Post-Giro d'Italia, Italy, June 5, 2005
Various Italian towns, June, 2005
When I last wrote I was on the first rest day of the Giro. I had started the Giro travelling well, but before the first rest day had a few bad days. As happens in Grand tours the form fluctuates from good to bad over the three weeks and this pattern continued through the second half of the 'lap of Italy'.
The day after the rest day was a flat road stage into a town not far from where I used to live four years ago, so I had a feeling like I was a local coming into the last 50km. It was the last flat road stage for almost a week as we headed to the Dolomites the next day. McEwen won his third stage, and for me it was good to catch up with old mates, even if it was only for a few minutes.
The next day we headed to the Dolimites, and the first mountainous stage was a hard one. I felt good and rode within myself, jumping in the big groupetto that was formed after Petachi got dropped. It was a very hard day with some steep bergs, but I was happy with the way things were going. Savoldelli won the stage and Basso took the jersey. My team mate, Rujano, re-gained the lead in the KOM classification.
Friday's stage started straight up a 15km climb and was then flat to the finish, so luckily it was a cruisy start. The GC riders didn't need to attack; the sprinters wanted to get over it in the bunch, and everyone else was tired from the day before. So once we got over the climb the race started and my team mate Phillipe Schnieder got up the road for 80km and took out a few primes before getting caught. It was a bunch kick as expected and Petacchi won his second stage.
Next up was the Saturday/Sunday double, which everyone was worried about. Most of the sprinters went home because there weren't too many sprint stages left. The Saturday stage had six climbs in it and everyone was hoping the race wasn't on from the gun. The inevitable happened though, and after 20km, with 200km to go, and on the first climb, the peloton was in seven groups. Long day, eh?!! It was a day to remember that's for sure. Groups were dropped, then back on, then a split, then a break, and so on. I was in groupetto, still feeling ok, until 15km to go when I went back to my team car and got a coke. My handle bars hit the rear vision mirror, sent me into a guard rail, did three rolls and ended up underneath the guard rail, (for further info, speak to Henk Vogels, he saw the whole thing). So I was pretty sore the next day. It wasn't so much the skin off, but more my inflamed groin and black bruised foot. I never thought you could limp on a bike but I managed to do so for the next three stages. On a high note, my teammate Ivan Parra won the stage and Rujano was third, increasing his lead in the KOM comp. It was a great day for the team. Savoldelli took the Pink jersey which he kept until Milan.
Sunday's stage was without a doubt the hardest day of my life. Seven hours and 29 minutes on a bike with four climbs, including the 2800m Stelvio, along with bruised bones and skin off everywhere. I spent more time in the convoy than any other day in my life. I'm too scarred to talk about the stage, it brings back nightmares. For the team it was another great day, with Parra winning again and Rujano backing up his third from the day before. The team couldn't be happier.
Another rough night's sleep - and to make matters worse, it was raining; freezing cold and almost snowing. Seeing we were at 2000m and had a 35km descent on dangerous roads with black ice and train lines, the promoters made a smart move and started the race at the bottom of the descent. It was now a 160km stage but it still rained for the majority. I had another day I'd like to forget. Three days ago I felt great, now I didn't know if I'd see Milan. Petacchi won the sprint finish.
The second rest day had arrived and it couldn't have come any sooner. After a short ride with Russ, my team mate Mereno Di Biase, Brett Lancaster and a mate from Sydney, Ant Gymer, all I did was lay in bed all day.
Five days to go and the countdown had started. The next stage was on from the gun with non-stop attacks. A break of 25 guys got up the road and stayed away all day. Cristophe Le Mevel won the stage and I was happy to see him get a win. A good guy and I got to know him well, from the shinnanigans up on the Gold Coast after the Tour of Queensland in November last year.
Thursday's stage was another hard one, with three climbs coming in the last 60km. I didn't have the best of days again, and the time cut was smaller than the other days. Our group cut it fine and made it in within the time cut by a few minutes. Basso won the stage and Rujano got second and moved to third on GC. The next day was another 'almost rest day' for me; a 35km time trial. I rode within myself and tried to save the legs as much as possible.
Saturday was the day everyone was worried about - the last hurdle before Milan. We had to do Sestriere twice and climb Finestre, a 20km climb with the last 8km being dirt. This day wasn't made much easier when Russ and I were told to swap off on the front for the first 70km to keep the break away at a reasonable distance because Rujano could win the stage. Well, that's exactly what Rujano did! As for me and Russ, it was another incredibly hard day at the office, but when we heard our team mate won, it was all worth it.
Thank God for the roll into Milan, because I didn't have another mountain stage like yesterday in my legs. This year I really lapped up those 12 laps around the centre of Milan. The last few laps were still hard, but after what we'd been through over the past three weeks, it was nothing. Petacchi won the stage but I didn't care, I had finished my second Grand Tour and it was time to celebrate. I had never put my body through as much pain as that. Last year was hard, but this year was even harder. It was nice to hear someone like Henk Vogels, with all his experience, say it was the hardest Grand Tour he'd done.
Now it was back to our town where they threw a big festa for us. The team was so happy with the tour we'd had. For a team to gain a spot in the Giro with a wild card they couldn't have hoped for more. Three stage wins, third overall, first and second in the King of the Mountains Classification, another five or six top 10's, as well as there being only one or two breaks all tour that didn't have a Selle Italia rider in it. It was time to celebrate, and that we did. It helped that there was an Aussie contingent to help the festivities with John 'iffy' Trevorrow and family, Garry Gates, and my mate from Sydney, Brad Mills. The town had everything set up with enough wine to sink a ship and enough meat to feed an army.
After the Giro I spent a few days resting, obviously with a few short rides thrown in. Millsy was here for four days and we showed him around our small town. Russ and I did a post Giro criterium nearby, and that was followed by one of our very happy sponsors taking us to one of the best night clubs around, overlooking a lake, and he put on the works for us. Yesterday I did a short race down near Rimini on the east coast of Italy, but I wasn't much chop - neither was anyone else that rode the Giro. Mine and everyone else's legs were smashed. Another week's rest and I should pull up a treat.
Next up for me is a few weeks rest from racing and a wedding in Belgium on Saturday. Looking forward to heading back to Belge for a few days.