The peleton full of fresh legs was back at it today. Every bodies batteries were recharged and the organisers decided it was the perfect day to set us off on what turned out to be the hardest 100km of racing I have ever endured. We started in the foot hills of the famous galibier and that meant we could either go up or down! I would have preferred up but unfortunately we went down the twisty fast col d telegraph that we climbed 2 days ago. I started in a good spot and made sure some big name riders like scarponi, Uran and cadel where behind. Bit of a security blanket should the field inevitably split on the decent. So down we dived and while we were going pretty quick as there was not much passing going on I also felt a little to calm and not taking risks and I immediately at the front it would be a different story. The group up front was definitely splitting to pieces, small ones at that.
Sure enough once down in the valley we commenced a 50km gradually uphill drag to the border between france and italy and the fireworks were well and truly set off. Nibali was the only GC rider in the top 5 in the front group and sure enough his team were turning the screw on sky, BMC, and lampre who were all with me around 45seconds behind. I immediately got excited. I was finally feeling good power in the legs again and was getting my anticipated free ride back to the front. Once we got back I had my attack all planned out, all I had to do was sit in and take it easy and them WHAMMO. Well I ended up being the one that got WHAMMO'D! All was going sweet but as the heart rate with the driving pace of sky and BMC I was seeing a lot of 500-600 watt surges which were fine for the pins but my lungs and allergy problem was kicking in. I tried to concentrate and put it out of my mind but as we drew with M's of regaining contact my lungs gave up and I litterly was left without any oxygen in my body and had to sit up and recover. I knew there were riders behind as we had been going full block so I decided to take it easy and wait for them and try and recover. Fortunately a it worked, I was able to relax and get my heart rate below what appears to be my breaking point at the moment of 170BPM, my normal max heart rate is 205 so its obvious I am far from functioning normal. The back group arrived and I jumped in and all was good until some fresh legs in the group ripped out a massive acceleration and I was in dyer straights again! Fortunately vincento reins from the lotto team saw me in serious bother and pushed me and helped me get my breath back and settle down a bit. Vincente is one of my favourite riders and I really enjoy chatting with him often. He litterally save my backside today and from there we gradually made our way back to the group. Reins is one of those classy pros with a wealth of experience and always happy to help everyone. I think I thanked him a hundred times during the day but will be certain to find a way to show my gratitude in a better way in the future.
The pace had been fierce as like post the previous rest day everybody wanted in the break so again it was always going to be a strongmans move and astana where not going to let them go easily. When we rejoined a group had a 40 second lead and our very own GC captain Damiano Caruso had spotted an opportunity to win a stage and was galloping across the Gap with ease. By contrast I was sitting at the back of the bunch trying to open my airways and using all my concentration to keep my bike moving forward. Fortunately soon after the pace dropped just intime for the final 9km kick up to the ridge between france and italy and I could finally recover. I thought I was home and hosed. 3km from the top of the climb astana upped the pace a little to keep the break in check and with it up went my heart rate. With the allergy now seriously having constricted my airways at 160 heart rate I was running out of air. I had no choice to seek the race doctor as I knew I was in dyer straights. Upon seeing me he instantly grabbed hold of me and said you need to stop, you are not breathing! I managed to garner up enough breath to explain that I knew I was not breathing but there was also no way in the world I was quitting while I was still able to push the pedals. I asked for ventoline and opened my mount and he quick pumped a few sprays in. Intant relief and he calmed down a bit as he realized it was simply a allergy/asthma attack and if I could survive the final 2km of the climb I may just make it to the finish! Sure enough he pushed me off but stayed next to me in the car to be safe. I was finally controlling my breathing and slowly I edged my way back up to the peleton and 200m from the top I was finally safely last wheel, able to breath, and most importantly recovering by not having to pedal. I had dodged a serious bullet. At this point we were 96km into the race and it dawned on me that I had not eaten or drinken anything! Lucky it was the day after the rest day so I had those reserves I was planning on chipping away at though out the week! Will have to scrap that I well and trully used them all up in the first few hrs today! Anyways good lesson, make sure you eat up on rest days! You never know when you might have to use the emergency supplies!
From there it was another 30km plunge down into italy and the solitude of the flat lands leading toward milan. As bad a moments I have had in the past week its given me great feedback to the doctor to be able to pinpoint exactly what the problem is. Now we know its allergy's that incite asthma and its antagonized much more during this period in italy. It can be treated easily with the right medicine which we are now sorting or also can be treated by avoiding racing in this period in italy. I had no problems in the early season but with the change in season between spring and summer particularly in italy its a period where many suffer just like me so most important is to know this then take a course of action to avoid these problems occurring again.
So back on the flat and damiano was charging along up the road and looking like the stage winner and taking some big steps up in the GC. Me mean while went into bluff survival mode and again I am so greatfull in so many ways for the suffering I have incurred at this giro. The amount of energy I am learning to save and the some basic little tricks to avoid having to work to hard in the bunch are coming along a treat. Also a major weakness of mine in the past had been descending!! No anymore! I have been concentrating extremely hard at this, often because it allows me to rejoin the group but also the better you are at and more relaxed you are at it gives you a great opportunity to recover. Small things descending like anticipating the corners and so forth. In the past I have just relied on being able to jump out of the corners and rejoin the group. This unfortunately takes energy I simply don't have this week. As I said before, no matter what situation you find yourself in at a race you can always learn somthing. This season has been a tail of the two extremes, up the front early on in the year and now suffering out the back!
Back to the race and it did not take long for some teams with riders on GC being threatened by damiano. They knew how strong he was and with 70km to go katusha and radio shack en massed on the front and started chipping away at the 4minute advantage. They were in a real hurry and sadly for damiano his adventure was over 25km from the finish so unfortunately no fairy tale day for him but the most important thing was that he had a good old fashioned crack at it. Once we hit the climb, 7km up, 8 down and 8 flat to finish I found a nice gentle group and blessed my very own cotton socks that I was going to make it to the finish. The climb was harder than expected and it was no surprize to some of the GC men flexing there legs hoping to catch out one of there rivals who may have been having an off day. It worked as GC did reshuffle a little by days end. As I said yesterday I am excited to go to bed each night as I can't wait to wake up tomorrow and see how I go and what transpires! Sure I would never have asked for what happened today to fall my way but in the end, like always, its those brutally difficult days that make the good ones all the more special!
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