Morten Okbo joins us on the second rest day of il Giro (even though it really feels like only the first rest day) to tell the tale of the Giro making its start in his homeland of Denmark. Morten is a long-time reader of Velominati, but distinguishes himself amongst our Guest Contributors as also being a contributor for Rouleur, one of our principle muses. Morten is a musician – either by trade or by heart – but finds a way to write and to follow the Grand Tours in person. Stand by for more contributions as the season chugs on.
Morten has also managed to drag his photographer, Jakob Kristian Sørensen, down to our level. This post has been updated to include a second photo album courtesy of Jakob.
Yours in Cycling, Frank
This was in 2010, I think. And it began as a joke. Then a friend on the inside sent an email. Now it was no joke. Absolutely no joke, it read. Frankly, my photographer and I were a little bewildered. Rumours had circulated for a long time but nobody really believed it; Il Giro would start in the city of Herning, Denmark. Listen, I said to anyone who would listen; We’ve already secured the UCI Road World Championships in Copenhagen 2011. There wouldn’t be a GT in Denmark for thirty years now, if ever.
Besides, why would the Italians look to the north in May? Sure, it could be sunny here. Hell, even warm some days. But also with possible thunderstorms. Or howling winds bringing cold weather from (a) The North Sea. (b) The Fjells of Norway or (c) Siberia.
Call Cunego for a comment, I emailed back and got out of the bathtub.
Time passed. Now we hear Monaco is making their bid for the start. Having just spent 10 days in Cannes I thought; Yep, that’s more like it! The slopes of Southern France are perfect because, well, because they ARE! I was getting tired of the whole thing; what were we doing talking about Denmark and the Giro!?
Then it shifted. Word got out that Washington DC was in the race for the start. I laughed. Those silly americans. Do we want jetlagged riders doing a TTT in Verona? Now there’s a rubric. But I was not so sure anymore. It all seemed random now and the race organizers, unlike Le Tour, were never known to be traditionalists.
Of course, Bjarne Riis was looming in the background. The man is born and raised in Herning – cycling city numero uno in Denmark. Also; Riis was wearing his smirk. Everytime the subject came up, Jakob – my photographer – and I exchanged glances.
Two weeks ago Giro d’Italia arrived in Denmark. There it was. And there was Riis. The smirk. The city of Herning was hosting the start and everything had turned pink. The slogan dropped down from RCS was this; Think Pink! So the people of Herning had painted their buildings pink. Trees. Bicycles, cars. In every shopping window the owners had found something, anything, to spraypaint. 70,000 pink tulips had been planted in every round-about in the city. The local football team changed jersey! Their newspaper look like La Gazzetta Dello Sport? A home for retired people had painted a rollator pink and hung it from a tree!
I’ll tell you what, I said to Jakob as we rolled into town: Our city of Aarhus could never have done this. We are too uptight. Think Museum of Art, The Old Theater, the ridiculously expensive cafees. The University. No. Our city is too big for this. And therefore too provincial.
Jakob said, Did you know that the Giro actually offered our mayor stage 3?
You got to be kidding!
Nope, he continued. But the idiot said no. Apparently it was too expensive. About a million bucks. Then Herning apologized to the Italians who had called back puzzled. Herning then suggested Horsens instead and the first person who picked up the call at City Hall said ’Yes, thank you very much!’
And then it was over. For three days the race was here. The public, the media, even the Royal Family embraced this as if Il Giro was our homecoming queen. And then it struck me: Of course! Pink is pork in my corner of the world. Danish bacon. Pick up pork next time you go shopping. The company is called Danish Crown. Crown Prince Pink Pork. 20 million pigs and five million danes were welcoming pink home to the Motherland.
Of course, Il Giro fit right in!
Jakob Kristian Sørensen’s Album: