You know those days where you jump on your bike and your legs feel like lead? Heavy, sore and unresponsive. Today's seventh stage of the Giro Rosa was one of those days for me. And unfortunately, the parcours was unforgiving for anyone caught on an off day.
The 91km stage from Aprica to Chiavenna literally started directly uphill. Unless you count the 13km neutralised descent we had to endure before the race jury lowered their checkered flag.
The first and only mountain sprint (GPM) of the day came a mere 7.3km into the race. The climb, which started less than 1km into the race climbed 600 altitude metres over 7kms. As soon as the peloton hit the climb my legs started screaming at me.
Orica-AIS and Rabobank had riders setting the pace on the front and while I tried to hang onto the group for as long as I could, 3kms from the top I lost contact and found a small group behind me. I tired to find a rhythm and limit my losses; we were still tangled up in the convoy and I could see a group of about 20 riders in front of me.
As my small group crested the climb our dare devil descent began to try and rejoin the group in front of us.
The 13km descent wasn't technical, but the roads were terrible. Dodging pot-holes we started to pass dropped riders and by the bottom we had almost closed in on the group in front of us, there was a mere 100metres between us.
The issue was all of a sudden we were climbing again, up an uncategoried climb that rivalled the gradient of the Murr de Huy (or at least it felt like it). The same screaming noise that had come from my legs on the first 7km reared it's ugly head again but I tried to channel my inner Jens, 'shut up legs'.
There were two big groups agonisingly close to me; I felt like what I imagine my dog feels like when I tease him with treats. Holding them just out of his reach, he would pop back on his hind legs to try and snatch it but I would raise the treat a little higher just before he got the chance.
The catch with this metaphor is that after I had my fun I would always give him the treat. Today, I didn't get my treat. Today, I didn't get to that group in front of me.
Crossing the finish line after having ridden the last 70km of the bike race in the 'laughing bunch' –where I can promise you there was no laughing and very little conversation – I was met with the devastating news that the group that had been so agonisingly close on the Italian Murr de Huy had re-joined the lead group and rode to the finish with them.
A group of 70 ended up contesting the stage win. Marianne Vos won (again) ahead of Giorgia Bronzini and Emma Johansson.
It's a really crap feeling when you know you should have performed better and you didn't. My team needed me there today to help lead out Ashleigh in the final which was a tricky uphill drag to the finish. But I was M.I.A.
Now in the car for our two hour (pending traffic conditions around Milano) transfer to Verbania for tomorrow's stage eight – which races through my teammate Elisa's home town and was actually planned by Elisa herself – I'm hoping tomorrow my legs do just shut up and I can be of some more help to our hill climbers; Elisa, Ash and Audrey.
2 days left.