The stage was changed. And a good thing too, from my perspective!
My day started out well. I hit the road, and reasonably soon found myself riding with Gianni Motta’s bunch. Gianni is a former pro, who won the Giro in 1966. He is 70 now, but still rides along at a fair pace in absolute comfort. We had talked briefly a week or so ago, but this time he recognised me and wanted to know what I was doing. I explained, and he quickly asked me to join them for the short brunch they were having shortly.
Now when you are riding the Giro d’Italia and a guy who has won it asks you to eat with him, you don’t say no. It was a very simple brunch of fresh bread with shaved ham, washed down with red wine, of course. Very tasty, but not the highlight. The highlight for me was when a guy who had won the Giro pulled out his camera to take a picture of me. I felt pretty good.
Of course, there is an old saying that pride comes before a fall. My fall didn’t take long arriving. As I rode, the rain began and I noticed a bit of chaos on the course. The signage was terrible in some places, the police all had different ideas about which roads were closed and for what traffic, and there were official race cars going the wrong direction. I started wondering if they had changed the course. I was late though, so just pressed on without worrying too much.
I got further than I expected before they stopped me, but that was when I realised we were not on the course. This was a problem. It is always easier to ride ahead of the race, because the signs are there. If you are behind the race you have to navigate yourself, based on maps or course notes. But I didn’t have notes for the new, modified version of the course. A problem.
I rode on anyway, stopping to try to work out where I should go every so often. While I was riding I was ok, but stopping was bad, because my temperature dropped. A lot. I tried to push on as quickly as I could, but as I approached the base of the final climb (the first climb had been cut, “for the safety of competitors and spectators”) I stopped again. Once again my body temperature dropped, but this time I noticed that the rain was actually turning to snow.
Now there an awful lot of differences between riding these stages the way the pros do it and the way I do it. At that moment the difference on my mind was what happens at the finish. On a day like today, if you are a pro then you get to the finish and there is a guy there to wrap you in a towel and get you to a shower. For a good description of this, check out this article about the stage. If you are a guy like me, you get to the finish, think “I wish I was a pro and had a hot shower”, and turn around to ride back down in freezing conditions. If you are stupid enough to have gone up. I looked at it and saw real potential to make myself seriously unwell by going up there, so I pulled the plug. I went back down to the valley and found a nice hotel with a hot shower. By the time I got into it I was shivering so much it took me about a minute to turn the tap on.
Right now, I am thinking about tomorrow. The stage goes into France, and the French authorities initially declared the road closed due to the danger of avalanches. Apparently now the Giro organizers have talked them into letting it go ahead, but we will see what the weather in the morning brings.
I will certainly try to ride it, but if I can see that it is going to be dangerous for my health then I will happily skip it. But this link will show you how much of it I do!
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