By Dede Demet Barry, T-Mobile professional cycling team
I feel as if I haven’t stopped moving for the past week.
Seven days ago, I was sitting tranquilly in our little apartment in Spain and since then, I have traveled to San Francisco, attended several sponsor events, visited with friends, raced in San Rafael and in the T-Mobile International, traveled to Italy, and started racing in the week-long Giro Toscana. Welcome to the world of a professional cyclist. Amazingly, I still feel energetic and am eager to get on the bike each day.
While arriving at the prologue yesterday in Pistoia, we were notified of an unfortunate accident that had occurred earlier in the day. Sandra Rambouts of the Netherlands, who was supposed to compete in the Giro Toscana, had been rear-ended by an automobile while training in the Italy. Her bike ended up underneath the car and she smashed her head on the road and was unconscious for a few minutes before waking and being taken by ambulance to the hospital. From what we have heard, she is really beat up, but she should recover well.
T-Mobile has a relatively small contingent here, only five riders. Each team is allowed eight, so we will have our work cut out for us in competing for general classification. Ultimately, our goal is to use this race to fine tune our fitness for the upcoming world championships and we will try to pull off some good stage finishes. Cathy Marsal of Team Rona is a guest rider with us this week. Cathy is one of the most experienced riders in the peloton and is always pleasant to be with, so it is nice to have her join us.
The prologue was a flat, two-kilometer circuit with several sharp turns. It flew by and should not effect the generally classification too much, as the time gaps were small – first through fourth place were separated by tenths of a second.
Wednesday’s stage was designed for the sprinters. It was flat and fast, other than one steep kicker midway through. Some splits formed in the group on this hill, and several groups were left chasing for 10-15 kilometers, but they all came back together with 50 kilometers to go and the field sprinted into Altopascio, with Acca Due taking the win.
T-Mobile did not have a top three finisher in the stage today, but Dotsie Cowden was invited to the podium to receive the “Miss Elegance” award. She won a jersey, which she will wear in the race tomorrow and if she continues to lead this competition on Sunday, the final day of the tour, she will win some big bucks, so her race warm-ups will include make-up preparation and she will be carrying lipstick in her pocket along with her power gels and Clif Bars.
It seemed like no one really wanted to tire themselves out too much today, as tomorrow we have a hill top finish, which should shake up the general classification. Several national teams are competing in this race and using it to make the final selections for their World Championship squads. This should make for some interesting team dynamics.
Most of our team has been feeling a little jet-lagged the past couple of days, but by tomorrow we should be back on schedule and ready to go. The coffee and pasta in Italy are good, so at least we will have the tasty fuel to get us going over the next week.