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Photo: © Casey Gibson

Time for a change: The Kimberly Bruckner Journal 2003

Last year the 2001 US Road Champion Kimberly Bruckner left the number one ranked women's team in the US after two years with Saturn and joined the growing force that is Team T-Mobile. With her sights firmly set on the Worlds in Hamilton and the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, Kimberly's diary is sure to provide compelling reading.

Giro d'Italia Femminile, part four: Death-defying

Stage 3 - July 7: Monteroduni (IS) - Castelpizzuto (IS), 84 km

Ironically enough, today's stage was the toughest-looking of all the course profiles but the last real climbing stage for the remainder of the Giro. And we're only at stage 3! Since we were staying in our current hotel for two nights, I was hoping the start of today's stage would be rather close to our lodging... say perhaps within riding distance, but it was not. We still had to take the death-defying drive to the start about 60km away. I say death-defying because the way our directors drive here is in no way how we drive in the States. I can't even look out the window most of the time. I keep my eyes occupied looking at the race bible or digging around in my bag, so I don't have to see impending death as cars come speeding straight at us as our directors are passing the "slower moving vehicles."

Today was another hot one at the start, and a continuation of 'the circus'. For some reason, the race promoters seem to like to start us at one of the little Italian villages located on top of a hill, so that we start with a long descent. The views are beautiful but the descent is a bit hairy with the entire peloton descending together. I'd rather descend after a long climb so that the group is smaller.

But today's descent wasn't too bad. I felt like we were either climbing or descending all day: three Category 1 climbs and a category 3. The group was pretty much intact at the top of the first cat 1 climb, 31km into the race, but then it started raining. It didn't stop raining for the rest of the race, and it made the roads unbelievably slippery. They felt like complete ice out there. The women descended pretty conservatively, but really picked up the pace over the cat 3 climb heading towards the top of the second cat 1 climb. Rasa and Jolanta Polikivieute's team, Aurora 2002, did an amazing job of really controlling any attacks and setting as hard a pace up the climb as they could, despite the rivers of rain running down the roads. And they were almost literally rivers. I got dizzy sometimes looking down at all the water.

There was a big split by the top of the second cat 1 climb. Through the rain I can't quite remember how many girls were there exactly, but it was all the big guns; Rasa and Jolanta, Luperini, and someone else from their team, Nicole Brandli, Joanne Somarriba, Edita Puckinskaite, Olivia Gollan, Oneone Wood, Modesta from Acca Due, Dori from the Spanish team, and Amber Neben and, miraculously, myself. The descent became a test of wills: who was willing to take the biggest risks on the wet roads. A group with Amber, Jolanta, Edita, Zina, Nicole, and Joanne zoomed on ahead, with the rest of us in hot pursuit.

Unfortunately, Oneone Wood went down in one of the first corners but quickly caught back on to us. The corners were so slick. Every time I could feel my tires just slipping on the pavement. But I was one of the lucky ones, and I was determined not to get dropped. We hit the next climb and I found myself in a group with Olivia Gollan, Rasa (the wearer of the maglia rosa, the leader's jersey), the Spanish girl, Modesta, and a few others. Suddenly, Luperini came flying up. She had been dropped on the climb but quickly caught back on to our group. She proceeded to fly right through our group and up to the next small group just ahead of us. In that group was Amber, Zina, and Jolanta. Since Luperini was Jolanta's teammate as well as Rasa's, she probably felt she could do the most good for the teammate furthest up the road. I saw her pull as hard as she could for Jolanta up the climb but once we hit the next slippery descent, she came back through our group again.

About 15km from the finish, we descended through a little town called Longano and the streets were like oil. I looked up and saw that Jolanta, Zina, AND Amber had all gone down in one particularly slippery corner. Somehow, Jolanta quickly jumped up and rode away, never to be seen again on this stage. Zina and Amber now made up our little group of about 10, and it was to remain that way for the rest of the race. Up ahead, Nicole Brandli and Edita Pucinskaite came in together finishing first and second. A bit behind them was Joanne Sommarriba, and behind her came Jolanta. Our group was next and Amber took the field sprint for fifth. A group of about 20 women finished a minute or so behind us with Kristin, Kim, Dotsie, and Mari all in there.

Afterwards, we heard the various stories of crashes. So many girls came in with scrapes, ripped shorts, or worse. Unfortunately, I was told another American girl, Joan Wilson, crashed and broke a rib and her collarbone. I so hate hearing that... especially about a friend who offered me so much advice just a few days ago. Joan, I hope you recover very quickly. Thanks so much for your help.

And as so often happens, as soon as the race finished, the sun came back out and warmed everything up again. I'd give you G.C. As it stands now, but we never see printed results until the start of the next stage, so I'll know tomorrow. Time for the death-defying ride back to the hotel!