By Fred Rodriguez, Acqua & Sapone Professional Cycling Team
I was pleasantly surprised today. For a day in the mountains, it was actually a pretty mellow day.
The first 70, 80 kilometers of the stage today were almost downhill – a fast false flat, really – and the speed was very high. There were a number of attacks, but no one really got anything going. At one point today, there was a pretty bad crash. We didn’t really see who went down, but it slowed things down for a bit as teams were trying to make an assessment of who went down and what was going on.
By the time we reached the one big climb, though, the speed had picked up and then the climbers started their attacks… that pretty much blew the race apart and we sprinters pretty much called it a day. The main formula kicks in there: save your legs and watch out for the time cut.
So the sprinters’ group rode tempo to the finish. These days, that basically means Fassa riding tempo at the front, to make sure that Petacchi makes it in okay. The climb was the sort that you could ride at a pretty moderate pace and do okay on it. It was long, but it averaged only around five or six percent, so you could do it at your own speed.
I wasn’t the only one taking my time about it, that’s for sure. By the time we finished, that “little” gruppetto of ours had grown to 70 or 80 riders, including Giuliano Figueras (Ceramiche Panaria). He had started the day in fifth on GC, but something was wrong for him today. He didn’t look all that good. He actually had to chase our group after the climb. He was riding so poorly, he had been dropped by the sprinters’ group. His team helped him catch back on. I don’t know what was wrong with him, but he didn’t look so well.
So tomorrow we face the big one. At this point, we don’t even know if the race is going to end up going over the Gavia or not. The riders’ association is sending some representatives over to talk to the organizers. We haven’t even seen what the course is like. The only thing we’ve heard is that it’s snowed over.
While the weather is okay now, that climb hits some pretty serious altitude and we don’t know what the roads are going to be like. We hear that it’s plowed and that it is cleared, but that’s all we know. So, the riders’ group just wants to make sure that it’s safe.
I have to be honest. I am not looking forward to that climb – safe or not – so if it did get scrubbed, I for one wouldn’t be too heartbroken, that’s for sure.
Anyway, wish me luck. If I get through tomorrow, Milan will be an awful lot closer.