21 March 2011

Coffee with Pozzato, Thanks to my OV Shirt

AS MY STUDENTS will readily tell you, I have been known to exaggerate for effect at times. A good example of this can be seen in the title of this post. I'm trying to make you think I had coffee with current Italian cycling champion Filippo Pozzato -- but depending on how loosely you interpret the word 'with', I did.

After the Milan-San Remo race last weekend the kids a I were milling about the team busses and we came to the Katusha Team bus and watched as Pozzato was interviewed by the main Italian sports channel RAI. When I turned to walk away a guy stopped me and said, 'Go Capitals!', a reference to the red Washington Capitals shirt I was wearing. He went on to tell me that he used to play in Slovakia in the city were former Capital superstar Peter Bondra has a home. During the offseasons, he'd train with Bondra so he developed a liking for the Caps. We chatted a few minutes and that was that.

About 1 hour later -- after Kerri and the kids and I had enjoyed a nice pizza -- I went to a small cafe next door to get an espresso before the hour or so trip home. When I walked in I noticed a crowd of about 12 people gathered around some tables and they were all wearing Katusha cycling team gear. Upon further inspection I recognized that most of them were guys from the team who had just finished the race -- including Filippo Pozzato. But it was a guy at the far end of the table that caught my eye: the dude I had talked to earlier about hockey.

He stood up and called me over so I took my coffee to the table and we talked a bit about hockey and then he introduced me to the people at the table saying, 'Hey, this guy's wearing an Alexandre Ovechkin shirt.' When he said that the whole table threw up their glasses and gave a cheer. Why? Well (and thank you for bearing with me through this rather circuitous anecdote), Katusha Team is a Russian-based cycling team and many of the riders are from Russia. Ovechkin is one of the most popular athletes from their country so they were happy to see him 'represented' in San Remo, Italy.

It was at that point that I sat down on a chair for a brief moment and finished my conversation with the guy I had met at the bus. He told me he was Italian but had gone to Slovakia to play hockey when he was younger. I asked why he was now having drinks with the Katusha cycling team and he pointed to the guy sitting next to me and said, 'Filippo Pozzato is one of my best friends.' Since my coffee was now finished I briefly shook hands with Pozzato, told him he had a great race (5th overall) and stood to leave. Just then Kerri and the kids appeared in the doorway, ready to head back home.

So you see, while it may be a slight exaggeration, it would very hard to dispute my claim that last Saturday evening I had coffee with Filippo Pozzato.

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