Stupidly, the race on day six started at a designer fashion outlet centre!!! I don’t know where the logic behind this one was, but starting a race of 130 women here was just plain cruelty. To get to the toilets we had to walk past lots of great shoe, bag and clothes shops as well as stores like Versace, Armani, Diesel, Nike and Adidas… Needless to say there was a lot of power shopping done that morning and I’m sure it was a strange site for the other shoppers to see the outlet centre flooded in girls wearing cycle knicks buying up quick.
The power shopping obviously got quite a few people going – perhaps fuelled by guilt, as the race was ridiculously fast and averaging around the 40km/hr climb and all. The profile of the course showed a steady ascent until km 43 when we summated before descending most of the way home for a crazily fast finish. I stayed with the front pack, got swamped at the finish but lost no time and kept my placing.
Day seven was yet another super fast day on the bike. We completed 100km and did two large loops with a smaller one to finish. It was a most aggressive race with futile attacks going off the front all day. The attacks would be allowed to sit out front for a few kilometres only to be brought back every time, even if the riders in the breaks posed no threats to the leaders. It was a fun day though as the roads were extra fast and I was involved in a few attacks and it was nice to feel strong again after two days of feeling flat. It was quite an undulating race finishing with a steady 3km climb, the last 500m of which was on a steeply cobbled street. There were more than a few riders with pigs strapped to the handle bars on that one!
On day eight we raced 90km over a three lap circuit. As always the pace was on and it was another very fast day. Everything was going pretty smoothly as riders got a little more settled by this stage in the tour and not as many crashes and wheel lock ups occur. I rode well and was in a few short breaks with none sticking. I was well positioned leading into the final corner onto the cobble finish when a rider in front of me was pushed into the wall, locked up her brakes and came down. I swerved to miss but also had to lock it up and just missed coming down by somehow standing up and striking some sort of weird contortionist pose over my bike, which had been knocked to the ground. I quickly picked the bike up but had lost my chain and struggled for a moment or two to get it back on. Once back on the bike I rolled over the line slowly. There was no rush as riders caught up in crashes within 3 km of the finish maintain the same time as the finish group they’re in.
Today’s stage, nine, was the flattest stage in the tour which made for another fast race. Attacks came right from the beginning but were never allowed to get away, as was theh case throughout the entire tour. In that regard the race was somewhat boring but we found entertainment in other aspects of the circus.
The first excitement for the day all started with a little dog. After the first lap the little dog ran out into the middle of the pack to cause absolute mayhem. One can only imagine what this dog was thinking (and the owner??) but I guess it was just after a muzzle of rubber or a jaw full of one of the tasty legs of the riders. Either way it got nothing and the animal was hit repeatedly by wheels, shoes, cranks and whatever else was around. I watched and heard the yelps as my heart rate jumped to a new record high as I jammed on the brakes and hoped for the best. Somehow I managed to get around the dog. Others weren’t so lucky as I could hear a tumble from behind as I sprinted off. To this day we are still wondering what happened to the dog but either way it didn’t sound or look good for it.
The other bit of excitement for the day was the catfight that took place at the back of the pack. I’m not exactly sure how it started but it was most vicious and amusing for those watching the yells, slaps and scratches. I’m not entirely sure who was the victor but it looked like the feisty Russian took the Chinese!
On day ten I felt great, I woke knowing there was only 71 km to ride and my first European tour would be all over. The race was much like every other day, fast with no attacks being let away. Riders did try for the occasional break away but today the real race would take place on the final 9km climb where we would finish at Madonna Del Ghisallo. Once we reached this climb, many riders dropped off the pace until there was a front pack of around 30-40. As the top ranked girls upped the pace the pack separated and from there it was a matter of getting up the climb as quickly as possible to secure your race placing or to possibly make some time and climb the General Classification rankings. I felt that I climbed a little ordinary throughout the tour so I was happy to have a slightly better day in the hills and to make some time up in GC. I got to the top of the climb to be greeted by a beautiful view of a tiny old church and a statue of two cyclists against a back drop of mountain tops, a lake and a town. I had finished my first European tour in 26th position and had just ridden 893 km in ten days. I had just survived the circus and felt a little sad it was all over for another five days until the next race!
Summit of Madonna Del Ghisallo
Aussie Team post stage 10
Glove tan line post Giro