By Christian Vande Velde, CSC Professional Cycling Team
Let’s just call today’s entry “How I spent my 29th birthday.”
Well, I spent my 29th birthday on my bike… for eight hours…if you count the ride in the neutral zone, the race and the little uphill slog I had to make to the hotel above the finish line. Pretty stupid, huh?
To say that today was a long day would be something of an understatement. I’m sure you can imagine that it was a hard day, mentally and physically. Sure it was tough physically, but the mental part was really tough with Ivan suffering as he did.
After yesterday, we knew there problems, but he’d only lost a little bit of time and we were kind of hoping that he would be able to bounce back today. Even this morning, he wasn’t feeling too well, but we were optimistic. You have to be. You have to try.
But on the Stelvio, it was over. His stomach was killing him and he had to pull over to the side three times today in order to… well… What are you going to do? He couldn’t breathe and his stomach looked like he was carrying a bowling ball in it. I take my hat off to him for even finishing. That took character itself. When you go from being the best rider in the peloton to then coming in with the grupetto, it’s hard to take on the chin.
I seem to have the same bug as Ivan, though on a different scale. He was up the road with the break on the first climb and I was back with the next group. After that first climb the gas tank was pretty much empty.
These stages are something else. In a way, I think they went a little overboard with these things. I mean, it’s crazy when the winner comes in after six hours and forty-five minutes! Meanwhile, the rest of the field is struggling to just finish. We’ve had two of these back-to-back and we have two more monster stages coming up later in the week.
This was a little much today. Thank God the weather was okay… well, come to think of it, if it had been snowing on the Stelvio, we might have been spared that part of the course.
Despite the incredible difficulty, I actually did have a really funny moment, though. At one point, coming down a long descent, there were only two of us zooming down the hill, chasing to get back on to some group ahead of us. It was just Michael Barry and me. I started laughing.
Michael looks over and says “what are you laughing about?”
I just thought it was so funny that here in the middle of the Giro d’Italia, out of a peloton of – what, 165 guys? – it’s just me, and the one guy in the world who I constantly train with. We were out there with no one else around. I mean, we ride together probably 90 percent of the time, whether it’s back in Boulder or in Girona, or ….
“We could be anywhere in the world right now, Michael,” I told him. “We always ride together and here we are doing it again… but we’re in the middle of the Giro d’Italia.”
We rode the rest of the way together, caught the grupetto and rode to the finish. It was just a really long day.
For Michael, he’s got a heavy job ahead, doing what he can to help protect Savoldelli’s jersey. It’s a different story for CSC now. Where do we go from here?
We’ll see tomorrow morning. We haven’t talked about it tonight. I think Ivan will try to make the start, but if he’s crawling after that, he may go. He’s got the Tour to think about, for one thing.
After today’s disaster, the team dinner was actually not too bad tonight. Sometimes, when things go a just little bad, everyone is tense and worried and wondering how you can make up for whatever. But when things go really bad, I think everyone just says “screw it,” lets their hair down and just relaxes. After all, what are you gonna do?
Two weeks into the Giro and no one would have ever predicted that guys like Danilo Di Luca would be out there fighting for the podium, but there he is 25 seconds out of the jersey. Amazing. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Savoldelli will hang on and take the Giro, but as these last few days have shown, anything can happen and there is still a long road to Milan.
This has to be one hell of a race to be watching on TV. It’s just kind of a bitch to ride it.
Keep checking in.