DAY 2 - SATURDAY 7 SEPTEMBER
There are those who do not notice, and almost doze looking at the phone absently.
And those who just can't sit up and chatter nervously even with strangers.
There are those who arrived early, and have already taken the bib: my friend Silvana, for example, who I met right here, within the walls of the Temple of Dolonne, a sunny September of two years ago.
I didn't know then that she would become the youngest finisher in the TOR history. And she didn't know either, that's for sure.
Silvana dreamed of Courmayeur. Like everyone around me.
And an innocent sun shone out here.
Today it's colder than two years ago.
Yet the sun has just appeared, warming my numb fingers.
When I arrived at the Palasport to look around in the middle of the race, Silvana had just left.
Arrived early, left early.
After all, she's an accountant.
We exchanged some messages.
On her whatsapp profile an image of the yellow bracelet appeared with her race number stamped on it.
I wished her a good trip.
She was happy.
And so am I. Happy and tremendously excited at the mere thought of the adventure he is about to undertake.
Because the TOR is a fever that does not pass, a saintly illness that perhaps gives you respite a year but then returns, stronger than before.
So good trip, my friend.
I will come to look for you on the paths, and to admire you while taking flight.
I went back to peek into the crowd, I got lost among the tired faces, the tense ones, and the bright ones with unexpected smiles.
There are lots of babies, and almost all of them have a yellow fluorescent band, on their heads or around their necks. If they don't wear it, they will play it. Someone chews it and mothers sclerate.
There is one, however, of a mother, who seems seriously calm. He has the calm of those who are about to challenge the Giants, and his baby knows it. That is why she was waving the TOR colored flag very strong.
Next to this really special mother and to her really smart little girl there is a dad who does not stop cradling his baby with his eyes.
They speak English. With an overseas accent.
The man is on the phone, and he is telling someone that the child will be with him during the race, "naturally".
Then he turns to look at his partner and caresses her: "I'm so proud of her" he says to the listener on the other side of the world. He has a gentle face, a three-day beard and a pair of trail shoes on his feet.
Suddenly he bursts out laughing: "We'll get out of it! And in Courmayeur we will party! "
There are other mothers, here in Dolonne, who have eyes only for their children, even if they no longer have exactly the age of the little girl mentioned above.
But even these mothers have irises full of pride, and of a pinch of fear.
They are the mothers of the boys in uniform.
This year there is a nice handful of camouflage jumpsuits for the Palazzetto. Stand out among the fluorescent and reflective jackets and have a serious look under the matching cap.
"So cool the, the Alpini!" a young girl screams, elbowing her friend in search of a selfie. The dear old charm of the uniform ...
The Regiment boys smile.
Not everyone, but someone does.
They are also about to start hunting for Giants.
And their mothers have perfect styling and shiny eyes.
I arrived at the Palazzetto that the distribution of the bibs had just begun.
This morning, however, I spent it listening to Roberto Cavallo and Bruno Brunod talk about change.
It happened in the Town Hall, here in Courmayeur, during the signing of an important document. A "commitment", as Alessandra Nicoletti defined it.
A commitment to make a piece of the world that belongs to everyone better, step by step.
This morning we talk about environment.
Ecology, waste collected and recycled (in the race or not).
And the change, in these years of increasingly green TOR, is under everyone's eyes.
But the change is also here, among the people lined up for a place on that starting line, dreamed and desired with all my heart for a whole year.
I read it in Lillo's eyes, and in his dry and lighter body weight of even ten kilos. He has just finished telling me that he has traveled 1400 km, since March. Chewing almost 20,000 meters in altitude.
To have practiced crossfit, to have trained on the asphalt and with repeated uphill. Having come up here, on work-free weekends, to try the traits that scared him the most.
And it is also in the eyes of my friend Benny, in search of wild redemption after the disappointment of last year (closed outside the gate of Gressoney for very little).
Every year the TOR is different: different people, different languages to listen along the way, different climate, more and more rich the offer of competitions, more technological and avant-garde security, and always smaller (thanks to the work of all, including competitors) the impact on the environment.
And yet, there is something that never changes.
I notice it when I sit between Lillo and Benny, at the round table of the pasta party.
I notice it at the end of the briefing when, once again, we all stand up and the notes of the TOR symbol song rise.
Vasco sings the words, but they shine on the screen like the most exciting karaoke in the world.
And, after the usual embarrassment of the first five seconds, we all take each other's hand (everyone, whether we know each other or not) and start singing together.
To vibrate together.
Because change overwhelms us with every climb, every hill, every crisis and every damn, blessed year that passes.
But, as much as it takes us all to twist, our heart remains the same.
We are (always) the usual ones.
Noi siamo i soliti
Siamo i difficili
Noi siamo quelli delle illusioni
Delle grandi passioni
Noi siamo quelli che