The 1st phase of the Giro wrapped up today with tomorrow being the 1st rest day and from my point of view most anticipated day for the entire 1st week. Since getting crook on the eve of the race the plan has simply been to survive the first week and hopefully improve in the process and use the rest day to reset and recharge and start phase 2 of the giro in a whole lot more comfort! Most importantly without bronchitis.
On paper todays stage 9 had breakaway written all over it and with this type of stage also had pain and suffering written all over it in the first 30km before a break would form! True to the script everyone was lined up early for a good position on the start line and of we went a bullet a gate. There were the usual crashes as overly eager riders tried to pinch an extra position further forward that was only half there and as usual this added to the stress. Attack followed attack and finally after 20km vincenso nibali, the race leader, peeled of to the side of the rd for a nature break signifying he was happy with the group up the rd and the rest of the day would be controlled by his astana men in light blue. I woke this morning feeling a little better than yesterday and was certainly looking for a chance to get up the rd. Unfortunately my lack of bit in my bark for pushing forward meant I did not a chance to stretch the legs of the front of the bunch but I was happy that I did atleast see the group form and got a bit more of an idea of how and when these very selective breakaways form. To give you an idea the group formed at the top of 10km drag between 3-5% and at the time the peleton was split into 3 groups so as we were only 20km into the stage highlights how ferocious the pace can be at the start of a bike race. I did make one push to chage forward in search of that freedom but my lungs quickly reminded me there would be no charging around the peleton at 600+ watts to attack of the front today. Yet again I consigned myself to another day of recovery knowing that really the race is really just beginning. With the break gone and astana on the front the cannondale train swarmed to the front around our GC captain Damiano Caruso who had shown 2 days ago that should the race get hard and scrappy in the final km then he was a hard man that could handle those conditions and was keen to again mix it with the best.
Once we hit the first of 2 longer climbs I finally started feeling good. Felt like I had done for the first part of the season where I have been enjoying every climb I come across. The same could not be said for this week however and this week I have been reminded oh to heavily of the rate at which fortunes can change in this sport especially regarding you condition. 10 days ago I could barely feel the pedals, since then my legs have literally felt like concrete. Anyways todays was an awesome feeling to feel those good sensations again and I can only prey that it continues. Atop the first climb all was tickedy boo, damiano was in a perfect position up front and I began my stressless role down the other side. At the bottom we had no longer hit a flat section of rd when we immediately headed uphill again. I must have been feeling good as it was not until 3km from the top of a 9km climb that I actually realized we were on the climb. I immediately rolled up toward the front and only 1km from the top I was sitting in a perfect position next to the Astana train on the front, damiano in close proximity and all was going as well as possible in the pouring rain in May in Italy. At this point my day started to go pear shaped. People started to get edgy for front position on the decent and the pace started to surge. My heartrate started to spike and immediately my chest bit me hard and I felt like I was choking. All this happening just 500m from the top of the climb. I retreated to the back of the bunch hoping to recover which I did and once the rd pointed downward I was ready to rock on again. Unfortunately I had had my last view of the front. The rain was teaming on the decent and riders were being gapped left right and centre. From the safety of last position in the main field I had no idea if I was 1min or 10min behind the front! With 10km of these wet rds to descend I was pretty well aware of the the fact that by the time I got the bottom the front would be long gone. And so it was, sir wiggo had taken the cautious option down the decent and his rivals teams decided to try and put the nail in his coffin. As a result my leisurely dordle down the hill meant I was further back than full back quicker than I could wipe the mud and water from my glasses to see what was happening ahead of me. So the final 25km resembled the same as most days this week, a gentle stroll to the finish in firenze. The good news was damiano was safely in the front selection and was galantly waving the Cannondale flag amongst the big stars of the race. At the line the early breakaway would occupy the first 4 positions and damiano sprinted to an impressive 9th possi after such a hard stage so was great to see him finishing the week so strongly.
Rest days are often preceded by long transfers and this evening was no different. 350km on our luxurious bus awaited us after the finish which did not worry me one bit. A chance to chew the fat with the boys, catch up on some internet and of course refil the tank after 5hrs in the tuscan hills and rain! What impressed me most about the trip however was the efficiency of our incredible staff and in this case the masseurs. They work like absolute trogen horses day in day out, generally surviving on between 6-7hrs sleep for the entire 3 weeks. They don't miss a beat and are such an integral part of the smooth running of the team. An example was today during our long bus trip when we stopped for dinner at a truck stop or as they are called here, an autogrill. While all the riders rushed inside to feed there faces I spotted the masseurs putting our dirty race cloaths in the washing machines which are underneath the bus. By the time we had fed our faces and returned to the bus for the final 100km of our journey our washing was cleaned and waiting for us in our washing bags at each of our respective seats on the bus which we commandere at the beginning of races we attend throughout europe. I am sure its a small thing to the staff but to me seeing this commitment and organisation really gave me a whole new appreciation for these legends. Seeing things like that really stick in your mind and I will be certain to use there dedication and commitment to helping us attain success on the road as added motivation next time I am needing to ask Myself the hard suffering question in a race.
180km 4hrs 50min
Average heart rate 133
Average power 235 watts
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