“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, Joe’s 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.”
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.”
Week 2 – 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.
Stage 11: Carpi – Novi Ligure
We’ve almost lost count of how many days there have been where the kilometer counter has tipped over the 200km mark. Today it hit 222 and as there wasn’t a single bump on the stage profile line it meant it was the last day in this Giro, potentially, for the sprinters to have their day. Caleb Ewan raised his arms in salute of passing the finish line first but we weren’t far behind.
After the challenging finish in yesterday’s stage where Sean Bennett was almost caught up in a crash the conversation on the bus this morning was we were better off not being amongst the action today. But as the bunch neared Novi Ligure and the team’s protected riders were delivered safely to the three kilometer to go mark, road captain, Nate Brown, gave Sean Bennett the green light to get involved in the sprint. Bennett wasted no time and pocketed his first top 10 finish in a Grand Tour.
“The plan was to keep the guys safe until the 3km to go, then we got to the 3km to go and we were all in a good position and Nate said, “You should go for it,” so yeah I went for it and just kinda stayed up in the front and tried.
Yesterday I was trying for it but I was the wheel behind Ackermann when he went down. There was one other day when I tried to go for it in the rain, so I’ve just got to keep trying, floating up there and hopefully I’ll get a better hang of it, but it’s pretty fun.”
“Today was the last of these stages, so maybe only one more opportunity for the sprinters and the real Giro, the one for the GC is now starting. We will face climbs, it’s going to be a different story. The team is performing well, they are all healthy, today we had young Sean trying to do the sprint and he got a good result for a guy who has ridden nearly two weeks at the Giro with a lot of hard work. So I’m confident for the next few days, the group is solid so let’s see what’s going to happen.
It wasn’t the plan for Sean to go for the sprint from the start, in the morning we knew that it is a difficult stage, especially technical in the final and dangerous so we wanted to protect our leaders. But at the end of the day the wind turned out not super strong and it was not as dangerous as yesterday and our road captain, Nate, gave him the free card to sprint as we were not in trouble.”
Stage 12: Cuneo – Pinerolo
It was a two pronged plan in the team bus this morning, Sean Bennett was to get into the break and Hugh Carthy to ride himself into the white jersey. Success achieved on both counts. As the first day in the mountains fired the peloton up over the last climb, the Montoso attacks came from most of the general classification teams. If day one in the mountains is anything to go by we can expect more of this drama over the coming week.
“On the climb it was just a selection made, Bora was setting a hard pace then people started attacking, Landa and Lopez were up there. I hung on and hung on and then just over the top of the climb I lost contact with the group but I came back after the descent. I was in the same group as Tanel and Sean, who had been in the break earlier on, he had come back to help us ride on the front of the group to bring down the gap to Lopez.
The last couple kilometers to go my legs were pretty tired, by that point it was quite an intense ending after the chasing back into the group, I got distanced but I held onto enough time to take the white jersey.”
The white jersey hasn’t really been my objective, it hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind, but to get it on today’s stage it was a nice ending and it was good teamwork in the end. I would have liked my legs to have been a bit better in the final and at the top of the climb but it’s the first day in the mountains and it was a hot day and we’ve had a few easy days. Hopefully now after having a hard second half of the stage in my legs now things will look up.”
“We had two targets today one was to try and win the stage and the second one was to target the white jersey. We knew that the overall for the young guys was close and Hugh was just in front of guys that were supposedly not as strong as him in the climb but of course I was not sure. The focus was to stay with the leader of the race and he just did it, it was a little bit full gas for him but at the end of the day he got the white jersey and that’s a great result for a young like him. The efforts he did to arrive here at the Giro and then the performance in the time trial that’s the point. Then today just to stay with the attack of the GC contenders was not easy for him but at the end of the day he was there, so compliments to him.
This is the first day of climbing and the race has already opened with everybody, all the GC guys and the climbers already are full gas, it’s going to be a hard Giro d’Italia. You’re going to see a lot of this strategy. GC contenders attacking from far because Roglič is not at all easy to beat. They did it already today with Astana sending Lopez up the road and Landa with Movistar and Yates will be the next one. But anyway, we are pretty confident, especially because we have two riders in the main group of 20 riders with Tanel and Hugh.”
Hugh was suffering a bit but Tanel is in a really good way so we can get a good opportunity sooner or later to try to win one stage. But we just need to stay focussed and to assess or fix the strategy day by day. Looking into the course, looking into what the others are doing, you need to be smart and use the brain but now with the confidence that we have also legs to do something.”
