“I'm Canadian. I melt.” - Mike Woods Sunshine. Teamwork. New colors. The team is…
“I was actually way more nervous than I thought I would be.”
Stage one: Bologna – San Luca Individual Time Trial
Between Piazza Maggiore to the top of Colle della Guardia on stage one of the Giro d’Italia, there were a lot of expectations. Who was expected to wear the pink jersey at the end of the day. At what time the expected rain was going to arrive. Then the final climb up to the sanctuary of San Luca was expected to leave riders’ legs begging for it to end. It was expected that our two rookies, Sean Bennett and Jonathan Klever Caicedo were going to feel nervous as they started out on their first Grand Tour.
“It was hard, I felt pretty good. For the first day of my first Grand Tour I was actually way more nervous than I thought I would be when I was warming up for the TT, but it was a good feeling. It’s always amazing when you get to experience all the crowds and everyone is yelling, it’s a rush, I love it, but it still hurts though.”
“Well it’s started well, the important thing is we have a lot of motivation, a good head to keep us there for the three weeks. I think it’s a first day where some don’t know how they’re going to go so we just keep going day-by-day, it’s the only way to go. I’m just really looking forward to the next 20 days, there’s the opportunity for us to do something great one of the days.”
“It was a long day for everybody but we are where we expected to be, it was a hard time trial where all the GC guys wanted to win and get some time on each other and I think that Tanel and Hugh performed in a way that showed that they are in good condition. We just need to wait for the climbs to try and get something on a stage. But there’s no big surprise and for us there is no minus.”
– Fabrizio Guidi
Stage two: Bologna – Fucecchio
It was pouring with rain. The grey sky reflected off the wet tarmac, the warmth of the bus had a mental hold over everyone that day. As the riders piled down the steps, rain jackets on looking subdued at the thought of being out in the wet for hours, Sean Bennett was the only one without his rain jacket. This could mean only one thing…it was a breakaway day for him.
“I was kinda looking for a breakaway today that was the game plan going into it. I saw a group kinda rolling off the front and guys hesitating and it was looking like it was going to go and I jumped across, made it there and then was just out the front all day.
“We were rotating the whole day, no-one was skipping pulls which was really good, then on one of the climbs I was hanging on and hanging on, I came off and then that was the end of it for me. I was out there for four hours or so. Feeling a little tired now, not going to lie.”
Stage three: Vinci – Orbetello
A long day in the wind. The rain had passed but the wind still wanted to play its games on the peloton as it was a race to the sea.
“I would take rain over wind any day, actually I’d take snow over wind, minus temperatures over wind. I hate the wind, it makes everyone nervous.”
“I take the last chicane too far back and I tried to go in the front but it’s not easy. I did the last corner about 10kph, it’s difficult but I tried and at least I got the top ten. Day-by-day I’m feeling better, so I’m happy to be in the top ten and tomorrow I think it’s hard but the day after I will try again to do a good sprint.”
Stage four: Orbetello – Frascati
As three riders from three different Pro-Continental level teams sailed off the front of the peloton at kilometer zero, it felt like the race became almost pedestrian. Riders coming back and forth in waves to their team cars attempting to make up their minds on what they should wear. Should it be a vest? Should it be vest and arm warmers? With this behavior, the break soon banked minutes ahead of the bunch, maxing out at an eleven minute lead, but one that was never going to stick.
As the peloton were homing in on the three escapees, the ragged tarmac was about to cause chaos, dashing winning ambitions and unleashing damage upon a nervous peloton. Some riders just making it across the line, bloodied and grimacing. It was another long day at the Giro d’Italia.
“I was just behind the crash, I saw it and braked and someone went into the back of me and I went down, but I’m fine, I sorted my bike out and started again and Nate helped get me back on to the bunch.”
“It got pretty hectic, a lot of it was due to the road conditions there were potholes everywhere and everyone was just trying to avoid those and then in the last 10km there were two big crashes and some of our guys got caught behind it but for the most past we got out of it ok. Everyone was just stressed out trying to get to the front. I also had, had a triple puncture which wasn’t ideal and took a real effort to get back into the group.”
Stage five: Frascati – Terracina
The Giro never lets up. After the chaos of yesterday’s finish, the weather did what it’s promised to do on and off all week, it lashed at the riders the whole of the day. It’s not often in the Giro d’Italia you see sprinters hurtling towards the finish line still in their rain jackets but then it’s not often you see weather like this mid-May in Italy’s mid-region.
