I thought for my next blog I’d give a short stage by stage run down from the Baby Giro (U23). I can safely say for every stage much rice was consumed!
Prologue- For me the prologue was mostly about limiting loses as well as not taking too many risks around the technical corners. I finished under 20 seconds down which I was happy with knowing that it wouldn’t be a gap which would make any difference to my final GC position once we hit the mountains.
Stage 1- A few of the guys had raced the giro the previous year so they had an idea of what to expect, so they warned us that it would be a hard start. So the start began fast with lots of teams trying to get away in the moves, after a good hour on the gas the pace eventually eased with a break going away. Then the final 40km was on as the GB team were chasing and everyone was trying to get up to the front for the final climb, which after the decent was only a few KMs from the finish. Going onto the climb I was decently positioned in about 30th after a bit of help from Jason and Calum. With everyone fighting for position there was a crash unfortunately right in front of me which meant I lost a fair few seconds meaning I had to make a big effort up the remaining part of the climb to get back to the front. Once we got to the bottom of the climb the run in was reasonably straight forward so I just rolled in safely in the bunch.
Stage 2- This stage was a weird one with it being a sprinters stage due to the long section of flat after the 2 mountains but with there being mountains to begin with it would still be a tough stage! Also it was 200km which meant it was the longest race I’d done. For me the majority of the race was quiet with not much happening until with 8km to go there was a big crash which I was involved in, breaking my rear wheel! Thankfully Jason was able to give me his bike which took a while for him to get it to me as he had also hit the deck. Luckily the legs were in a pretty good place so I was able to chase full gas for the next few KM to lose only 8 seconds.
Stage 3- This day was a stage that I was worried about, due to it being the strada stage. Due to the amount of things which are out of your control when on the gravel it was a nervous stage for the GC guys. Early on in the stage I got a puncture which meant a bit of legs were used to get back on but thankfully it was before the strada sections had begun and I was able to get back on reasonably quickly because Calum had given me his wheel. Going into the first gravel sector the pace was FAST mostly because of it being a long straight downhill ha ha. But it made moving up difficult, this meant I hit the sector a bit further back than I would have hoped. After fighting to move up positions I got into a decent place with the pace on at the front. After a tough day I managed to bridge across to the main group with most of the GC contenders on the final few KMs. Unfortunately there was a break which had got away earlier in the day and built up a substantial gap with a few riders finishing nearly 5 minutes up the road. But I was happy to get this day out of the way not really losing any time to the main GC guys.
Stage 4- I was looking forward to this stage with it being the first proper test for me. The stage started off hard straight out of the neutral into a climb. This meant the group instantly splintered leaving around 40-50 of us in the lead group. Once the pace had eased a little I changed bikes back to the road bike as the spare bike had some more hard wearing tyres on for the gravel sector at the start (which never came). It just turned out that as soon as I’d changed bikes the front group had started to splinter with lots of breaks going up the road. I managed to make my way up through the cars with the help of Charlie before having to go a little harder to make it back in. After I’d had a few minutes to take a breath I followed a break which dragged us up to the front bunch. This then swelled again which stayed together at around 50 riders until the final mountain top finish. I was unsure how I’d fair against the field but gave it a good go to finish 14th on the stage. It wasn’t quite what I had hoped for but a solid result which I was pleased with.
Rest day- The majority of this day was spent travelling up North.
Stage 5- Passo Maniva! This was a flat stage with a big mountain to finish. With there being a bit of wind some of the bigger more powerful guys were able to have some fun on the flat sections before the mountain started. Today I really didn’t feel great coming into the climb I knew I’d just have to pace my effort as best I could and not go into the red too early as it was a long climb, for me with not great legs it was about limiting loses. I was disappointed with my result as it was a climb I felt suited me quite well but under the circumstances I felt I finished quite well in the 30s not dropping too much in the GC. I was told it’s always an unknown how you will be going coming out of a rest day. So hopefully the legs would pick up for the next days.
Stage 6- Today was a stage which I’d had my eye on as soon as the route had came out. It was the double Motirolo stage which was sure to be a savage day out. The race began really quick on the gradual decent down into the first side of the climb I was in a good position at this point a few KM from the bottom of the climb. But in those final few KM leading into it I found myself along with a few others getting swamped. This meant I hit the climb +50 riders back which really wasn’t ideal, I moved around a good few riders still trying not to go over the line knowing the size and length of the climb. Due to this I missed a decent sized group which went up the road with the bunch splitting, I kept going at a good pace picking off riders. A few KM from the top I caught Calum and he was able to set a good pace giving me a bit of a rest before the hard last 1.5km. After a technical decent we were onto the second side this is the most famous side likely pictured with Contador alongside Landa and Aru in the 2015 Giro! Also this year saw Nibali attacking the climb alongside Hugh Carthy. It’s fair to say it’s an iconic climb, I tried to do it and myself justice still fighting to catch as many people as I could. Just a time trail trying to get to the top as fast as possible. As the gradient gripped I kept pushing with more riders in sight, slowly resurrecting my day. Once I crested the top i found myself in a group of 4 riders we shared the pace over the testing 10km surfing along the top of the mountain. The final decent was fast we kept the pace on, I rolled across the line in 32nd I couldn’t deny I was disappointed with this result as I’d really wanted to put in a special result on this stage but looking back it wasn’t a bad result.
Stage 7- This was a flatter stage, not expected to cause too much of a shake up on the GC. This was a good day for the team with Charlie bridging across to the break to finish 3rd on the day! Me and Calum finished safely in the bunch, not losing any time on the GC.
Stage 8- This was the final long stage it was going to be a tough one! The rolling start and wet weather meant for a fast and hard start with the pace on for the first hour. A puncture in the first hour didn’t help with a hard chase back onto the bunch, thankfully making my way back into the bunch. The wet weather made a testing stage even harder with you constantly having to concentrate. Going into the first climb of 2 I was well positioned, Cal was not far back, this used a bit of legs for me to get into a good position but it was needed as the climb would be hit hard from the Colombians. As soon as we hit the climb the bunch began to split, I crested the climb in the 3rd group on the road including the break. We worked pretty well together with no real let up going into the final climb. I finished the stage in 38th with a big break up the road. I was pleased with this stage with the legs feeling pretty good and me being amongst some pretty big names.
Stage 9- Final stage! This was going to be a tough day for sure, only 40km but it wasn’t to be taken lightly with it being up to a summit finish at 2043m up! Also the accumulated fatigue was to make it even tougher. The stage set off as expected, been really fast with everyone racing to hit the first 5 minute climb in front. Me and Calum managed to position ourselves what we thought was in a decent position just outside the top 20. The pace was on, on the climb as we hit the top. The decent was sketchy with a few riders having problems which split the bunch. Unfortunately I ended up in group 2 on the road with the gap quickly going out to the leaders. Calum did a great job for me going into the climb and on the climb allowing me to rest a little in the wheels. The last 4km was just all about leaving everything I had on the road. It’s fair to say they hurt a lot, I got my head down and went deep to try and hold my GC position. I finished the stage 35th and 20th on GC.
It was a great race and I’d like to thank everyone who was part of it for helping out. I’d gone into the race with a bit more in mind but can’t be too disappointed to roll a top 20 on GC and 7th in the young riders in my first year as a U23.