Stage 13: Pinerolo – Ceresole Reale
Not one rider lined up on their bike at the start line of today’s stage thinking it was going to be an easy day. With the first cat one climb that ended with the first summit finish for this Giro d’Italia the whole day was pacey right from the start. When a stage is 196km long and the break never manages to draw a lead out more than two and a half minutes that has the telltale sign it was a hard day.
“I hope that I had a bit of an off day today because I didn’t feel as good as yesterday I have to admit. I was really lucky to have, both times when I was dropped, some riders from other teams to follow and I didn’t have to bridge back to the bunch by myself. So I was able to limit the loss and in the end it was still a good day. I wish I could be one minute faster on the last climb but I really gave it my everything and I think today everyone finished the race empty and tired.”
“Today’s stage on paper was one for the break but the last climb was really long and also was a stage for the GC, so that means from the beginning of the stage everybody was trying to be in the break. Early on a bunch split and soon it was divided into two big bunches and we had five riders over the first two groups. We had the idea to put Joe into the break and he made it but the fact that the break was made on a really long and hard climb meant that maybe 90% of the riders who were in that group were really strong climbers.
Some of the riders in that group were dangerous to the GC which meant that the distance was really controlled which made the race really hard. Then on the last climb Joe did a really important job, because he knew he wasn’t going to be able to win the stage, so he waited for Tanel and helped him on the climb ride back to Roglič and Nibali.”
Stage 14: Saint-Vincent – Courmayeur
When the first climb of the day comes within 7km of the neutral start it’s best to kick the day off on the turbo trainers making sure those legs are warmed up and ready to fly up mountains. With four big climbs on today’s stage it was always going to be another day where there would be attacking amongst the main GC. Our aim was to be in the break in another attempt to take a stage win, it started with Hugh Carthy showing himself at the front and finished with a strong ride from Joe Dombrowski hanging in with the big GC contenders and taking ninth place on the stage classification.
“It was pretty much about sitting on, I didn’t feel good on the climb. It was sort of a selection from the back I think, so I didn’t really see that many people getting dropped but every time I saw one bike length I would try and close it, but in a really controlled fashion. You don’t notice it much on TV but if someone lets one bike length open up and you’re pegged on a climb like that, just closing one meter can kinda kill you.
And then they started attacking each other about 2km from the top and I’m not really able to follow those guys when they accelerate so I figured I’d just ride my pace. I came off again just before the top and luckily Simon Yates was there and he asked me if I’d work and said, ‘yeah of course’ to try and bring it back. And we brought it back just before the climb up to here. So yeah, it was a good day.”
“I think we did a great stage as a team, first in the break with Hugh and then with Joe. He was moving along with the GC contenders so we are there with form and we are focussed on doing a great performance in the mountains to try and win a mountain stage. Fortunately we are close but we didn’t reach the result that we want. Personally I’m proud of what all the riders are doing here.
Joe is a rider who is stepping up, this takes time, he arrived in this Giro in a good shape but not top-top but now he’s performing and he’s growing so we are confident for the next hard stages. But we’ll see, as I keep saying, it’s a really hard Giro.
Stage 15: Ivrea – Como
Oh Como, you did not disappoint. With a break of two riders that at one point had a lead of 15 minutes over the peloton, the day saw that lead yo-yo, one minute it looked like they’d be caught by the chasing peloton, the next managing to extend the lead again. Dario Caltado managed to take the stage win from a 218km day in the break. Hugh Carthy showed his legs were back again and used them to launch an early attack causing a ripple effect of attacks behind him from the main GC contenders. After plunging down into Como with some of the best descenders in the peloton, Carthy came away with a mighty impressive fourth place and a three point gain overall, up to 14th place. That now brings week two to a close, and if the last few days of exciting racing are anything to go by, hang onto your seats for the final week, it’s going to be thriller.
“Legs came back today, yesterday they were lacking a little bit but today I felt fresh all day. To attack like I did on the final climb was instinctive and I knew going early is to mess with people’s heads. I just knew I had to a time trial to the top of the climb and there were plenty of people to keep me motivated along the way.
“Following Nibali and Carapaz on the descent was nice, you get caught up in it and the fear goes out your head, it was good to ride instinctively. The rest day is feeling well deserved now for everyone, I just need to switch off now and then hopefully come back again a bit stronger.”
Joe Dombrowski crashed en route to Como. He recovered and finished the stage with the general classification group. He suffered minor road rash and muscle contusions. Dombrowski displayed no concussion symptoms.
