This story was written a year ago, the characters then gods, now possibly fall into the category discussed previously in this blog. The story may address the question, quite possibly, as to why Europe had better things to care about?
Giro and Dolomites
Emanuele Sella comes from Vicenza, like Pozzato, like the Olympic Theatre of Palladio; Riccardo Riccò comes from Modena, like Ferrari, like balsamic vinegar. Beautiful, unique and tragic. Italians, like the feather on the Tyrolian hat of alpine hunters, like the pink pages of the “Gazzetta dello Sport”.
For almost five centuries the “Oedipus King” of Sophocles has been played in the same theatre, on the same stage, with the same decorations – the scene of the four streets of the city of Tebas, built with plaster and stucco; and for five centuries, although its plot and its dialogues have not changed at all, the representation of the tragedy of the killer and incestuous king keeps on moving the same, the catharsis that comes with Yocasta’s suicide, mother and wife of Oedipus, with the blindness of the hero condemned by the Gods, keeps purifying the spectators.
Dante wrote at the door of hell, “those who enter this way shall abandon all hope”; half completed the Marmolada, the cyclists haunting its hills are taken in by another legend painted in the asphalt, “manca poco”, you are almost there. The ignorant will want to read the sentence as a gasp of hope, there is not much suffering left; the well-read, the Italians, will look for its Dantesque sense, hell is close: the final catharsis, the shudder, the sigh, the liberating shout, when crossing the finish, it does not stop from being the sign of the tragedy. The Marmolada, the Dolomite, have been nailed down to the North of Italy, in the border with Austria, for millions of years. For the last century, in this immutable scenario, in the great circus of the Giro of Italy, every month of May the drama of the common man is represented – the cyclist so human that even looks like us when he tries to put his raincoat on when clumsily climbing a hill--, transformed into tragic hero, destined by the gods to fight on his bicycle against their human limits to pursue a fate they are doomed to, from which they cannot escape, to clean their error.
Afore time, before the big war, the Italian cyclists crossing the Alps to participate in the Tour of France were only worried about one thing, to learn to say “push me” in French, “pousse moi”. “Pusmuá”, they would say puffed with great effort when they saw their strength disappear in the middle of the mountain pass, “pusmuá”, they would repeat to the spectators in the gutters, moved by their suffering. In Italy, during the Giro, the spectators do not need the riders to ask to be pushed – they know the poor domestic cannot use all of their strength in one day, because the day after their boss will ask for their effort again.
In Spain some fans, apart from taking out flags, they give cokes to the racers; in France, in the Alpe d’Huez, in Belgium, in the “Kappelmuur”, the course of the cyclists is the perfect excuse to get drunk in the ditch and to organise a party in public. In Italy, the beings that populate the gutters are not passive spectators waiting for the fleeting action that moves them, touches them, but they are part of its representation. They are the choir, they are the council of the ancients called by Sophocles to emphasise the disgrace of the hero, his solitude. Their cries, their pushing, their only presence in a lonely slope, their cameras, despite their ugly posture forced by the digital devices, the cell phones – the arm forward, the look concentrated in a small screen that moves them away from reality, that makes it a television broadcast; give a sense to the penuries of the protagonist and a meaning to all of their gestures.
Shakespeare, to announce the bursting of the drama in his tragedies, would make a thunderstorm start, would make the sky darken, fall off the streets. In Italy, in the Dolomites, the rain, the lightening bolts, the extraordinary cold of the end of May do not belong to the scene, neither remain only in a Shakespearean presage; they mainly create dread in the racer’s soul and force him to go further beyond to transcend, to survive. Riccò stops then being the helpless little boy, so thin, with his little bird legs. And Sella, from Vicenza, understanding better than anybody else the art of the touching representation, flies over his limits. When the play has ended, the curtain has fallen, nobody really will care how they did it. That is a matter of the gods.