By Fred Rodriguez, Acqua & Sapone Professional Cycling Team
Well now, this is a nice note to start these Giro diaries on.
Even though I won in the last couple hundred meters of today’s stage, this really began yesterday.
For the last 24 hours, I’ve been very upset. Because of that, I’ve been totally focused on winning today. Yesterday was a very disappointing day for me. Coming into the finale yesterday I felt really good – better even than I felt today – and as we hit the last corner, McEwen hooked me really hard and I had to shut down my sprint.
Last night, after that, we had a big discussion on the team, trying to decide how we were going to get this right. There was a suggestion that maybe we lower our sights and just try to go for a stage placing. I said “No, I came here to do one thing. I came here to the Giro this year to try to win a stage and that’s what I am going to do.”
The team said, “Yes, okay, okay, tomorrow, we’ll do it 100 percent, try to get you up there and keep you safe as best as we can.”
This morning, the weather forecast called for really strong crosswinds. It was going to be a dangerous stage. I was so up for it, I just said “bring it on!” I was just waiting for that crosswind and ready to show these Italians how to ride in the wind. Of course when we got on the road, unfortunately, the wind was directly in our faces, so it kept things real easy. I had to kind of cool down and bite my tongue and bide my time until the finish.
For the last week now I’ve been feeling strong. I just haven’t had the chance to ride my own sprint. This time, I told myself that I wasn’t going to waste any energy early on and stay in the peloton, relax and not pull into the wind at all. So I moved up when I saw someone else move up and when I got sent to the back I stayed there, moving up only when I had the energy.
Finally, coming into that last lap, I was near the front, but not too close. There were a lot of surges, but Fassa kept things under control at the front. The corners, though, made things really chaotic because people kept surging to the front and banging around up there. I kept finding myself moving back towards the middle and not where I wanted to be. I did my best just to stay up as far as I could, floating and not wasting too much energy. My big goal was to get as far up as I could with about two or three kilometers to go.
With about 3k to the finish, I figured I was around 20th or 25th and I knew I was too far back. I gave myself a second, looked around to see if anyone was surging to the front and luckily Ivan Quaranta’s Formaggi Pinzolo team came by just at the right moment. So, I jumped on that train and they took me straight across, even past Petacchi’s lead-out.
Then as Fassa came back up to the front, the last guy to come around me going into the corner was Petacchi. So coming out of the last corner I found myself on Petacchi’s wheel, but right away McEwen – the little boxer that he is – fought for the wheel. Now in the past, I’d wasted way too much energy fighting for Petacchi’s wheel, so I just settled in on McEwen’s.
By then Fassa had resumed its acceleration and no one was in any position to pass, so everyone just settled in where they were. So in the last kilometer we hit the last right-hand turn in those positions. I may have taken a bad line at that point and I lost a couple of meters and had to scramble to get back on Robbie’s wheel. Right then (Marco) Velo did his job. He started the final lead-out. I just knew I had it then. I felt strong, I had the legs and I just waited for the opportunity to do my own sprint.
I figured that I would go early if I had to, but I wanted to time it just right. Usually right before the sprint, there’s a little let-down. It comes just as the lead out guy finally starts to die, but before, say Petacchi, surges to the line. So I really just tried to anticipate that surge and, at that point, I jumped on the left side into the headwind, put it in my 54×11 and put my head down. Somewhere along there – maybe 100 meters from the line – I saw Petacchi come along side me, but he didn’t have the legs to come around.
I think we are going to pop open plenty of bottles of champagne tonight. We are really quite close to our home base and I expect a lot of our sponsors will be showing up for dinner tonight.
This is a big thing for the team. We’re a small Division II team and winning a stage here is one of the biggest things they could have hoped for. Getting a stage win makes the Giro for the team. It sure made my Giro… or as one of my teammates put it after the stage, today, “Oh, we can go home, now!”
I don’t think so.
To keep tabs on Fred Rodriguez’s career, visit FredRodriguez.com.