Week 3 – Stage 16: Lovere – Ponte di Legno
There’s no telling how the legs are going to feel after a rest-day, riders wake up just hoping they have won the rest-day lottery and the legs are wanting to play game. Today their legs were good. With Joe Dombrowski and Nate Brown making it into a break of 21 strong riders then on the final climb, the Mortirolo, the attacks really started.
As GC contender Vincenzo Nibali attacked off the the front of the GC contenders group, Hugh Carthy jumped minutes later and bridged across. Riding on Nibali’s wheel, staying with him to the end of the race. As the group swelled to eventually include Carthy’s teammate, Dombrowski, the pair rode in with the group of GC contenders with Nibali just making it across the line ahead of Carthy. A fifth place for Carthy and eighth for Dombrowski sees them move up the GC to 13th and 14th respectively.
“We were aiming for Joe, Nate and maybe Tanel in the break, we were wanting two riders in there. Because we expected a good group in front, around 15 – 20 riders. Hugh was still a bit closer to the leaders and the white jersey for them to maybe let him in. Unfortunately Joe after his crash two days ago he was not in his best shape but anyway, he still performed. It was good that he managed to finish together with Hugh. Nate also did a great job during the day, trying to help Joe, he was super. The riders did exactly what they had to do, I’m really proud of their effort. It was good to see them up there with some of the best riders in the world”
“I knew that my legs were good at the start of the stage and usually after a rest-day you know straight away if you’re going to have problems. So I knew that I felt good so I sat there all day and just conserved and conserved energy. Then we hit the Mortirolo and the race just exploded, the teams started riding harder and harder and then Nibali attacked and I let him get a bit of a gap and then I bridged across to him. I probably could have waited in the group I was with because in the end it all came back together with four or five of us but I think when you’re feeling good and you’re confident then it’s best to ride with an ambitious head. I’m really happy with how I performed.
“I had teammates up the road when I was riding with Nibali and he wanted me to work on the climb but when it’s at 10/12 percent gradient there’s not much shelter behind someone. Then when we were in the valley we were instructed not to race with them, it was their GC race after all. We were taking a chance that things might come back together with the breakaway riders but it didn’t. Then I sprinted in the end and got fifth and Nibali beat me but I don’t think he was happy with that. It wasn’t a disrespect thing it was just bike racing.”
Stage 17: Commezzadura – Anterselva / Antholz
Another day in the Giro d’Italia and it meant another day of being in the break and going all in for the stage win. Today it was Tanel Kangert who was up there with the group of 18 riders that managed to escape up the road. But it was not an easy day to get away, after many attempts failed before the final selection managed to draw a lead out that peaked just over six minutes. There was a constant yo-yoing between the riders as they rode over mountains and through valleys, where after fighting to stay at the front end Kangert came away with 6th place on the stage.
“I have to say the whole day I was suffering a bit, I’m far from my best legs but somehow I recovered for the last climb I maybe could have got third in the stage if I had gone really, really deep but a victory was impossible for me today and I also spent lots and lots of energy in the beginning trying to get into the break. I was the only one from the team who had to be in the break so I was following everyone who jumped from the bunch, so I spent quite a lot of bullets already in the beginning.
I was almost in every important move in the beginning, I was following the guys who I saw wanted to be in the break especially this Latvian champion, I was sure that he would be in it and in the end it was almost all him who created the break. So I was following him, every time he went I went after him.”
Stage 18: Valdaora – Santa Maria di Sala
At the start of the day the chances for the three-man breakaway to stay clear and take the stage win was thought highly improbable, especially as it was the last chance saloon for the remaining sprinters. But as Italian TV showed one time gap, a minute less than the official time, there was confusion which then lead to a mad chase to try and catch the break. Meaning the last 40 kilometers of the race a galloping peloton charged towards the finish line averaging at just over 50kph trying to desperately bring back the break. With meters left, breakaway rider, Damiano Cima managed just to cross the finish line ahead of Pascual Ackermann. Sean Bennett managed to rack up his second top 10 at his first Grand Tour with 9th place.
Now that was a classic Giro unpredictable finish.
“I’ve been up there in a few stages and never was really clear if I was going to go for it or not, but yeah I was really looking forward to today for the last few days. I knew that I had an open role to try and go for it so I did. The last 40km it was really fast, teams were pulling really hard and the peloton was stretched out. But that makes it a little bit less chaos in the final, because there are less people fighting at the front and it keeps people more in position, because it makes it a lot harder for people to move up from the back.
