By Magnus Bäckstedt, Alessio-Bianchi professional cycling team
It’s been a bit of an eventful day.
First off, I really twisted my ankle last night. The thing is, I was just walking down the stairs to dinner. So I had to have that taped up and it’s a bit swollen and a bit sore to walk around on. I spent the early part of the day trying to test that out a bit.
In fact, it was my ankle that really made me try a shot at that break today. I really wanted to do the sprint today, but early on I tried a couple of times to do a couple of good accelerations. It hurt my foot a little too much when I really accelerated, so I figured I should try something else… if nothing else, to get a bit of publicity for the team.
These days, aside from this little mess up with my foot, I’m actually feeling really good. I get out on the bike and things are turning nicely and this morning my legs felt great. I think after this problem with my ankle is worked out in a couple of days, I’ll be doing great.
We had a little bit of a fright today, though, when one of my teammates – the other Swedish guy, Marcus Ljungqvist – crashed with about 60km to go. He’s alright, although he does have a few cuts and bruises.
Not long after that, I found myself getting into a break. I knew straight away that this one wasn’t going to go anywhere. Still, it was a good day on the bike. There were a few teams on the breakaway and we managed to get some exposure for the team.
When the group first went, we had about 15 guys up there and I noticed one of them was (Dario) Cioni from Fassa Bortolo. Now he was up there on GC – seventh or eighth – so I wasn’t going to pull a single meter on the front with him around, because I had our own guys, Franco and Andrea, to consider. He wasn’t going to do anything because Fassa’s plan for the day was to bring it all in for a bunch kick at the end of the day and none of us up there were going to pull him all the way to the finish line and boost his chances at the overall at the expense of our own teams.
So it was a bit disorganized up front for a while. We had maybe a minute on the main pack, but that was going to be it. Finally, a couple of guys attacked and I just went after them, got away on my own and closed the gap down on them. At that point, we had six guys left up there and I figured that I might as well keep on riding now, without Cioni up there we have no major problems.
I was still pretty sure we weren’t going to make it to the finish like that, though. We really never got more than a minute-twenty or a minute-thirty on the field and with a finish like that, you’d need at least a good five minutes or so by the time you reached the finish line for the first time on the circuit. We weren’t going to make it to the finish with a lead like that, but then again, we managed a little bit of TV time and publicity for the team and I got a bit of a good ride in today, so it’s all good.
That circuit was quite nice. The roads were narrow at spots, but much of that was on the climb, when things get strung out anyway, so it didn’t matter. The worst part was coming in for the sprint when, with about 700 meters to go, the road narrowed down to only about four meters in width and opened up again. I thought that would be a bit dodgy, but watching the video later on, it looked like everyone made it through okay. It would have been worse if the finish came on the first time around that circuit. After three trips around, though, it was already pretty strung out.
Of course, one guy that didn’t make it through as he had planned to was Alessandro Petacchi. He got caught up on that last turn and couldn’t really contest the sprint. That team really had to work hard all day. They had spent most of the day up front, chasing down attacks, closing down a few decent gaps here and there. By the time it reached the end, he didn’t have all that many guys left and, to top it off, he wasn’t in all that great position and he got boxed in. That’s sprinting though. You can’t win every day – even if you’re Alessandro Petacchi.