Stage 14 – Trieste – Pula/Pola(175km)
By Magnus Bäckstedt, Alessio-Bianchi professional cycling team
Well, I made it another day.
I’m still not feeling so great when it comes to my respiratory system. My legs feel fine, but sometimes, it’s like a car when it red-lines. I’m afraid the engine just cuts out at a certain point. I have good legs, but once I start pushing it hard, the lungs just can’t support the leg work that I am doing and I feel like I am going to blow.
I did what I could for Angelo today. I sat back behind him a couple of spots and then as we were coming in toward the finish, I waited to see what I could do to move him up, maybe take him on my wheel and launch an attack. I really reckon that if I’d have gotten through that last turn first, with him on my wheel, he might well have won. My hope was to get him there first and allow him to come past, underneath me maybe and that would have been it. My plan was to go with maybe 1200 meters and take him through, but I didn’t have the legs for it. Instead, as you surely know by now, it was Velo going through first with Petacchi on his wheel.
Angelo did make it up there and he got on to Petacchi’s wheel… and then he and Freddy Rodriguez ended up fighting for that spot for a long time. I think Fred beat him into the turn and then right after that Simone Cadamuro from De Nardi overcooked it and crashed and that shut it down for anyone behind him. Angelo had to tap his brakes a bit and I ended up in full lock-up and barely avoided him. I was really lucky there. I was fully expecting the next group of guys to come barreling into me, but it didn’t happen. I really don’t know how I stayed upright. I was locking up my brakes – both wheels more or less – and I was heading straight for him. I thought “I’m never going to get around this. I’m just going to go straight into this bloke.”
Then, at the last moment, I figured, if I am going to go down, I should at least try to avoid it, so I let go of the brake and threw my bike around to the right. I barely missed him, but when you do that, you automatically cringe, because you just know that you are going to get hit by the next five guys coming in behind you… but it didn’t happen! I thank my stars for that one.
Today, as has been the case here, Fassa Bortolo did what they needed to do to make sure that this stage came down to a sprint. That little break never got much more than three or four minutes on the field and then they pulled all of it back in, just when they needed to. That team operates like a machine. They wanted to match the record and they did exactly what they needed to get him into the finish. It is absolutely amazing to watch that guy and that team… absolutely phenomenal.
He may well break the record tomorrow. If he doesn’t though, I really believe that it’s the last chance he has. After that, the Giro goes to the mountains and, while I hope he gets through the mountains, I am not all that sure he will. Next Saturday on that 120km stage, the climbs are just so brutal, I doubt that there will be more than 60 guys finishing the race. Our director, Bruno Cenghialta, told us this morning about that stage. He said when he rode it, however many years ago, there were only two guys left at the finish and everyone else drifted across the line in ones and twos. He said he was riding a 39×29 that day and still struggling.
I think that’s going to be an absolute ball-breaker. That stage is going to be what decides the GC, too. As far as I am concerned, for the big GC guys, the race is pretty much wide open until that day.
As for me, I have my doubts about making it that far. Right now, I’m riding at about 70 percent of lung capacity, so when I dig too deep, I just blow straight-away. In that way, I am really surprised that I was able to do a time trial like I was yesterday. Luckily I have really good legs, so I can go out and push a big gear, but when I need to step up the cadence that makes my riding depend more on my heart and my lungs and I begin to shut down.
So, we’ll see. I’ll make another decision with the team in the morning, based on how I feel and the weather.
Oh yeah… I wanted to thank all of you for your e-mails and words of support. The fellow at VeloNews tells me that I’ve gotten quite a number these past few days and I appreciate the good wishes. It means a lot.
Good night and talk to you tomorrow.