“It was a really rainy day, bad weather conditions and cold, the break went but there was never any stress about catching them. Furthermore the jury decided to pull the general classification time cut forward from 3km to just under 10km, and the race went without too much problem until there. So for our climbers they reached the race finish without any trouble.
“Sacha was not feeling so good today so there was no sprinting, but it was due to the weather conditions, the cold, there were a lot of riders freezing so it’s not impossible to not have super legs today, so nothing special.
“Tomorrow is going to be very difficult with 240km in the rain, so that’s not so good. It’s not normal this weather in the south at this time of year. Our riders are healthy and they’ve finished safe so that’s the main thing. Tomorrow is another day, we just need to stay calm and quiet until the mountains.”
Stage six: Cassino – San Giovanni Rotondo
The first break to make it to the finish line and the first Italian to win a stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia. A loss of pink and maybe a bad “Oomen” for the top 10 general classification. It was a slightly less stressful day on stage six, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any action.
“In the end it was quite a calm day especially after the last couple days of stress with the bad weather, it brings a lot of tension. But we were on the bigger roads so it was a lot more relaxed stage once the break had gone. It was just nice to not have to stress too much. The break took a while to go, due to the nature of the roads, them being so up and down. There were long straight ups and downs so it takes a while for them to get out of sight. It took about an hour, an hour and a half. There was a big cash early on with the leader Roglič, it wasn’t officially neutralized but we slowed down and waited 10-15 minutes for everyone to get back on.
“It wasn’t long after that, that the break went on one of the uphill sections. We were trying for Jonathan and Sean to get into the move but it was difficult to get in to, especially with the lighter riders trying to get in to it. They gave it a good go but it wasn’t to be. Quite a few guys gained a lot of time today but not many of them will hang in the mountains, they shouldn’t really be a concern for the big hitters of the race. Sam Oomen [Sunweb] might be a bit of a dangerous one, he’s back in the race well and truly. He’ll be pretty dangerous for the rest of the race, as a top ten contender.
“Apart from that, from mine, and Tanel’s point of view it was a pretty successful day, no dramas, no injuries, just recovering and looking forward to tomorrow. We’ve just got to keep everything together as a group now. This is when people really start to feel it and begin to get tired, so it’s important to be together as a team on and off the bike and support each other. Really knuckle down now as this is when the hard racing starts.” Joe’s
Stage seven: Vasto – L’Aquila
When the start of a stage is littered with attack after attack and the break doesn’t seem to stick it’s no wonder 49.8km are covered in the first hour. Hugh Carthy, Tanel Kangert, Nate Brown, Sacha Modolo they all tried their best to get in there and make something stick, but the peloton is very choosey on who they let go up the road when there’s a good chance the break will beat them to the finish.
“It was a hard day, it was fast, I tried to get in a big move with a few of the GC-ish kind of guys after about 80/90km and we were away for about half an hour but it got brought back and then another move went. So yeah, another day done, a hard day but I’m feeling ok.
“Up until about 90km in it was just the race controlling itself then after that Team UAE did a good job and got the gap down before the climb and let it go out a bit on the climb and then a couple of the other teams chipped in and tried to help them out but the break stayed away.”
“The stage was really tough right from the gun, there are a lot of riders who know that the pink jersey is within reach and it was not a stage for the sprinters, so everybody knows that there won’t be as much control over the breakaway and it has more of a chance to get to the finish. For that reason it was a huge fight to get into the break. We tried a lot today from the gun, especially with Nate, but also with our leader, at one point we had Hugh in an attempt with 20 guys but then the peloton brought them back. So at the end of the day I can’t blame our guys, they went full gas from the start.
“Even Sacha was there, and Kangert had tried. But when it’s 48kph average at the start of the race it’s not easy and uses a lot of energy. They were really good and trying really hard and we need to keep this level of motivation. It’s a tough race, the feeling for me is that we will do something in the big mountains, and Joe is feeling really good, Tanel also, so for me this is where we can get something.”
Ultimately, Moldolo was forced to abandon the race due to an overwhelming fatigue.
Stage eight: Tortoreto – Pesaro
All things considered, stage eight proved to be a relatively uneventful albeit lengthy stage of the Giro d’Italia. Nate Brown slipped clear in the opening kilometers intent on racing in the breakaway but when the American only managed to draw out another two riders for company, he decided to rejoin the bunch and save the legs for a more serious breakaway opportunity.
The 239-kilometer day ended in a bunch sprint in the coastal town of Pesaro. EF Education First Pro Cycling had three riders in the reduced bunch with Tanel Kangert crossing the finish line in 27th place as the team’s top finisher.
