In comparison to the previous hectic few days, today was quite relaxing. A small breakaway jumped up the road early and the sprinter teams slowly but surely reeled it back. At the line one of the most exciting riders born in the ’90s, Michael ‘Bling’ Mathews, was victorious taking his biggest ever career victory.
Bling is an absolute class act and an incredibly polite young man so when he wins everybody is very happy for him. I’m sure it won’t be his last big victory — this will merely open the flood gates.
Our man Ratto (Daniele) gave it everything he had to mix it up in the sprint and showed his consistency with 9th place. Just watch — he’ll continue to move up the result sheets as the race goes on.
Today was a good opportunity to eat and drink to ensure the body is topped up with all the fuel it needs for three weeks of racing. It was basically a day off for me. After spending a few cookies yesterday, Ivan (Basso) and I decided we needed to take it as easy as possible over the next few days until we hit the mountains. We simply worked on our little system where he followed Longo around to maintain a good position and I sat safely on Ivan’s wheel in case he needed anything.
Today I noticed that other riders are starting to see that we’re always grouped together, so they give us more space. For example, many times when riders would see Ivan pass, they immediately took another look behind them anticipating me to also come past. By crikey does this ever reduce my stress to perform this role. I just hope that everyday it gets more and more like today.
I rolled up to Cancellara at one point today and he said “G’Day mate!” and asked how I was getting on. It seems the Euros love practising their Aussie accents. I told him I was doing well and that I was just babysitting Basso. This is a job he took on for many years at CSC so he knew what I was talking about.
I told him that I’m learning very quickly to maintain concentration at all times and there are plenty of other hours in the day for socialising and switching off. Fabian agreed and said that babysitting Ivan was one of the best experiences any rider can have, to learn the craft of bike racing. Everything Ivan asks you to do is for a reason. It was nice to hear how well Ivan is respected by one of the greatest riders in the peloton.
I always enjoy days like today which have much more uphill than down. The profile showed a gradual climb all day which means riders weren’t really fighting for a front position. In fact it wasn’t until the final 10km where there was any sign of stress in the peloton.
I immediately switched off at this point and drifted to the back to ensure I stayed away from any trouble. Ivan was safely up front with the boys — Longo, Dallantonia and Paterski — who are much more useful to him in these sketchy finishes. I simply stayed close enough to see him and be ready to hand over my bike if required.
Once we got inside 3km (the point where you get the same time of the bunch should you have any dramas) I knew Ivan was safe and sound and saved as many biscuits as possible for the next two and a half weeks. The most important thing I have learned riding with Ivan is when I don’t need to spend any energy, I shouldn’t spend it. Because when he asks me to do something I often need every ounce of energy I can muster up so it needs to be saved where possible. Cancellara is right on the money!
Today we have a total of 330km to travel on the bus. Before the race we needed to travel 140km, after the race another 190km to our hotel for the evening. I love the bus trips as, firstly, it gives me a chance to write my blog! But more importantly it gives me a chance to have a good chin-wag and debrief with my teammates and staff. This is something that’s much easier to do in the confined space of our luxurious bus.
After the debrief I get as much sleep as possible. The way I think of it, if I can get only 30 minutes of sleep a day when travelling on the bus then it totals to one extra night of sleep by the time the three weeks is up!
I picked up all these recovery and recharge methods at the Giro as I was so incredibly sick which made getting out of bed each day a massive battle. I learned the hard way, but at least I learned. Now that my power is back and I feel good the plan is that by maintaining these methods I’ll be able to stay fresher for longer.
The bus plays a crucial role in our recovery time. Aside from being on your bikes and in our hotel room, the bus is the place we spend the most amount of time.
What makes travelling on the bus pleasurable is our awesome bus driver Luciu. He’s an awesome guy and every morning he has the bus absolutely spotless on the inside and out. It’s his pride and joy. I get along really well with Luciu and have found a way to put a smile on his dial every morning.
Every day our masseurs make up paninis for us to put in our pockets for the race. I don’t really like eating too much bread during the race so of the four paninis in my race bag each morning I might only take one.During the Giro I noticed Luciu always checking out my bag and pocketing my leftover paninis.
One day I asked what he did with them and he said that he simply loves eating them. So I asked what his favourite flavours were and his eyes lit up! Ham and cheese was his answer, so now my bag is filled with three ham and cheese and one banana and honey which is for me.
I love cold mint cordial and Luciu knows this, so now 1 hour before the finish of the race he mixes one up for me and puts it in the freezer so its perfectly chilled for when I arrive! I get to enjoy seeing his happiness every morning when he pounces on my panini bag and he would see the same gratitude when I receive my mint cordial!
It’s the small things that make the time on the bus an extremely enjoyable experience.
It’s time to curl up next to our director sportif, Dario Mariuzzo, and get some rest. He looks like he’s had a tougher day in the team car than all riders had on the bike. The right-hand back corner of the bus is always my spot after every single race, so if you ever want to find me before or after a race that’s the best place to look.