Since the stages of the Giro start so late and Verbania was relatively close to Milan (50 miles), I decided to just leave in the morning for Verbania, catch the start, and head back to Milan after the hoopla was over.
It didn't really turn out like that. Milan is really hard to find your way out of if you just have a map "memorized" in your head. I couldn't find the correct road to get up north and realized quickly that I wouldn't be able to get there in enough time even if I did find it. Realizing this, I decided to start getting lost on purpose. In Italy it's really easy to find your way to a city because there are signs everywhere pointing you in the right direction, so I just started riding and took whatever road I felt like.
It was kind of refreshing and freeing, to not have any real direction to head in, just get back to Milan by the end of the day. I really enjoyed the ride and it ended up just being a 55 mile spin of the legs. Nice and relaxing and not a care in the world. I got back to Milan and hung out for the rest of the day, again not really doing anything but resting and enjoying myself.
I had to switch hostels at this point because I had made reservations at another one some time back because I didn't want to be stuck in Milan with no place to sleep during the last day of the Giro. At this new hostel I met a guy named Louis from England who was actually in town for the exact same thing. It was really cool to run into someone who knows what you're talking about when you tell them why you're there.
Louis and I went to the finish line of the Giro in the morning to scout out where we thought the best place to settle down would be. We found some bleachers that were free and located a little after the finish, and decided that they would be perfect to watch the pros come by at a bit slower pace.
Since it was so early and the race was nowhere near us, we decided to just hang out in the square for a bit and then go get something to eat. We made it back to our seats with plenty of time and got to watch all of the time trials on the giant screens they had set up in the square.
After it was all over and everyone was crowded around the stage, I looked across the barriers in front of me and who did I see? The lord of the sprint train, Mario Cipollini himself. I yelled his name, saw him smile, but he didn't stop. The one thing I regret about this encounter was that I didn't jump across the barriers and chase him down. That would have been an awesome picture to get. He was walking too quickly for me to even get my camera out and take a picture from a distance. A bummer, but at least I saw him.
As we were walking out of the square, Paulo Bettini was getting swarmed by a group of autograph-seekers, and while I did get a picture of him, I missed the opportunity to get and autograph as his guards whisked him away after a moment. It was still really cool to be that close to some of the legends of my sport though.
The race and festivities lasted a little longer than I thought they would, so I just stayed another day in Milan and waited until the morning to take off. It was all good because I got another day of rest, which always helps.