THE WRITER'S IMPRESSIONS 2019 | SARASSO TO THE TOR 2019
DAY 5 – TUESDAY 10.09.19
"Unesco Heritage for the Gruba!" Are the first words I hear as soon as I cross the threshold of the glazed veranda.
To pronounce them is Christian, a Piedmontese volunteer with a big heart like that.
Could not agree more.
Mien and I have just landed at Niel, after a day spent mostly in the car.
For the transfer from Cogne to the Gressoney valley, as they say in these parts, "it takes a moment".
But the kilometers pass quickly, because today we are in the mood for unconventional music selections.
I start the game with a meaningless piece, especially if played at a criminal volume at eight in the morning, after just four hours of sleep: Hyper hyper! of Scooter.
Is everybody on the floor?
We put some energy into this place
With such an intro, there is nothing to do but swallow a coffee and a croissant and aim straight as poisoned arrows towards the goal. However, along the infinite state road, the console passes into the hands of my DJ Beard, and the selection becomes aggressive.
Let's move from Motörhead to Joe Strummer's version of Redemption song, from Green Fields of France by Dropkick (which brutally moves me every time I listen) to Whiskey in a jar (first in the style of Thin Lizzy, then in Metallica sauce), ending with dangerous combos between the embarrassing version of Bang Bang by Ivan Cattaneo and My baby is gone by the Pogues (which I would listen to and eat my ears).
We arrive in Donnas just in time to welcome Lillo, with open arms. I haven't seen each other since the start, and I am admired to say the least: more than one hundred and fifty kilometers in the legs and it seems to have just left the house for a run in the park.
In the Life Base the teammates join him, rushed en masse from the Rice Capital to cheer him and Benny, still on the road. Novara Che Corre tightens around her Giants and, frankly, I could not be more proud to be part of this band of wonderful dreamers.
It starts to rain hard, and Lillo does not know whether to leave immediately or sleep a couple of hours.
Rain or no rain, Mien and I feel the powerful call of the road, so we say goodbye to everyone and head towards Gressoney. A short angel flight to Perloz, and finally it glides over the valley that has seen me grow. Coming home is always nice. And damn painful.
With these woods and these stones I have quarreled and made peace.
On these roads I sowed the wind of my adolescence, collecting storms of broken dreams.
Coming back is magnificent and sad together.
As soon as we put our suitcases in the cottage that will serve as a refuge for the night, I decide to pay tribute to my turbulent past by baptizing a path that I know by heart with a few steps.
From the campsite just outside the village to the Alpenzu attack and then back, to the Live Base and back to the starting point.
Sweaty and happy.
As I like it.
Standard shower, and at nine o'clock we are exactly where we need to be: in the square in Saint-Jean for the departure of the TOT DRET. The spectacle of fronts and chopsticks is breathtaking.
Every year the race grows (by number of starters, technical level and prestige), and everyone (athletes and public) is more and more in love with this 130 speed up.
Hard not to share the passion: we watch them go away with ecstatic eyes, and then we celebrate by consuming a ton of cold cuts, delicious roast meat and delicious potatoes.
After dinner, ça va sans dire, it's dessert time: finally we go up to Niel.
Niel is a magic place. Definitely one of my favorite TOR's.
Magic the fire that awaits you after a handful of uphill steps, to warm up a sweeter night than usual.
Magic the delights that Alberto and the rest of the team offer to the competitors (and not only): polenta always hot, ragout to lose the senses, fresh meats. The perfect coffee for which Asians go crazy, beer tapped, friends laugh.
At Niel, two years ago, I spoke for the first time with Silvana. And I ended up, a little later, getting lost in the High Streets, trying to stay with her while she was carrying out the realization of a dream.
At Niel, tonight, understood at the table of Guendalina, and I watch her shine and bite the brake to get back on the road. She doesn't even seem so tired. And to say that, since the beginning of the adventure, she has slept just an hour and a half, at the Dondena.
Guendalina Sibona is a purebred athlete. Already a finisher of TOR 2018 (in just over 114 hours, eleventh woman at the finish line) and of TOT DRET 2017 (third woman, twenty-third overall), he is competing in a very regular competition.
Which is an elusive way to say that she’s going strong.
Yet there is no hurry in his big eyes: only an infinite desire to get back on the road.
Guendalina with travel has a special relationship. Maybe that's why he leaves again after spending only half an hour in Niel's paradise.
Guendalina has trodden distant, far away roads.
She looked at the world, opening her heart wide, as well as her endless eyes full of wonder.
Guendalina is a galaxy in flames, an infinite expanding cosmos.
By profession she observes the world through the lens of a camera. But people have learned to know them and listen to them long before they start shooting: they have a degree in science and psychological techniques.
Guendalina has trod the mud of the jungle. She opened her ears to listen to the monkeys screaming, and mix their primordial song with that of the Bahia fishermen. She tasted silent dawns on the Paraty shore, letting the clay knead her fingers. She let herself be kicked by the lights of the Big Apple and knew how to smell the most incredible corners, without ceasing to dance in the past, on the notes of a furious jazz.
Guendalina has traveled in the claustrophobic three-story berths of Vietnamese trains from the Mekong Delta going up the country to Sapa, in the north decorated with hot mountains.
The fruit of these experiences was squeezed between the pages of four books, published between 2008 and 2013 (From claws to fangs, Barefoot in mud, Notes from New York. Up and down to the rhythm of the Big Apple and Thoughts under the hat - Going up to Vietnam by train)
His is definitely a story that deserves time, space and words in a row. And to be honest, I'm dying to tell it. I want to listen to it, with the usual crumpled notebook and my hundred-year-old pen at hand.
But Guendalina is flying, and disturbing her would be disrespectful. And yet, it is so difficult to escape the fascination of an irresistible narrative ...
Ergo, dear readers, I do not guarantee a sequel, but I promise that I will try to keep up, and exchange a few chats along the way.
But you can bet it won't be easy. Because Guendalina spins like a train.
And he has no intention of slowing down.