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The Emma James Diary 2002
Welcome to Cyclingnews.com's newest female diarist, Australian Emma James. Emma's enjoying her first year as a scholarship holder with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) road cycling team, managed by coach James Victor. She's a gutsy rider who's decided that she'd rather be testing the waters of professional cycling than testing the salinity of the Sydney's waterways as an environmental scientist - which used to be her previous occupation before Emma decided to take the plunge.
Emma's Giro d'Italia Femminile diary
Stage 4 - July 9: Correggio-Correggio, 118 km
July 9, 2002
Riding through the Italian swamplands
The stage started late as two teams were delayed in traffic on the motorway. We had driven back to our base the previous evening after stage 3, and were glad to have a chance to sleep in a little, and casually roll the 15 minutes from Novellara to the start town of Correggio. Eventually the last two teams arrived (one had even had a police escort!), and we started just over half an hour late. The stage was shortened slightly to 106kms.
It was an entirely flat stage - not even a freeway overpass! The region was supposedly swamplands long ago, now reclaimed land for farms; especially pigs for proscuito in the Po Valley. Lambrusco and parmesan cheese are the main specialties of the region. Samples of each that we have tried have been very good. Quality Lambrusco is nothing like what carries the same name and is purchased very cheaply in Australia!
The start of the race was quite hectic, with numerous corners to get out of town, and then quite narrow roads. The Aussies were aggressive early, and within 15-20 kms a break of about eight riders was established with Olivia Gollan from our team, two Dutch riders Ghita Beltman (Acca Due) & Bertine Spijkerman (Powerplate Bik), Roberta Bonanomi (Figurella) and a few others.
Their lead grew steadily to about two minutes, nearly three minutes at one stage. The pace of the peleton was maintained by the Itera team for a fair while. With about 15km to go the time gap to the break was coming down quite quickly. We knew that it was possible that the break would be caught, and that counter moves would then be launched. With just around 5km to go the break was just in sight of the peleton on some stretches of the road. The road was quite narrow (with ditches for irrigating fields on either side), and with a fair few corners which slow the bunch more than a break away group. On the narrow sections the pace slowed as there were many riders at the front who were not chasing. They effectively blocked the riders who wanted to chase from moving up to the front to drive the peleton. With 3km to go we turned onto a much larger and fast section of road. The peloton was strung out in single file as the Acca Due train drove it on the front, and the Aussies prepared for a lead out for Rochelle Gilmore.
The eight riders in the breakaway still had a small gap, and it could not have been much closer at the finish for the break which had been away for about 80km. Attacks from most of the riders in the break kept the break just out of reach of the main field. Olivia Gollan and Bertine Spijkerman had a very tough battle in the sprint for the stage win, with Spijkerman just getting to the line ahead of Olivia, and then Bonanomi in third. Sara Carrigan finished ahead of Olga Zabelinskaja to reclaim the young rider jersey. Second place in a stage of the Giro is a wonderful result for Olivia in her first year of racing in Europe! The wine that she won tasted particularly good at dinner, being so hard fought for.
There was a crash as we came around the second last corners with too many riders fighting for the same bit of bitumen. Many riders were caught up behind the crash and straggled in along the last km, but they were all given the same bunch time.
Stage 5 - July 10: Lesmo-Triuggio, 94 km
July 10, 2002
The profile looked quite nasty - like the serrated edge of a saw blade!
Our team missed the police escort on the autostrada around Milan to get to the start, but after refueling the cars, our director managed to take us a very direct route which saw us get to the start in about half the time it took all the other teams! We left after everyone else and sat around for more than half an hour before the Italian teams arrived!
The stage was basically a circuit over about an 8km loop. The profile looked quite nasty - like the serrated edge of a saw blade, with about 10 climbs for the day. The descent was quite steep, and position in the bunch was, not surprisingly, crucial for the short pinches just after it, and the longer drags/false flat that made up the rest of the circuit.
Naomi Williams from our team was in a very promising break about half way through the race, and their lead got to nearly two minutes. The following lap the pace up the climb seemed to be about twice as fast as Acca Due rider Diana Ziliute attacked, and Itera worked to pull back the break. The bunch split into about three groups, with the front group catching the break quite quickly. Naomi was again in the action as attacks were launched from the leading group in the last part of the race. She finished in a very respectable 12th place, ahead of the main group, but just out of contact with the riders she had been with chasing the leading breakaway group.
I had a tough day, with my legs not feeling great. When the peloton split to pieces I was struggling on the climb. Riding with the bunch to the finish was frustrating, knowing the race was well and truly up the road, and by that time, there was a very large gap between them and us. On the flat sections your legs can feel much better, and you start to think of what you 'could of', 'should of', 'would of' done. It was a tough course for tired, heavy legs. There are still a four days to go, and with the GC still very close for the top 10 riders, it will be tough racing.
There were a few crashes, one caused by a bit of punching or at least solid pushing around! I saw the same riders nearly come to blows in the previous stage - if tomorrow was not an individual time trial, I'm sure we would see some interesting moves on that front.
All the teams are staying in a very large Holiday Inn hotel on the outskirts of Milan, which is supposedly the same one that some of the men's professional teams stayed in for the Milan-San Remo race earlier this year. We are all confident that we could get used to the five star hotels, and the complimentary internet access facilities are very handy!
Emma's racing exploits in 2002