Finally the Giro moved from circuit races to point to point races and according the race bible today's third stage was the first chance for the general classification (GC) riders to come out to play.
But as we know the first road stage two days ago already offered them the chance to rip everyone else's legs off which they seized. In fact, we actually climbed more altitude metres on Saturday than we did today.
That's not to say it wasn't a hard stage however. With temperatures soaring the 125kilometres stage from Caserta to San Donato Val di Comino was always going to be tough.
My Hitec Products team went in with a clear plan; we wanted to save Elisa, Ashleigh and Audrey for later in the race when the peloton would hit the first categorised climb of the tour at 87kilometre and then a 10kilometre climb to the finish in the beautiful town of San Donato Val di Comino. Lauren, Julie, Cecilie and Emilie were to cover breaks and go with any dangerous moves while I was free to do the same or save my legs for the next two stages. Elisa asked me in the opening kilometres of the race if I could stay with her so that's exactly what I did for the next 115kilometres.
The peloton was aggressive from the beginning and the girls did a fantastic job of covering all the moves and when the right combination of riders finally escaped around the 50kilometres mark we had Julie in there flying the Hitec Products flag.
It was quite a large group that escaped with about 12 riders including Annemiek van Vlueten from Rabobank, Valentina Scandolara and Loes Gunnewijk from Orica-AIS and Tiffany Cromwell from Specialized-Lululemon, but there were no serious GC threats so we were happy to let the gap blow out to as much as 2 minutes.
Boels Dolmans obviously weren't so happy with the mix of riders and started chasing about 10kilometres after the group went clear and brought the gap down to around 40seconds before we hit the first climb of the day.
While I had been certain that the peloton would shatter on the climb it seemed with the break up the road everyone was happy to ride 'piano', or at least piano for those who are actually good at climbing. I managed to sit comfortably in the peloton up the climb which was a small victory in my eyes.
As we came over the climb the gap to the leading group had blown back out to over one minute and United HealthCare and Giant Shimano started to chase, with 20km to go 10 of which were uphill, they were obviously worried about the group in front. Which as it turns out they should have been.
As the kilometres started to come down I positioned myself close to the front and started to prepare for the last 10kilometres of the race. Our director had asked Ash to go full gas at the bottom of the climb with Elisa on her wheel, but since I was still (amazingly) at the front of the bike race I told the girls I would go as hard as I could for as long as I could at the bottom of the climb and that's exactly what I did.
As we rounded a right hand corner the road immediately kicked up and I went straight to the front. We could see the breakaway group just in front of us and I kept pushing until Ash took control and I dropped through the peloton quicker than I devour cup cakes.
Finding a small group behind me I rode the last 7kilometres easy and crossed the line two minutes or so behind Annemiek van Vlueten who had escaped from the breakaway group with three others to win. Berlato (Alé Cipollini) was second and Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle Honda) was third.
Elisa, Ash, Audrey finished comfortably in the group behind meaning Elisa stays in third overall and in the best Italian rider jersey. Unfortunately Ash lost the mountains jersey after the breakaway riders claimed all the points on offer for the day.
It was nice to have my Dad in the team car for the day, he even saw me on multiple occasions as I was the team's camel for the day, bringing water to the girls throughout the stage. If I was to make a rough estimate I think I transported more than 25 biddons through the peloton to my teammates.
Seeing Dad after the finish and the big grin on his face made the 125km in scorching weather worthwhile. I asked him how it was, 'It was fantastic!' Glad we could put on a show for you Dad!
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