By Magnus Bäckstedt, Alessio-Bianchi professional cycling team
You never really know how you’ll feel until you give it a go at the line.
Yesterday for the rest day, I gave up plans to go out on a short ride and actually stayed in my bed from morning until the evening. I had a bit of a sore throat, a sore knee and I wanted to let the ankle heal up, so I spent the day in bed sleeping and watching a couple of DVDs.
I didn’t do a single meter on the bike yesterday, which is normally not a good thing to do on a rest day, but I really needed to give the ankle a rest. The ankle problem also caused some small knee problems for me – that usually happens when the leg tries to compensate for an injury somewhere else – and so I decided to take full advantage of the rest day.
Anyway, I was feeling pretty crappy this morning and it started out as a pretty hard day. The first 100km were fast and up and down the whole time. A lot of these roads we had done earlier this spring at Torino Adratico, so I knew most of these climbs, but the organizers were nice enough to chuck in a couple of “bonus climbs” for us as well today and those were actually really, really hard.
Still, as the day wore on, I began to feel a little better and I came over those climbs okay and once the race got down to the flat part I felt quite good. The team did great work today, too, making sure I was protected and did a good job for me all day. They even did a good stretch at the front for a while trying to bring back that break that went at 18km. Cristian Moreni from our team took me up from about the 2.5km mark, pulling up along side the peloton, straight into that last corner.
I dove into the inside part of the turn and ended up right on Petacchi’s wheel. Unfortunately, the television motorbike was right there with all of us – coming around the corner on the right hand side of the bunch. Normally, I would have cut straight up toward the barriers and the guys on the outside would have had to brake a little bit and I would have been on Petacchi’s wheel going into the final few hundred meters when it counted. But, as they say, on some days shit happens, eh?
There were quite a number of us going for Petacchi’s wheel after the turn and, with the motorbike right there, I couldn’t exactly lean on Marco Zanotti to push him out of the way. If I would have leaned on him and forced the issue, he would have had to go into the motorbike and… well, you can imagine what that would be like.
I’m not complaining, mind you. Those guys on the bike have a job to do and they usually do it well. Every now and again there’s a problem, but considering how much time those guys spend right in the peloton, trying to get the good shots, they do a fine job out there. It’s not always easy to maneuver a motorbike around with big groups of cyclists coming around you. We’re a lot quicker on our bikes – in terms of maneuverability – than they are. Sometimes, they get caught up as the group rounds the corner. I sure don’t blame them. It’s just one of those things that happens.
Anyway, at that point, I couldn’t do much, so I lost a couple of places there. Coming into the final stretch, I was a little bit too far back for my liking, but still not too bad.
Then, with about 800 meters to go, everything suddenly slowed down and all of these guys from behind came surging up. I was quite boxed in there for a little stretch. So I found myself trying to maneuver through a little group up there, trying to get out, which I did with about 300 to go. If I look back at it, I ended up having to open it up just a little bit too early, just to get around everyone. I can’t be too disappointed with fourth, though it would be nice to get a win here.
Anyway, once again, Alessandro Petacchi earned a stage win. He’s certainly proved that he’s the fastest sprinter in the world at the moment. On top of that, he has an awesome team around him. It’s a formidable combination and very hard to beat.
Petacchi is probably one of the nicest blokes in the peloton, too. He’s quiet, calm and doesn’t have a big head about him. At the press conferences, he usually spends his time giving credit to his team and doesn’t talk himself up too much in the process. He’s a top notch rider, a class act and he deserves what he’s getting these days because he has worked very hard for this for a long time. Now, he’s finally able to pick the fruits off of the tree, as it were, and enjoy this time. Good on him, I say.
Okay, time for dinner. Talk tomorrow!