“It looked like an easy stage in the race book, and the way we raced it fortunately gave the general classification riders a chance to stay in the bunch and conserve for most of the day. I’m happy for any chance to conserve. I know my level and what I’m capable of, and I hope if I can save myself as much as possible now that I will be at my top level in the last week physically and mentally.”
Stage nine: Riccione – San Marino
When asked how he was feeling after today’s stage Sports Director, Fabrizio Guidi answered: “Quite a little bit better,” whilst laughing. It was another day where Italy’s freak spring weather hammered down on the riders as their time trial bikes precariously danced over wet tarmac. Riders constantly gauging the grip of their tires over the sodden roads with their desire to push it to their limits.
“I’m feeling happy after that, it was a good performance, it’s what I’ve wanted to do, you never know how a time trial (TT) is going to go especially nine days into a race. I’ve never really done that well in a TT before but it was sort of a specialist TT with the climb in it. It was suited to a climber to be fair. So I’d hoped to do well, maybe top 15, top 20 I’d have been happy, similar to the first prologue. But to be top 10 and beat some of the riders I beat, yeah, I was pleased with the outcome, I couldn’t really have hoped for much better to be honest.
I’m looking forward to the rest day but at the same time I know I’m physically I’m good at the moment. I keep wanting to going with the racing, keep striding on but you’ve got to rest and it’s going to be crucial to be fresh in the last week so it’s much needed. There’s a lot of racing still to come the hardest part of the Giro hasn’t really begun yet, so today’s result isn’t the be-all and end-all. Whoever wins today doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to win the Giro overall, there’s still a lot of racing still to go. So everyone needs to keep their feet on the ground and keep motivated.”
“I’m really satisfied with my personal effort, I always like the hillier time trials and today was exactly what I was expecting, maybe even a little bit harder. In the morning on the training ride on the course it seemed very difficult to me so I made up my mind that I wanted to change the bike [from the time trial to road bike] after 23 kilometers, so I did the second part of the race on the road bike.
I think very few riders did that but I felt a lot more comfortable climbing on the road bike, so maybe I didn’t gain anything but at least I had this decision made up in my mind so I didn’t have to stress about it, thinking about what the material was going to be like and for me it worked. We have to be satisfied with the day, also Hugh was great, he was really, really strong. I think we have a lot more to expect from the mountains, so it’s a good sign.”
“Before the rest day it’s a pleasure. I think it’s a solid time trial for both Hugh and Tanel, they went very fast, it was full concentration. The time trial is usually the measure of a rider’s condition, so we go into the hard stages of the Giro with high morale. The riders are really happy about today and we were not far from the leader of the race, we can play our cards right in the next two weeks with the confidence that we have riders in really good shape.
“We need to keep our attitude with the race, we knew that the race was going to be hard and that we would have some difficult moments, but after this time trial we are back on a good spirits. Going forward we have our plan, we’re going to stick to our plan, we’re going to be aggressive more or less. But we’re going to remain with the head attached to the shoulders. We know that we are just behind the leaders of the race, we need to have this killer spirit but in a good sense.
“But we also can not make a calculation on how other riders have ridden today, we have to keep focussed on our own performance. There is going to be a huge difference between the riders in the mountains. Minutes and minutes. Riders that today didn’t perform because of the rain or any other reason we have not to look too much at this. We just have confirmation that we are good and we arrive fresh and ready for the second part. Now starts another story.”
Another day, another drama, another day in the life of the Giro.
Stage 10: Ravenna – Modena
The second week of the Giro d’Italia opened with what might have been regarded as a rolling rest day. Measuring only 147 kilometers long, the pan-flat route between Ravenna and Modena offered a relaxed re-entry to the Italian Grand Tour — until the finale. The sprint, won by Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) was marred by a crash in the opening stretch. EF Education First Pro Cycling managed to avoid the incident. Sean Bennett was the team’s first rider across the line, coming in at 12th place.
“We were lucky. Generally, when the speed average on flat stages is low, everyone gets rested at the finish. Danger situations can arise due to the high speed.
“The first rest day was an atypical one in the sense that it was followed by easy stages .Therefore, for us, it is not a problem to manage the rest or the races that follow. The boys are doing well, and we continue to look forward to the mountains with confidence. The objective remains the same: try to win a stage.”
Following Tuesday’s stage 10, all six EF Education First Pro Cycling riders remaining in the race climbed onto the Giro d’Italia podium to accept the top team prize for stage nine.