Thursday, 10 July 2008


Just when I thought that our team would get through the tour unscathed…we go and have five crashes over two days, not the best of statistics considering two of them were in the time trial! Stage 4, day 5, and it was time to hit the hills, but before hitting the hills, Vicki and Sara were hitting the pavement in an early crash. Nicki got caught behind the pile-up, but all three regained contact soon after with only Vicki sporting scars. Everyone seemed keen to join a break before the climb, so the pace remained relatively high for the first half of the 106km race. From here, the first of two 10km climbs began and it didn’t take long for me to find my place in grupetto! Sara was positioned well and found herself just off the back of the lead group as she prepared for the descent. Vicki and Carlee joined Oenone Wood in the chase bunch, while Nicki and Tiff established position in the third group.

As I chatted away to the fellow members of grupetto, the remnants of my team were chasing hard to make up time on the leaders. The flat roads lasted a mere 10kms before an 11km hill top finish on ‘Monte Serra’. The crowds were lining the roadside today with two intentions; 1) to watch the Giro Donne grovel up the climbs 2) to watch their local hero Fabiana Luperini take the pink jersey, and after reading her name written in every possible direction and font on the asphalt, how could she not impress?! While she celebrated her win, Sara was pursuing a top 20. Carlee had spent the last 5kms towing Vicki up the climb after desperation for feed from our team car saw her taken out by another rider, resulting in patches on both knees and elbows! Nicki and Tiff rode tempo to the finish, while grupetto called ‘piano’ and rolled in 21 minutes down!

We had a four hour transfer to ‘Ispra’ after an 8-point turn to get the van to the bottom of the hill. Carlee and I, now nicknamed pink 1 and pink 2 after purchasing the Giro ‘I was here’ pink souvenir shirts, exchanged race stories to pass the time. I reflected on the first climb, when a policeman who learnt my name yesterday drove past on the motor bike shouting out ‘Peta!’… and when a team car took out half the grupetto bunch while trying to pass up the inside… or my favourite memory, of grovelling alongside two girls holding onto their team car up ‘Monte Serra’! It was a blessing to arrive at a new accomodation, that supplied us with good food, English euro sport, and a dismal 30 minutes of internet before the connection cut out. I scored a room with Nikki, finally a firm bed, and a balcony that you could land a plane on!

Today I was faced with a 9km time trial. Usually they are far from exciting, but when two of your team members crash, and another takes the win, there is plenty to talk about on the drive home, which for me was an hour after everybody else as I chose to stay and take podium shots for Vicki! It had been joked about the night before that Carlee, who was starting in front of Vicki, would be the ‘rabbit’. Carlee took this to the extreme, crashing early on due to some gravel on a roundabout and drawing blood, of which we assume Vicki smelt, and chased like an animal! But now we can’t open the cycling news homepage without seeing Carlee sprawled in the top corner as leading photo (pictured above)…way to get the sponsors name out there girl. Sara also misread a corner and came down, losing valuable seconds that would have seen her on the podium for sure!

When Vicki crossed the line, I heard the word ‘prima’ meaning first. Initially, she didn’t believe my Italian translation but as the time trial came to an end, and only the climbers were left on the course, we knew she had claimed the biggest win of her career! It was ironic that she won the stage after her minor falls the day prior, requiring her to grace the podium with patches on both knees (pictured above). After a spray of champagne it was time for testing, so while she quickly filled a cup full of urine, I was avoiding my new edition police man stalker. He had hassled me every time I had ridden past him roadside, and was then calling to me while he was leading a rider in the time trial…it’s times like these where flattery turns to nerves. Spirits are now high, aside from the thought of tomorrow’s climbs and predicted weather forecast.

Results: Giro Donne, Stage 4, Road Race, Calcinaia - Prato A Calci/Monte Serra, 106.4kms
Results: Giro Donne, Stage 5, Individual Time Trial, Novara, 9.3kms

Photo 1 & 3 courtesy of WomensCycling.