no matter the races that have already taken, or are currently taking place across various continents, we all know only too well that the season doesn't really start until 23 march 2014, when the professional peloton sets sail from milan and heads off in the specific direction of sanremo, a town that sits not too far north of monaco. it's the longest race of the season (299km for 2014), presumably some sort of comfort for those participating, given that it's the furthest they'll have to pedal in a single day for the rest of the season. though i doubt all would agree, it's pretty much downhill from there on in.
in 2013, it wasn't just the distance that gave the riders trouble, with atrocious weather worthy of a rapha festive 500 outing preventing the use of at least one section of the proposed route. after halting the race and allowing the riders to clamber into the team buses for a bit of cosiness, one or two notables failed to exit when the race was restarted further along the road. it was also the race that provided castelli with a huge boost for their gabba jersey, several riders opting to wear unbranded versions in favour of their sponsors' kit.
few races nowadays adhere to their historic routes, partly due to the way in which professional cycling has developed and also in part due to alterations to roadways and the increasing amount of road furniture that has appeared as a result of the ever-increasing number of cars on europe's roads. in this, milan-sanremo is no different, the organisers constantly trying to find some way of splitting the peloton before it reaches the poggio en masse. for this year's event, the addition of the pompeiana climb between the cipressa and the aforementioned poggio is currently in doubt with rumours of permission having been refused by the region due to heavy rain causing several landslides.
an official announcement has yet to be made.
i do find myself wondering however, why the organisers of the tour de france have not taken a leaf out of the msr handbook. rather than teams of nine, as preferred by le tour, msr invites teams of only eight riders but extends its entry list to 25 teams. this is composed of eighteen world tour teams and an impressive seven wildcards, including net-app endura, a fact that has to be keeping jim mcfarlane more than happy through in livingston. however, the tour is the tour and likely adheres to the apple computer adage of old; 'not invented here'.
alongside the often self-imposed nicknames of professional riders, many of the world's classic races have also had appropriate epithets appended to their correct nomenclature. in the case of milan-sanremo, it's frequently referred to as la primavera, the italian word for spring. and it's this that rather surreptitiously brings me to digress somewhat from the normal velocipedinal fare and slide tenuously into the world of scottish traditional music laced with more than a soupcon of cuban rhythm. salsa celtica have appeared at the islay jazz festival on at least one occasion, in one of the former malt barns at bruichladdich distillery if memroy serves well. and just a month or so before the classics season gets properly underway, they have released a new album entitled the tall islands.
according to their website, the material for this album was written and honed during a short tour of the isles of skye, mull and lewis, finishing off with the band headlining a salsa carnival in gran canaria. the tall islands makes effective use of the harmonising voices of megan henderson and kathleen macinnes to offer gaelic puirt a beul but with the added twist of conga, guiro, coro, timbale and cowbell salsa rhythms that sets salsa celtica apart from their trad music counterparts. and that's not to discount a brass section that would give earth, wind and fire a run for their money.
track six, primavera, in contrast to its immediate predecessor, is a slower stroll through the world of cuban rhythm, but its 2/3 clave pattern insistently grows as you trawl the official la gazzetta site for the route map and entry field for the real primavera. personally, i'm often in danger of betraying my scottish heritage by admitting that much scots traditional music leaves me rather cold. there is the odd up tempo tune that catches the attention, but mostly it rather floats past unhindered. salsa celtica, on the other hand give serious cause to examine any theoretical historical roots that cuba and the dominican republic may have in common with alba, so well do the musics of such apparently unrelated countries meld in the capable hands of musicians steeped in both cultures.
song titles such as descarga gaelica, ven guajira ven, and yo me voy ii compare favourably with the compendium of scottish tunes entitled rolling road and the spanish sounding but gaelic sung he mandhu. the tall islands is a dozen rhythmic joys from track one all the way through to number twelve, with the name of one of the world's finest cycle races slap bang in the middle.
salsa celtica | salsa celtica photo © eamonncoyne
saturday 21 february 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................