Monday 1st August|
Stage two involved a climb up to 2004m, the last 14.5km of which was the timed section. We were a little late in leaving, meaning a slight rush at the start, but with 55km neutralised before the ‘race’, there was no drama. It’s a bit boring to ride along so slowly behind the car, but does make for a good warm up. Plus, after the first feed stop we had a solid 10km climb as a precursor to the timed one. I tried to ride this as easy as my gearing would allow, and settled into the front group along with Matt and Tim. It was very impressive to see a one-legged rider (complete with carbon fibre stump rest attached to his seatpost) comfortably riding up with us! As we got to the start, I went through just behind the first group of riders, but soon went past them and was out in front on my own. Today’s climb wasn’t so steep – 736m in 14.5km, so I wondered if I had made a tactical error in not starting with the riders I was with yesterday – they had hung back slightly before the start. But actually it worked out quite well, as the guys who finished 2nd and 3rd in front of me on the first stage caught me towards the end of the steep first section, and I had them to work with on the flatter middle bit; they probably would have dropped me on the bottom section if I’d started with them. With 3km to go the road steepened again, and I was unable to hold the wheels, although I held one of them pretty close all the way to the finish. So third on the road, which ended up being fourth on time – Giuliano trounced us all again, making the top four identical to yesterday. Matthew had a storming ride not far behind me, with Tim also pacing himself much better. In fact, everyone had a much better day, and we finished the day in 5th place on the overall team competition (based on top five riders, worked out on points as percentages of the winners time each day), with the podium a possibility if we continue to improve. I lost another 35 seconds to the leader of the 19-30 category, but gained an additional 15 on third place behind me – so still tight, but holding my second place! At the top of the climb they had laid on pasta for us, and this time we had sent plenty of warm clothes up; fortunately the weather stayed dry and sunny, but still good to have more clothes at 2000m! In theory we had to wait a couple of hours to descend with the convoy…. But that seemed like too much hanging about, so we took our numbers off and headed back incognito for the 70km run back to Bolzano. The downhill rocked – Alex and Matt raced down, while the rest of us took it a bit easier, but still hit 50mph – in a long tunnel, which was a bit freaky with dark glasses on……. In Merano we got a bit split up chasing an old geezer through the traffic, but Matt kindly waited for me (I didn’t have the legs left to sprint about after totally mullering myself on the climb), and we cruised down the valley, after a brief wrong turn diversion. Back at the HQ, we got changed and chilled out for a bit, waiting until everyone else came back with the convoy before rolling our bikes over the mat to clock in our transponders. Then, finally, we could head back to the digs and shower. For dinner we tried to go back to the pizzeria, but found out it is shut on Mondays. Fortunately there was another place just round the corner, with a suitable menu, so we tucked in there – needed to fuel up, long day coming up tomorrow…..
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