Gaudenzio looks at me and says, "I have goose bumps ... I've never seen anything like that, it seems to be in the trenches, they're fighters, wounded fighters just emerging from the battle"
It is the first time that Gaudenzio sees the race, I meet him at life base in Gressoney. He and his Nikon do nothing but shoot.
"They're heroes," I say. "Heroes who even today brought the skin home ..."
Fourth night; total hours of sleep: forget it ...
We are at the exact center of the race.
At the exact center of life.
I do not talk about miles.
But of emotions.
Of flesh and blood. And hearts that beat in unison.
I'm at home now.
Gressoney is my home for many reasons: in these parts I spent dozens of summers. It was the family vacation place, when my father was still in the world.
He left too early, twenty-one years ago. He would have liked it, the TOR.
He would have been crazy enough to try, I bet.
My father was a dreamer. And he never slept. Perfect combination for TOR.
His spirit, in some way, hovers right here, tonight.
Among the smell of burnt rubber and camphor, and bubble bath, and minestrone, and feet.
This is the smell of TOR.
The very essence of this magic, of this madness.
The other reason that I feel at home at Gressoney is that here, just like Gau tonight, a year ago I was overwhelmed by the magnificence of the courage of these heroes with the bib.
Of these dream warriors.
Today, in this temple of suffering and glory, two spells have happened.
Right under my eyes.
The first concerns Andrea. And a pack of cigarettes I found on a path, Sunday morning. It was half full. I do not smoke (any more), but I sucked a couple of them.
I did not like them.
I think I do not like them anymore.
Until recently, I knew it, why. Then Mien called me, asking me to get him out, because there, in the square in front of the life base, there was a story waiting to be told.
When I came out, there was Andrea, a warrior in sticks and a front already crossed several times along the road.
Andrea was smoking.
"He asked me for a cigarette," Mien tells me, "and I say to him, 'I do not smoke, I'm sorry.'" Then, boom, I remembered the cigarettes we'd found and left in the van ... frightened! "
"They were not ours" I say to Mien. "We found them, but they were Andrea's cigarettes."
Andrea smiles when I say this.
He can recognize it, a magic, when he sees it.
The second spell of this evening is about my friend Benny.
She was all day long in trouble with the time gates.
She arrived at Gruba very late and a couple of friends ran to welcome her and protect her, in case she wanted to retire.
Benny, however, has left the Gruba with a smile on her lips.
And a few minutes ago she arrived in Gressoney.
Twenty minutes beyond the time limit.
But with the same wonderful smile on her lips.
Benny gave everything.
Her journey ends here, but she has nothing to reproach herself.
And she knows it.
Benny is magical, and tonight she shines.
Together with all the other heroes, here in the trenches.
Do not give up, warriors of the dream.
Because there is still to fight out there, to suffer. To imagine.
We will be with you until the last meter.
It's a promise.
Do not give up, warriors.
Keep on dreaming.