Saturday 6th August|
The final stage! Very glad that it is the last early morning start. A bit stressful for me today though, having to defend my one second lead over third place. A very short stage, only 10km warm up, then straight into a 3km/184m fast bosh up the hill. We were seeded into groups based on GC, with the top forty rolling out first. Then we were very roughly spread out at the start of the timed section. I made sure I was glued to Alexander’s wheel through the neutralised section, then sprinted through the start after him to sit firmly behind him all the way up the climb. I could hear someone on my wheel too, then realised from the shadow of hair sticking out from helmet vents that it was Matthew. I felt comfortable behind Alexander, but it wasn’t worth the risk of attacking; I just had to play it tactically and safe. He turned in a good sprint at the end, but I shadowed him all the way to the line, job done! The rest of the stage consisted of a 40km spin down the valley to the feed, then another spin back to Bolzano, easy enough. I spent quite a lot of time right at the back, chatting to some other riders and marvelling at the sight of 700 riders winding their way round the roads ahead of me. We got back and checked out the results – Matthew had had a stormer, the fact that he started a bit behind me giving him a second over me and 4th place on the stage. I was 5th and James turned out a cracking big ring ride for 12th. The big news was that Giuliano got beaten though – by a huge margin! Casassa obviously had something to prove after his broken crank put him out of GC, and did 6:32 to miss the course record by a single second, but Ferrari and Giuliano were way back, tying with 6:53! We had time to go home and get cleaned up, before rolling back down for the prize presentation. Of course we didn’t understand a word of it, but were just careful to listen out for our names and Inghilterra Sud! I got called up for second in the 19-30 category, winning a cheese board with a huge lump of cheese, big slab of speck (gave that to Matthew) and bottle of apple juice (all local produce). Matthew got similar for third in the 31-40 category. Then I also got called up again for the GC – for some reason they awarded the top four, which was fine by me! I won an Italian book (very useful, thanks guys….) and a bag. Probably just as well I wasn’t third, as he got a huge basket of produce, which I would never have got home! When they got to the team prizes, they started handing out the silverware. There were two competitions, one based on kilometres covered, the other on a points system for the first five riders as a percentage of the winners time. We reckon we might have won if they had just added the top five riders GC times together, but never mind. Of course, the kilometres competition just required a big team, so surprise surprise the local BiciSport team walked away with that one, with 58 of them riding! We got 11th in this one, which netted us a nice cup. We sent the well beered up Alex to the stage for his moment of glory – he had managed to get round today, despite his knee. In the points competition we had done better, placing 5th, so Matt went up to collect another identical cup. Not a bad haul really, and we finished with two podium spots and two more in the top ten, pretty good considering we don’t have anything like these mountains at home. Alex decided that we deserved to have our cup filled with free beer, and incredibly he got them to agree! Most people had left by the end, but there was still some bloke providing the ‘entertainment’, belting out some Italian songs with his keyboard on the stage. Time to move on, and we drove into town to find some dinner. Walking into the centre, Alex managed to get the trophy filled with free bananas from the market (!), before we found a pizzeria. The Italians are either very tolerant of drunken Englishmen, or drinking from trophies is a common thing over there – either way, to my great surprise, Alex managed to get another free refill at the restaurant. Good pizza, then we strolled off. Along the way Alex started talking to an American girl in the street, and we ended up going to a bar with her. Where, unbelievably, Alex got another free cupful, before Mary got sent in to flutter her eyelashes and get a second! Matthew, Tim and Shannon bailed at this point, leaving me with the inebriated boys for a bit more bar crawling. They only managed one more free refill though, and that one was actually pinched from the tap when the bar was unattended…… Eventually, a bit after 11pm, I called time and drove them back up the hill; I dropped them at the local bar then turned in.
Giro delle Dolomiti index