship road race would be in Florence the following weekend. As a cycling fan I was a little bit disappointed to be missing it by only a couple of days. As it turned out Montecatini, a small spa town in the Tuscan hills where we based ourselves, also had a role to play in the championships.
Arriving in Montecatini, local shops and bars were already decorated in the colours of the championships. Replica rainbow jerseys, the coveted prize that race winners can wear all year round in competition, were pinned to windows or draped across doorways.
Tuscany is where many cyclists base themselves in the off season and the support here is huge – great to see such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd.
As a life-long Tour de France fan, the thought of getting so close to the start line for the team time trial was unbelievable. Normally these areas are ticketed or reserved for VIPs. But here the teams were so close you could almost reach out and touch them. Famous name after famous name rolled out from the podium in front of the Terme for the 57km time trial to Florence. Omega Pharma-Quickstep, BMC, Cannondale.
As 4pm approached the last teams took to the podium. Golden boys/overhyped and unlikeable (depending on your point of view) Sky Pro Cycling stepped up – Kyrienka, Siatsou, Edvald Boassen Hagen, Geraint Thomas and finally Tour de France 2013 champion, Chris Froome. I have to admit I would have loved to see (Sir) Bradley Wiggins there, but he was busy elsewhere with the Tour of Britain.
One of my favourite things about travel is coming across things you don’t expect and this one was a real privilege. Victory in Florence went to the OPQS team once again this year. Chapeau!