Friday 5th August|
You’d think we’d be used to it by now, but everyone seemed to be feeling the early start (breakfast at 6:30am) this morning, especially James, who looked like I felt on Tuesday….. It was pretty damn chilly at the start, being around 14 degrees when we rolled out, but without a cloud in the sky, the weather looked bright and promising. I wished I’d put my armwarmers on though, as we were in the shady side of the valley for the first flat 20km. Still, there was plenty of time to warm up on the 16km/800m climb up to the first feed. Superstar guest rider today was Mauricio Fondriest (ex top pro and world champion), still looking very lean and fit. After the stop we had to wait quite a while before the convoy rolled out again, with a flat 15km to the start of the day’s time trial. Rolling along this section I formulated my plan of attack to get the 7 seconds I needed to regain second place. I decided to start a bit behind Alexander, then sprint from the line to get his wheel, then hopefully be able to drop him somewhere on the climb. And whadaya know, it worked! I had to fight through a bit of traffic to get up to him at the start, then settled in. At the start he was riding on his mate’s wheel (who dropped me on stage 3 and also beat me yesterday), but after a couple of km couldn’t hold the pace. I stayed behind him for a bit, then accelerated past. He immediately responded and sat on – it was quite a strong headwind, so he had the advantage of taking shelter while I pushed on. The last 3.5km (of 7.5km/757m) were steep, and although my gear was a bit big, I was just about able to keep it turning while seated. Eventually we caught, and then dropped, his mate, and I pressed on, planning on leaving it until I could see the line to try and get a gap. There were two tunnels in the last kilometre. As we came out of the second one with about 300m to go, I attacked hard, and got a gap, then gave it everything I had to the line. Alexander came over a few seconds behind me – but would it be enough? I would have to wait until we got back to the HQ to find out, even though I felt fairly certain I’d done it. Yes I had, but the margin was a bit tight – I took eight seconds out of him to put me in 2nd by one second! I also missed third on the stage by one second, but had the satisfaction of beating the leader of my category. So tomorrow will be slightly nervous, but it should be okay – it’s a short, fast climb (3km/184m), so as long as I keep track of Alexander I can maintain my lead with a bit of luck. Of the rest of the team, Matt had the best ride, with a fine 22nd place six seconds ahead of Tim. Matthew also had a stormer, moving himself up to 3rd place in his category – so two podium spots for the team! The route after the time trial was a bit cruel – we had to descend the race course, then immediately had to climb up 6km/600m. The route card promised the pasta stop at the top, but there had obviously been a change of plan as it was just a regular feed. We had to wait to regroup before hitting the 30km descent back to Bolzano. So we hung out in the sunshine, and got to chat to, and have our photo taken with, Mr Fondriest himself. The downhill was fast, at least until we caught up the bulk of the group behind the car, then it was time to ride the brakes. But the road was awesome, a major feat of engineering to build it through a very narrow, rocky gorge. Arriving back in town with the big group for the first time was a bit scary, as for some reason everyone was surging to try and get to the front – when it doesn’t matter in the slightest. Ah well. James, Matt and co were delayed because Shannon punctured on the descent, but we all got together for the pasta dinner. They were handing out flyers for next year’s event, and stage 3 looks pretty amazing – the whole 27km and 1854m of climbing of the Stelvio, straight off from the gun! I reckon that the other stages will barely matter for the GC! Everyone was feeling pretty toasted by the time we got back to the B&B – nice to finish early, so we all crashed out for a bit. Tim fell asleep, then when James’ phone beeped he thought it was the morning already and was about to put his riding kit on again! I had eaten quite a lot at the end of the stage, so stayed in and snacked for dinner, whilst the others returned to the restaurant down the hill.
Next day....... Giro delle Dolomiti index