Culture

Vande Velde’s View: Boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror

Wednesday, May 11As I mentioned before, this is my first Giro d’Italia. I’ve ridden the Tour de France before, but this is different. On the surface, the racing is much more relaxed. You have the attacks at the start, then maybe a break forms… and then everything is pretty much controlled until the end, when they pull the guys back and then you see this rush to the line. While it is more relaxed on one level, that changes things down the road, so you end up with some moments when you’re totally bored and others when it’s complete panic. Take Tuesday for example. We were pretty relaxed and

By Christian Vande Velde, CSC Professional Cycling Team

Wednesday, May 11As I mentioned before, this is my first Giro d’Italia. I’ve ridden the Tour de France before, but this is different. On the surface, the racing is much more relaxed. You have the attacks at the start, then maybe a break forms… and then everything is pretty much controlled until the end, when they pull the guys back and then you see this rush to the line.

While it is more relaxed on one level, that changes things down the road, so you end up with some moments when you’re totally bored and others when it’s complete panic. Take Tuesday for example.

We were pretty relaxed and just riding easy. Suddenly everyone decides to start tossing water bottles, making a little game of it, throwing them at signs at street signs or whatever. Well, Rory (Sutherland of Rabobank) and I are just riding along and he suddenly decides to pitch one at a police car! He hit the damn thing square on the grill.

I guess it’s one of those “You know when you’re in Calabria…” moments, because the cop immediately went for his gun!

Fortunately, he decided it was probably not a good idea to plug someone riding along in the peloton of the Giro d’Italia.

Weird as that was, it wasn’t the strangest incident of the stage on Tuesday.

If you read about or saw that one moment with a little more than 40km to go, you’ll know what I’m talking about. We were cruising along nicely and suddenly everything comes to a screeching halt and I look up and these two total lunatics are running through the peloton, kicking and swinging at anyone within range.

I literally ran into one of the two guys. This was a meth’ case, if I ever saw one. There was absolutely nothing going on behind his eyeballs. It was pretty scary. It was one of those situations where you have no idea what to do. You want to take a swing at the guy, but you don’t know… It wouldn’t be worth it. One of the crazy SOBs actually punched one rider pretty hard.

It took everyone a few minutes to get things together again. In my case, my adrenaline went through the roof! I flew for the next hundred meters or so and then I just had an implosion. I think that incident had the same effect on everyone. It was one of those things you always think could happen but doesn’t… and then, on Tuesday, it actually did.

Bettini was telling us this (Wednesday) morning that he got excited and threw a water bottle at the one guy.

“Then I suddenly thought, ‘oh shit! I have 40k to go and no more water’” he said.

Speaking of Paolo, I’m sure you’ve all seen the video from today’s (Wednesday) finish. I’m on the fence there. I mean I’ve seen worse that have never resulted in a relegation. I know he was coming over, but he never even hit him. Baden was trying to force his way into a gap that wasn’t there. If it had been me up there sprinting – which of course would never be the case, because I’m not a sprinter – I would have stopped. Baden being the gutsy sprinter that he is, he just kept trying to make it through that hole and it was steadily shrinking.

The way the barriers are set up, the tops lean out away from the road, so they’re bound to take out your wheel before your bump them with your shoulder. Of course, once he started going down, it looks as though the barrier is what slowed the impact, so Cookie wasn’t too hurt from the looks of it.

Either way, when I look at the video, I could go either way. I know the judges made a fast decision, but I am still on the fence on that one.

On our team, everyone is okay, but nervous as we make our way through this crazy first week. With someone like Ivan on the squad who stands a great chance of doing well overall, it’s our job to make sure he stays out of trouble everyday. It’s crazy, especially when you see finishes like we’ve had these past few days.

There are always risks out there. There’s the risk of a crash of course, but you always have to worry about a split and losing time. It puts a lot of pressure on the team to try to stay up with all of that.

Some might say we were lucky today to avoid that crash today (stage 4), but that’s not luck. We took the luck out of it, because as the finish neared – 40km out or so – we moved to the front to avoid exactly what happened. At the Giro, this first week is especially crazy.

Ever since the Giro started, it’s been WWF everyday and today was no exception. What I mean is that it goes easy from the start most of the time, but that just means that with the finish coming up you have more guys up there who are still dreaming of a stage win, or to do really well. You have a 190 guys barreling toward the finish and everyone wants to do something, whether it’s a stage win or to help his teammate to it. And 190 guys all trying to ride at the front just does not work, no matter how big the road is.

With 40km to go, it’s just game on. Everyone had their own train and we had ours and Francaise de Jeux had theirs, Liquigas was up there and at one point – with about 12km to go – some guy tried to go through a hole that just wasn’t there and he fell right on top of Frank Schleck. That just caused a wave right through the peloton and just cut it in half. David stayed back and waited for Frank and I think those guys were in at 9:00 minutes back.

But like I said, we managed to avoid the brunt of it, avoiding the mess largely because we’d spent 20km in the wind.

Well, it’s been a long day… we were woken at 7:00 a.m. for the usual hematocrit test and it’s now 11:00 and time to hit the sack.

I’ll check back in a couple of days.