“I feel like I’m getting better, used to being up there in the final but I’m not used to sprinting in the final yet, that’s very new to me, but honestly this is the first race that I’ve ever tried to sprint for myself. It’s been fun learning and trying it out.”
Stage 19: Treviso – San Martino di Castrozza
Things don’t always go to plan, that’s bike racing. After 19 stages it’s far from easy, everything hurts, physical and mental fatigue have long set in and with another huge mountain day ahead it’s not plain sailing to Verona quite yet. As Esteban Chaves ascended up the mountain to victory, Hugh Carthy once again put in some attacks whilst climbing alongside the GC contenders up towards this stunning Dolomite summit finish.
“The plan was to be in the break, but from the plan to what we do in the race sometimes it doesn’t work. It was a start where the break went immediately more or less after kilometer zero, but it wouldn’t have been too difficult to catch the break, just mentally we were not super today. We didn’t start in the front, and maybe there was too much concentration on what is coming tomorrow.
At one point Nate was bridging over to the break with another rider but unfortunately his chain snapped and he had to stop on the side of the road and wait for a new bike. But on top of that I think when we arrive at the end of the Giro everyone is tired, the entire bunch. It wasn’t a disaster because until now we have been in the breakaway pretty much everyday and I’m proud of my guys for that.”
Stage 20: Feltre – Croce d’Aune-Monte Avena
If there was ever a stage to bring the mountains to a close you would be hard pushed to find one better. As the jagged Dolomiti soared out the ground, the peloton pedalled every last drop of energy out of themselves to rise above the mountainous shark teeth peaks. Tanel Kangert made it into the main break from the beginning of the day and his teammates Hugh, Joe and Nate weren’t ever far behind. As the GC group caught the break Tanel attacked again taking another four riders with him for company. Eventually chasers caught them on the climb and he was first over the line for EF with a sixth place on the stage.
“It was a GC day and we were in a good break but Movistar were also chasing to win the stage they were not just playing to ride to the end they were wanting to win with Landa or the pink jersey. At the end for us there was stress big time in front, but at the end of the day it was great team work even if it would have been better to win the stage. Hugh wasn’t on his best day but I think he did a great Giro also the others, like Nate and Joe they were up there fighting all day long. So I think as a group you have to be proud of what we did. We had four up there ready to try and take the win, Tanel did a great job in the break. I am definitely happy to have four riders up there on a stage like today.”
Stage 21: Verona – Verona
There’s a mountain of mixed feelings at the end of a Grand Tour: relief, fatigue, happiness, pride, morose, elation, the list goes on. Over 21 days on the road, a few thousand kilometers travelled, different beds, hotels, good food, bad food from high mountains to coastlines, there are many highs and lows. By the time the last day arrives all the weary faces gather together to roll the dice one more time. That first stage, 23 days ago, feels like it was a year ago so much has happened in between.
The final stage was an individual time trial, Chad Haga took the stage win and Richard Carapaz the overall general classification. Although there were no stage wins, the team came fourth on the team classification, Hugh Carthy finished 11th, Joe Dombrowski 12th and Tanel Kangert 18th. Our two rookies made it the way to Verona after facing into some of their toughest days on the bike and road captain, Nate Brown demonstrated he has the skills to guide the team and help motivate his teammates to keep going out there everyday and turning themselves inside out over and over again.
“Sometimes things just happen because they are taking a natural course, I think that’s the best way to put it. Sometimes you can’t rush success and results, they just happen when they happen, sometimes they might not happen until you’re 30, it’s just the way it is. If you spend a lot of time I think it’s natural and normal to worry about results, you’re stressed about performing. I think now I can put a little bit less pressure on myself because I know I can be there with the best over three weeks and over the course of the first half of the season I’ve been up there.”
“We were always present, in the big and hard stages we were always there and part of the race. We had one bad day for Hugh who probably could have finished top 10 without that day but then still if you start the Giro and they tell you you’re going to have four riders every mountain stage in the top playing to win it’s a good sign.
“It was not easy for Sean and Jonathan to finish the Giro, it was tough for them on the climbs, for young guys, but this is cycling, this is the best way to learn. We worked very good to catch more or less everyday the breakaway of the day, especially climbing, that was impressive. We also had some good moves, for example the one of Hugh in Como anticipating and doing something strategically important not only that day but for his future also.
“We got a lot of experience on managing the three week Giro and a huge step ahead for several riders here. But it’s another step ahead for the team since the start of the season, we’ve just confirmed here at the Giro that we are building something. That’s good.”
Another day, another drama, another day in the life of the Giro.