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Magnus Opus: Of wind, hills and that ever-present time cut

Okay, so it didn’t go so great today. I mean I sort of knew that this was going to be a tough one, but I figured I might last a bit longer than I did. I knew this day was going to come… it’s just a little hard to take. I’ve been feeling pretty good up until now, but, to be honest, I was in grovel mode pretty much after the first climb started. It was pretty hard today and I wasn’t too happy with how things went, but that’s normally the case for me on the first day into the mountains… it’s just at this tour, the climbing kicked in a bit earlier than usual. We’d been talking about getting

By Magnus Backstedt, Alessio-Bianchi professional cycling team

Okay, so it didn’t go so great today. I mean I sort of knew that this was going to be a tough one, but I figured I might last a bit longer than I did.

I knew this day was going to come… it’s just a little hard to take. I’ve been feeling pretty good up until now, but, to be honest, I was in grovel mode pretty much after the first climb started.

It was pretty hard today and I wasn’t too happy with how things went, but that’s normally the case for me on the first day into the mountains… it’s just at this tour, the climbing kicked in a bit earlier than usual.

We’d been talking about getting one or two guys in an early break or trying to make an early break here. And, today, we did get a couple of guys — Alessandro Bertolini and my fellow Swede and roomie, Marcus Ljungqvist — into the break that got away at 35km. It’s our hope that these things put some pressure on the GC favorites, or at least set one of our guys up for a stage win. This wasn’t the case today though. Man, some of these guys – Simoni, Garzelli and these guys – are just so quick up the mountains that if you haven’t got 15 minutes on them at the base of a 10km climb, you can be pretty sure that they’re going to get you by the time you make it to the top.

We need to keep the pressure on, though, to help our two GC guys – Franco Pellizotti and Andrea Noe’ – as much as possible over these next few days.

Me? I did what I could in the opening part of today’s stage, working pretty hard when we hit a crosswind, trying to bring our guys back up front. After that, though, my big concern was the time cut.

I was dropped with about 4km to go to the top of the first climb, the Passa del Bocco. At that point, I just joined up with a group of about ten other guys and we stayed together, kept up a steady pace and made it to the finish. I guess that’s pretty much my approach to every single mountain stage: Get there within the time limit and do as little damage to my legs as possible. Anyway, I got to the finish and did it under the time cut and I can’t really ask for much more than that.

So, I made it through another day and looking ahead to tomorrow, my best hope is to stay with the peloton throughout the day and make it there with them to the base of that last climb. From there on in, I can ride my own tempo and keep an eye on the time cut.

Now, it’s off to a massage and dinner and maybe a movie.

Marcus and I watched the first half of “Swordfish” last night, but both of us fell asleep about half-way into it. That’s not a critique mind you, we were both just tired. I think we’ll watch the rest tonight and then, if we’re still up, dig something else out of the DVD collection.

Goodnight and wish me luck tomorrow.