Robert Förster is Gerolsteiner's fast man for the sprints in the Giro d'Italia - in theory, at least. It isn't quite working out that way, as his best finish has been 11th, and in Monday's sprint stage he finished eight and a half minutes back, at 165th. He started the Giro full of hope for doing well, but his mood is rapidly turning into one of "get through today any way you can and hope things get better tomorrow," a theme he mentions frequently in his Giro diary on www.radsportnews.com.
That best finish of 11th was in the 6th stage, and there was nothing good about it for him. "I am in an absolutely terrible mood. The sprint - forget it! When I look at the results and everybody who finished in front of me! I have to be ashamed of myself. In the last 5 km I rode in the wind a few times too may, and the team heard about that after the race, I must say. But that's not an excuse. I was simply bad and I am very upset over this lost chance," he wrote. "But you can't worry yourself with something like that for too long. You have to look forward. Tomorrow is a new day."
Stage 7 was a mountain stage, torture for the poor sprinters. "Oh, was that a hard day. That was one of the hardest stages that I have ever ridden," Förster recalled. "The next mountain. 7km, 18 percent. I haven't eaten enough, I have a headache from the heat, my (injured) shoulder hurts. Everything combined today to make me miserable. Cola was what saved me - quick energy and sugar. It was still 50 km to the finish. I forced myself over the mountain in the grupetto. McGee, who was also not having a good day, was behind me, but no-one else was. Ramps of 18 and 19 percent. All I could think was: Why the hell are you doing this and riding seven hours in the mountains? Somewhere I saw an advertising sign that said, 'Listen to your body'. What the hell does that mean? If listened to my body, I would have climbed in the car long before."
The next stage started out well enough. "We had a little more time before the start than usual," he notes. "I could relax a bit and watched the motorcycle races on tv." The day went better than the previous one had. He didn't fall back until 15 km before the finish and rode quite comfortably up the mountain with a group including Verbrugghe and Julich. "I rode up relatively relaxed with them. I mean, it was still hard, but I didn't suffer as much as yesterday"
Perhaps he relaxed too much, because the sprint on Monday left very much to be desired. "Oh, that was another stage to be irritated about! But what can you do? It doesn't help, you can' stew about such setbacks too long, you have to look forward, even when that's sometimes hard to do." He was in a group that "shot up the first mountain. I felt good. Not that I would win the mountain ranking or anything, but I did well." He hit the top at the end of the field, which stretched out over the descent, and when the next climb came, "I was already 500 meters back. Already a bad sign. By the 3 km marker it was over. I had to fall back." He came the rest of the way with a 30 man group, and says, "That was a long ride to the finish. You keep thinking, oh man, why didn't you force yourself to do better? But that's crazy, because on a stage like this one where I figured I had a chance, I would never voluntarily fall back. I have nothing to apologize for." Instead of being in at the sprint finish, he came in way down. And he wasn't looking forward to Tuesday's stage: "For me, it is only about coming in to the finish. Finish and look forward is my motto now."
Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer