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One buckled unit
I am laying on the bed after Stage 5 and I have to say, I have felt better...
We arrived in Genova on the Wednesday before the Giro, late in the afternoon. Pretty much settled in and caught up with my old man, John Trevorrow and their compadres who are with them for the journey during this year's Giro.
The next day was an early wake up call due to the pre-Giro medical. They took blood to check if everything was in order. In two cases, it wasn't, one rider unfortunately coming from my team. Herbelino Mesa's had just returned from Colombia where he lives at 3000m and the UCI found his haematocrit to be too high. He was sent home on the next flight back to Colombia and we were already down one rider.
After a short ride dodging bad weather yet again the afternoon was spent kickin' back before heading to the team presentation. It was also a good chance to catch up with mates. In this year's Giro there are eight Aussie's and one Pommie. I don't know, but that's gotta be some kind of a record? [You're quite correct, Willo-Ed] Brett Lancaster and Scotty Davis from Panaria, Brad McGee and Matty Wilson from FdJ, Nick Gates and Robbie McEwen from Lotto, the solo Englishman Charly Wegelius, me and Russ are the starters. The Friday before the Giro was pretty boring actually. The weather was better and we did three hours training along the beach. My legs, however, felt very average. Not how I wanted to be feeling a day before a Grand Tour.
Prologue - May 8: Genova ITT, 6.9 km
In the morning we headed to the course to do a few happy laps. With two steep climbs, a fair bit of pavé and 22 corners, it was crucial to check out the circuit.
When I arrived at the start in the afternoon, I was amazed at how many people there were. I was the first of the riders off from my team and when I started Brett Lancaster held the fastest time. I was pretty nervous on the start ramp and with the crowd revving me up, went outta the blocks like a scalded cat. I blew a bit towards the end due to the fast start, but all-in-all, happy with my ride. Brad Macca got a stage win under the belt for the Aussies in fine style, winning by 10 seconds.
Stage 1 - May 9: Genova - Alba, 143 km
After a good night's sleep and no more nerves, it was time for the first road stage. We had two hills midway through the stage with a downhill run into town before doing four local laps to finish with. It was a nice cruisy start to the stage going along the coast. You could here Aussie voices, laughter and general piss-taking coming from everywhere. Eventually, the race started when we hit the first and only KOM for the day and the bunch lined out over the top. It slowed down again for a while before my team-mate Marlon Perez went up the road. He stayed away for 60km and won the Intergiro, and got to wear the blue jersey the following day. Once the bunch wound up 40km from the finish, the pace seldom went under 60km/h. I've been told how fast these stage finishes are, but you really do have to experience one for yourself, unbelievable! I sat in and went along for the ride. Patacchi took the first stage of the tour and Macca lost the maglia rosa through time bonuses to Pollack.
Stage 2 - May 10: Novi Ligure - Pontremoli, 184 km
Today's stage looked a bit harder with two major climbs coming in the last half of the race. The sun was out for the start and another 30 minutes hangin' out in the village before the start. I could handle this part of the day everyday, drinking coffee and chewing the fat with the boys.
Today was pretty much on from the start and attacks were going 'til a break finally went, and it had my team-mate Marin in it. Gerolsteiner and FdJ rode tempo and I got over the first climb ok. By the time the last climb came around, I was pretty shabby and once the grupetto formed, I was in there. Saeco's Cunego won the stage with Brad Macca in second and back in pink.
Stage 3 - May 11: Pontremoli - Corno Alle Scale, 191 km
A long, lumpy and hill-top finish day. It was a nice cruisy start to the day before a few attacks started going. It was lined out with attacks going everywhere when we turned left to find the train crossing down. I was up the front luckily, and all I could hear behind was the sound of crunching metal as riders creamed other riders from behind. This started another piano session. One Tenax rider attacked and gained 12mins before FdJ and Saeco decided that was enough and started chasing. I got to the last climb, which was 25km to the finish and waited to see the big Domina train forming. Another 40-odd guys had the same idea and we rode to the finish saving the legs. Simoni won the stage and took the maglia rosa, which he will probably hold for the next two and a bit weeks. At dinner I could not keep my eyes open, and was feeling the tour in my legs already!
Stage 4 - May 12: Porretta Terme - Civitella In Val Di Chiana (Stab. Del Tongo), 184 km
I needed a long sleep but it wasn't to be. A 7am wake-up call by the soigneur, followed by a "get ******, it's too early" from me. As it turned out, the UCI was here to do a random blood test. I wasn't too impressed and the attitude of the officials didn't go down too well at this time of the morning either.
After an early start, it meant an extra espresso at the village. The legs felt very average this morning and I needed a lot of morale boosting talks from Trevorrow, the old man and Gatesy. Gatesy and Robbie also had a good piss-take at my diary and had a good chuckle, so I'm pleased to have amused them so much with the humour...
After a nice cruisy start and the sun out, it looked like being a nice day on the bike. Then the weather turned brutal and that changes everything. It just makes everything so much more difficult... your pushing the pedals harder, copping with the rain, dodging crashes and turning the dry useless chain. Then after the stage you've got to scrub ya clothes before they go in the washing machine, otherwise they'll never be clean again. It just changes your whole perspective for the day.
Eventually Saeco started riding tempo and no breaks went. We went over an 8km climb midway and the bunch split into various groups. I was with Cipo's group and knew I was ok here. That was until we hit the descent in the wet and a rider lost the wheel in front of me. I got around him but with my back wheel sliding on every corner I couldn't close the gap on the Domina Express and once we hit a straight bit of road, I had to wait for the next train. The Fassa train was next with Petacchi and I jumped on no worries till we hit a mid-decent berg and I got popped. I looked around and there was only one train left. The Formaggi train, with Quaranta. They came past and I bit the handlebar tape to hold the wheel and get back into the safety of the bunch. The sprinters teams got sorted for the last 50km and the speed was through the roof. I was fighting it big time, and when we hit a small climb 20km out from the finish, the fight was over. I got popped and rolled to the finish. At the time I swore it was the worst part of my cycling career and I was going to write in this Cyclingnews diary that I was retiring... but we all have days like that and I have put that behind me. Petacchi won again, while Cipo dropped it big time and it looked hard.
Stage 5 - May 13: Civitella In Val Di Chiana (Stab. Del Tongo) - Spoleto, 177 km
I was one buckled unit this morning and a nervous one at that. Just worried that if they went outta the blocks I'd be on the first train home. Luckily they didn't and we cruised for a while. Instead big Maggy Backstedt and Burt Lancaster had to listen to me complain about how bad I felt. Sorry boys, but you did get me through!
There were a few hard patches in the race today where we went over a few short pinches and where it went in the gutter a few times, but all-in-all, it wasn't a bad day. We hit the finish circuits at light speed with 20km to go. There was a short 1km climb in the circuit and groups were getting shelled every lap. On the last lap Cipo called it a day as did I and a load of others, rolling to the finish. McEwen got the win he wanted; he's been unlucky and deserved to throw the arms in the air today.
So I am feeling a bit better tonight and in more of a mood to write this diary. If I had have written it last night you'd all be thinking I was buying hooks to put in the wall where my bike will be. Cycling is a weird sport, one day good, one day bad. Hopefully tomorrow is not the latter...