Like when you're waiting for your final marks at school to be released I woke up with this feeling of dread this morning. Stage six of the Giro Rosa was the first real foray into the mountains and my Hitec Products team still had three riders placed in the top ten on GC, meaning we still had everything to fight for.
The 112km from Gaiarine to San Fior had three notable climbs; the first coming at 32kms is affectionately known as the Ca del Poggio, 'the small Poggio'. For those who are unfamiliar with the Poggio, it's the climb made famous by Milan San Remo, short and steep it's often where the race winning move is made in the men's classic.
So, given the nick name you've probably deducted the first climb of the day was short and steep. If so, you would be right. Hitting pitches of 20 per cent and just over 1km in length it is one of the climbs that just makes your legs scream.
The second climb of the day came 60km into the race and was a gradual climb for 6km while the third was the first real 'mountain' of the tour; starting at 74km the climb covered 1000 altitude metres in 12kms. Just to add insult to injury it was predominantly on what can best be described as goat paths rather than actual roads, it had more pot-holes than Jennifer Lopez has ex-husbands.
Even before the team meeting I could feel my legs hurting. With such a mountainous day ahead of us I knew my job would be early on in the race meaning I would still have drag myself to finish line, most likely more than 30minutes after the winner had crossed the line.
And I wasn't wrong. In the team meeting our director pointed to Lauren, Emilie, Cecilie and I and said our job was to make sure nothing escaped in the first 30kms of the race and then to do a full on lead out into the 'small Poggio'. Julie was to get over the climb with the front group to make sure Elisa, Ash and Audrey had an extra rider up the front to help them before the climb at 74km.
The speed was so high in the beginning kilometres and teams like Giant Shimano, Alé Cipollini and Wiggle Honda seemed determined to try and get a break away which didn't make my job any easier. But we did what were told and with 2kms to go before the base of the 'small Poggio' the group was all together and teams were starting to organise full on lead out trains.
Emilie and I found Elisa and we brought her into position, turning left onto the climb I was in about fifth position with Elisa on my wheel. Job done. But I still needed to get over the climb and I wanted to get back to Elisa to help her for as much of the remaining 90kms as possible.
Legs screaming and heart rate almost maxed out I made it over the climb in a group just behind the main peloton. Julie, Audrey, Ash and Elisa had made it over the climb comfortably which was good news.
After a short chase I rejoined the front group to find out a group of about seven had escaped up the road which included riders like Emma Pooley, Trixi Worrack and Giorgia Bronzini. Elisa didn't seemed too concerned and was happy to let Rabobank control the gap.
We cruised up the second climb of the day. By the top the break's advantage had grown to over two minutes and Elisa decided maybe it was time to contribute to the chase and put Julie and I up the front with Rabobank.
By the base of the climb we had brought the gap down to less than two minutes and as the hill climbers surged past me I switched the lights off, thinking of the next three stages and the other mountains still left for me to suffer over.
Audrey told me that Rabobank just went full gas from the very bottom of the climb and from then girls were just dropping like flies. By the top of the climb only seven riders were left which included Vos, Elisa, and Mara Abbott, and all but one of the break away group had been reeled in, Emma Pooley.
Pooley went on to win the stage solo. Vos finished second and Elisa third.
It was, in my opinion a great day for the team. We like to say that we're the biggest small team in the world of women's cycling. Today we rode like one of the 'big' teams.
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