Today was a shorter day that was not an official Giro stage. The pros had a evening transfer from Bergamo to Milano and would race a ‘fiasco’ of a Criterium through Milano. I would ride from Bergamo to Milano in the morning and watch the crit that evening. The distances would work out to be comparable, but the pros would argue that their route had more traffic. Ha! I was just happy that I was finally going predominately downhill.
Day of Journey:
Stage 12, Day 15, May 17th, 2009.
2h 53m (73km)
Bike – 88 km
Bike – 88 km
Total Distance Biked:
1778km (12 stages, two rest days)
“Today I ride into Milano, (a non Giro stage as they are doing the TT) should be about 55-60km. Will bring me to 1604km vs the planned 1903km.” (I obviously did some bad math on this twitter post)
“Sorry, today is not a TT, it’s a crit race. Regardless, I can’t go around and around the track in circles, so I will watch instead of ride.”
So What Happened?
I woke up feeling like a celebrity. Tea? Yes, I’ll have some…snap snap. Croissant…of course baby. Valet parking for your bike? I expect no less. After all I was in the newspaper and wearing cashmere. Ok, snap back to reality. This is how I wished I was feeling. Well, not really so pretentious because that’s not me, but at least a little chipper.
Reality: The light creeping in the window, gray shades falling over everything. My body was starting to ache in all sorts of places. As I sat up in bed I sighed, stretched out and my body cracked to life began to wake up too. Lungs – full. Chest – bruised. Knee – tight. Back – stiff. Feet – Numb. It was much more David Cronenberg for me than David Hasslehoff. I remembered Eule in the Werner Herzog film Hollentour who was the charming old Team Mobile trainer. Eule said of Grand Tours “Anybody can last two weeks, the last week is when it really gets tough.” Agreed.
I was on my bike and off for Milano. Usually everything hurts more, looks rainier, seems drier, appears father when you are thinking of getting on the bike. Then you get on and, like a wiper across a windscreen, those thoughts are pushed aside effortlessly. Well not today. I couldn’t get comfortable. Bars were to low and my back hurt. Couldn’t find a good rhythm, everything felt too fast or slow. I kept dropping my head to stretch out my neck. “I should have just taken the train” I thought. And then, just then, one came flying along. I got out of the saddle stretched my legs and then *snap.* Not a good snap like an arrow from a bow. A bad snap, or maybe more of a pop, from the back of my left knee. A pop or a snap that the whole ‘train’ of 12 to 15 riders in a paceline must have heard because I seemed to just coast up onto their wheel while massaging my left calf.
So, I forgot to complain yesterday about my left knee. I’ll do so now. My left knee really hurt then, tightened up and I stupidly didn’t stretch it out. Then, sudden effort = snap/pop…hell you can have crackle too. It wasn’t good. In an effort to get to Milano I followed this group lamely in the back, not taking my pull as I should. I just didn’t want to pedal. These guys weren’t going to Milano, though. I had no idea where they were going and I think they were trying to drop me now because I wasn’t participating. As all the signs pointed left to Milano I let go of them and turned for the finish.
Zoom > 8:15 express. Another train. There were riders everywhere. This time I eased up the pace slowly turning the gears, heavier, heavier and heavier until I caught them. Then I rested and massaged my calf. These guys were old guys. These guys were fast old guys. It got to the point where I almost couldn’t hang on to one of them. I don’t wanna get all paranoid and suspicious of them because that it silly, BUT, no lie the three of ’em were cranking along at about 44-46kmph, taking very efficiently timed pulls and passing around little white tablets from one to another in the process. Maybe they were breath mints, but these 50-60 year-olds where extraterrestrial. The group of E.T.’s didn’t like me hanging on to them either, and they decided not to phone home but to go there instead. A quick right turn into a residential area which I didn’t follow and I saw them slow, three abreast and ride gently over the speedbumps into the suburbs. Maybe they were breath mints, maybe they were picking up their girlfriends.
I caught another group which was much more inviting. Three men and one girl from Monza. I told them where I was coming from – Bergamo and where I was going – Milano, and they said “follow us.” The group dwindled to just three of us: Simona, Marco and myself. By the time we were in Milano, Marco and Simona were finally starting to believe me that I had ridden almost 2000km with only one change of clothes and what I could carry in my jersey pockets and 750mL storage bottle. In fact, Marco, who was a sports events photographer was so astonished by this that he took me up to the side of the Giro main stage (which was mid festivities for the start of the race), he called over one of the producers and told him my story. This producer looked at me and asked me four questions in broken English. 1. Where have you been to? 2. Where are you going? 3. Why follow the Giro? 4. What do you think of Italy? I said: 1.) almost 2000km, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy. 2.) 1000 more to Barcelona 3.) It’s a beautiful race … in 4.) a country of beautiful, kind and generous people, with great food and a passion for cycling. Then he responded. “Ok, you’re coming on stage.”
Enter Mark Cavendish. Ok, so he’s a super dooper sprinter, but he’s kind of a prick. My opinion of him may be swayed slightly because he bumped me from my Giro stage appearance as soon as he decided to show up early to talk to the crowd. But that’s how it is. Now, I just like trying to find videos of him from when he got pushed over by other sprinters in his T-mobile days cause he had a big mouth. Now, he’s a super nice guy, very driven and very focused on success. But his damn big mouth behavior bumped my big mouth from my stage appearance. I was ready for a drama queen cyclist slapping battle but quickly my rage turned to delightful fan behavior when the rest of the pros showed up 10 minutes later. And with a Homer J. Simpson-like wiggle of my fingers and an “oooOOOOOoooo!” of delight, like Homer he sees a pile of doughnuts, I was over looking at team bikes. I could care less about the pros – I do like seeing them, it is fun – but the highlights for me are the bikes.
Before I knew it the stage was on, the protest was on, and then dammit…that jerk Cavendish won the stage. Ah…he’s alright, I really don’t dislike him I just have no sprinters to cheer for this Giro, if Boonen was there that would be a different story. I relaxed after the stage, took in the city and dropped my bike back at the flat I was staying at. Tomorrow was a rest day, which I desperately desired, and then my queen stage: The Milan – San Remo.
Picture(s) of the Day: