By Dede Demet Barry, T-Mobile professional cycling team
Stage 2 has historically been the most decisive in the Giro Toscana — often, the race has been won or lost on this day. It was hot at the start of the stage, which took us up two short category-3 climbs followed by two 10km ascents to the picturesque town of Volterra.
We had a laugh at the start of the stage, as Svetlana Boubnekova and Zita Urbanaite had a bit of a cat fight on the bike and were yelling and hitting each other. I am not really sure what they were arguing about, but everyone gave them a little space in the bunch and they finally seemed to work it out and quiet down.
Mountain points were awarded on each of the climbs, and the sprint over the top of the first two climbs caused some small splits, but the peloton regrouped rather quickly after each. It was not until the first ascent to Volterra that solid splits were formed.
The heat was intense as we climbed to Volterra because the road we were on was completely exposed to the sun. I have to admit I was seriously suffering the first time up. I felt as if my legs were cramping; they felt clogged and it hurt to put pressure on the pedals. But slowly, I rode the bad stuff out of my legs and started to come around after the first ascent. I think it helped seeing my good friend Rob Coppolillo at the top, who came to cheer us on. He gave us a little extra energy to make it over the top in a decent position and some good motivation for the kilometers ahead. Fortunately, the splits were not that big on the first lap and 30 riders were within a minute of each other at the top.
As we descended from Volterra, there was a strong cross wind. It was a narrow, technical descent, which made it easy to make up ground on the lead group if one was willing to take some risks through the turns. Mari, Kristin and I were together on the descent and quickly caught the leaders.
As we hit the base of the climb there were several attacks. A group of four riders rode away from the peloton and gained 30–40 seconds, but as we began to climb towards Volterra the second time, what was left of the peleton soaked up the breakaway, and soon after that, the peloton split into several pieces.
It was Edita Puckinskaite, Fabiana Luperina, Suzanne Ljunskog and Mirjiam Melchers pushing the pace up front. The rest of us were hanging on for dear life, riding hard and trying to limit our losses. Edita won the stage with a small gap on Luperini, Melchers and Lungskog finishing just behind.
Rob was at the finish with two bags full of cookies and bonbons from a local patisserie. His treats provided us with some excellent carbo-loading, and I think all the sugar helped me to recover through the night, as I woke up Friday with better legs for our double-stage day.
The morning stage was on a hilly circuit. There was one steep climb per lap. The attacks were firing from the start of the stage, and with 20km to go, the first breakaway of the day succeeded. Nicole Cooke took off and four riders went with her – Jolanta Poliakaichute, Alexandre Dettore, Racheal Heal and a rider from the Fanini team.
With 4km to go we were within sight of the lead group and I attacked with Magali La Floch on my wheel. We quickly bridged up to the breakaway and realized that Nicole was off the front of that group. We were 1.5km from the finish, and I attacked this group. Everyone followed me, but there was not time to make up the gap to Nicole, who won the stage. Our group sprinted for second place, with a hard charging peloton catching from behind.
We went back to our hotel to rest after the morning stage and then started getting ready for a nighttime circuit race that was to start at 9 p.m., in the dark. I have to admit, we were a little scared of racing in the dark on rough, bumpy city streets, as it is hard to see the potholes and manhole covers. But once we started the race and completed a few laps, we began to feel comfortable, and racing at high speed in the dark was actually quite exhilarating. The course was flat and very fast, and the race was controlled by the Fanini team of Puckinskaite and Acca Due. In then end, we had a massive field sprint with Georgia Bronzini of Acca Due winning her second stage of this tour.
We arrived at our hotels at midnight and found it a little difficult to wind down, as the adrenaline was flowing. My roommate, Mari, and I chatted and read and finally fell asleep a little after 1 a.m. It was a long day, but fortunately, we were able to sleep in this morning and wake up to a wonderful breakfast, especially prepared by our soigneur, Michelle. This afternoon we will head off into the mountains again.