The first week of the Giro d'Italia started well for me and the team, and I was well placed overall for most of the first week.
Unfortunately my race fell apart after that and I lost any chance of the good overall result I'd hoped and trained hard for. I suffered on the last climb up Mount Etna and lost time in the GC. I could feel something was wrong and felt the first signs of bronchitis that night as we did the transfer to Termoli.
I hoped I'd get better quickly but it didn’t happen and I was forced to take antibiotics. They helped but it has affected my form and my legs. It's not easy to recover from a problem during the Giro and especially with a triple of mountain stages like we've faced this weekend. We've had three mountain finishes one after the other too, with 4000 metres of climbing on Saturday and then another 6000 metres of climbing on Sunday. Sometimes I ask myself just how difficult they need to make a stage. It's been hard for me and I can climb pretty well. It must have been terrible for some of the other riders who have had the courage to stay in the race instead of quitting.
I'm hoping I'll finally get back to my best after the second rest day because there are still some hard days to come in this Giro and I’d also like to target the final time trial in Milan. Winning it again would make up for all the suffering I've done in the last week.
We're happy at HTC-Highroad
Despite my problems HTC-Highroad has had a good Giro and we're happy with our results. We won the opening team time trial, I wore the pink jersey, Cavendish wore pink and he then won two other stages.
We were especially proud of how we did the lead out train in Ravenna for Cav's second win. Some of the riders in our Giro team are quite new to doing lead outs but Cav is great at getting everyone to raise their game and get it just right. He expects a lot but he gives a lot too. We notice when he's feeling good and is up for the sprint. The tension rises in the team but that makes us all give that little bit more and do things right. It's never easy but it's always worth it because Cav gives it everything to win and almost always does. Winning a race yourself is always special but when you work and a teammates wins, it's very satisfying and makes us even more united.
Cutting the Crostis
Sunday's stage was overshadowed by the polemics about the cutting of the Crostis climb. I personally think it was the right decision. The riders who saw the Crostis before the Giro said it was crazy to race on it and it was at the very limit of what is acceptable in a professional bike race.
I'm sorry for all the people who worked to make the descent safe and the tifosi who went up there to watch the race but racing can't be allowed to become a circus. We're not clowns. It's about the racing and the racing conditions have to be fair for everyone in the race. We all deserved to have sufficient mechanical support on the Crostis and if that wasn't possible, then we shouldn't have to race.
After all the racing in the mountains, I can't wait for the second rest day. It'll be good to give the legs a rest and switch off for a day. I'll still ride on the road, or on the rollers if its rains, but we'll finally get a chance to catch our breathes, lick our wounds and get ready for the final week of the Giro. Contador looks pretty much unbeatable but there's still a lot of racing to enjoy.