Thursday 4th August|
Another obnoxiously early start today, as we had to drive 110km to get to Dobbiaco for an 8:30am start. So up and out the door at 6am – our landlady had kindly left some bread out for us, so we could eat on the hoof. Good job we left so much time too, as it was a slow, traffic filled drive. But not everyone had been so prudent – the rollout was actually delayed by 15 minutes as latecomers kept arriving. I was bang up for the stage today, feeling well recovered after the rest day, and ready to make amends for stage 3’s poor result. It was a bit chilly at the start – the town was at 1241m, and it was only 11 degrees as we started. We had 20km of steady climbing before racing up the highest paved road in the Dolomites – Rif. Auronzo at 2320m. The stats didn’t sound bad at all – 7.5km and 564m. However, in reality it was the hardest stage so far – a kilometre or so of 16%, then a couple of km of downhill, before the 3.5km kick up to the top – haven’t checked my computer download yet, but I reckon it was 14 to 19% all the way up! Today they were starting us in groups of three at ten second intervals. I made sure I was at the front, and set off with Ferrari, second on GC. To my surprise I dropped him on the first section, so hit the downhill solo out front. I had a decent gap as I started the hard bit, and held it for about a kilometre before first the Giuliano passed me, then Ferrari. But it wasn’t really racing anymore anyway, just survival; and with only a 23 sprocket on the back I was hopelessly overgeared, which combined with struggling for air with the altitude, didn’t make it a whole lot of fun. Still, I dragged my sorry arse up to the line, then sat panting for a good five minutes before I got my breath back. Third on the road, which was good enough for an eventual 6th on the stage, just being beaten by two riders at 10 and 12 seconds from repeating my previous fourth place. But the GC was turned a bit upside down – I was still 5th on GC and 3rd in my category, but now had different riders either side. I later found out that Stefano Casassa had broken his crank not far into the climb, knocking him out of contention for the overall. The good news was that 4th place was now nearly three minutes down, so barring accidents I’m safely on the podium. And second place is only 7 seconds ahead, so all still to play for….. The rest of the team had mixed results. Tim and Matthew both did great rides to move up on GC – although Matthew is still in the wrong age category – the podium is within striking distance for him if they can finally get it right. James struggled a bit with the steeper slopes, losing a minute to Tim, having beaten him on stage three. And Shannon was reduced to walking for a bit, it really was that tough! Poor Alex was suffering badly with his knee – impressively he not only made it up the stupidly steep climb, but all the way round the rest of the stage. But he won’t be able to ride tomorrow. I enjoyed the rest of the stage – nice getting the time trial out of the way early – with another two climbs of 600 and 400m respectively, though nowhere near as steep! And lots of feed stations it seemed. When we rolled back to Dobbiaco we had covered 102km with 2298m of climbing – the food laid on was very welcome, though once again the pasta was full of bits of meat, not so great for me the vegetarian. Then we had to face up to the two hour drive back to Bolzano. James dozed off in the passenger seat, and I struggled not to do likewise, but made it back safely. For dinner we decided to try somewhere new, so went further down the village to see what we could find. We ended up at a restaurant run by an older German couple who seemed very unenthusiastic about serving us. And once again some confusion about the order – it seems people ordering more than one meal is not common! But we got everything eventually, and the food was very good, and also very cheap, which is a winning combination really. I left the boys to go for beers and headed back.
Next day....... Giro delle Dolomiti index