A brief chronicle of the week-long stage in Sardinia.
Sunday 20th April
Stage 1 - Gran Fondo di Sardegna - 115km/1600m climbing - 5hrs 5mins (Winning woman: Maria Cristina Prati - 3hrs 14mins)
As this stage also doubled as a Gran Fondo (and a stand-alone event) this meant that many people were over just for this, thus the swelling the number of participants to over 1,000.
The stage began with alot of fanfare as we all congregated at the top of the main street while announcements were made by Tonino the organiser, and other race officials.
Fred was not happy to have not trained much for this. Exams and work commitments had kept him away from training. I had done some, but on this morning I felt rough due to a lack of sleep. The undulating course would take us south towards Tempio Pausania, across to the coast, up to Costa Paradiso and Vignola, then back to Santa Teresa.
The race began promptly at 9am, with a very fast pace set by the riders from the gun. As I set off I immediately fouund myself in a group that had a good rhythm going. Various people did turns on the front, though I just stayed in the middle and sheltered myself from the wind.
Unfortunately a combination of fatigue, too much wine, and dehydration meant that just keeping up with the fast pace of the group tired me out. I ended up getting cramp after 30 miles. I had cramp in both legs - starting in my quads, then in my calf muscles. The pain was unbearable and I just couldn't ride. So the 30 miles between the first and second feed stations were spent twiddling the pedals at 5 miles an hour, and having to stop and stretch off. A number of people stopped to ask if I was ok. I even had an offer from the sag wagon, but I was determined to get to the finish line on my bike. What a disaster, what a shame.
Somehow I managed to get back riding in the last 20 miles. A large group of guys rode past, just near Vignola. It looked like the "autobus", sweeping up all the dropped souls who were beginning to lose the will to live in the head wind. I managed to latch onto the group. Luckily, they kept the pace easy, even slowing down to wait for those who had been dropped. I finally rolled over the line after 5hours 5mins. Quite slow, but just within the cut-off time.
Fred took 3hrs 33mins. He was pleased with his result.
Monday 21st April
Stage 2 - L'Alta Gallura - 90km/790m climbing - 3hrs 20mins (Winning woman: Melissa Merloni - 2hrs 23mins)
A much better day in the saddle for me. I stuck with a group most of the way round. Unfortunately the group fell apart in the closing stages, and by the time I reached the straight road back to Santa Teresa I was on my own. I'd stuck with a slower group, so as to take it easy, but some of the people tired themselves out and our initial 8-rider group was reduced to 3 or 4. Then I made the mistake of stopping at the feedstation, instead of doing like the others who grabbed their bottle of water and sorted themselves out while riding. They clearly had better bike handling skills than I since it was necessary for me to stop at the side of the road to carry out the same operations. So as a result, I ended up riding the last 12 miles on my own into a head wind. Nevertheless I was still pleased with the result and the fact that I had stayed in the group.
Fred was having a good Giro. Despite not having done much training, he managed to stick with one of the fastest groups and get round in a time of 2hrs 36mins.
Tuesday 22nd April
Stage 3 - Le Rocce della Gallura - 92km/1100m climbing - 3hrs 37mins (Winning woman: Melissa Merloni - 2hrs 43mins)
I was definitely beginning to feel tired by now, and felt the need for more and more sleep. Waking up was getting more difficult too. As there'd be more climbing today I resolved to just ride with an easy group and stay with it regardless of how slow they would go !
The group I was with contained a team of riders that distinguished itself by being very vocal. More significantly, this club contained the "Maglia Nera" - the last placed rider in the General Classification. The riders from this club are actually quite strong, but they had a thing about getting this black jersey. Maybe it was the chance to get a stylish looking jersey for free !
In any case the riders in the group had a good sense of pace judgement and how to get round the course within the cut-off - which was more important to me !
Today the group rode at a reasonable pace, and even when they picked things up on the long flat sections and were going at 23mph I was able to keep up with the group. I find that Italian riders are really good descenders, and this group of riders were no exception. I subsequently got dropped when the group hit the long, fast descents. Luckily they slowed down and waited for me when the road levelled off.
So I rolled over the line pleased with the ride. However I still felt pretty tired, and I was already thinking about the hill climb we would be tackling the following day.
Fred did 2hrs 55mins and was looking forward to tackling the hill climb - hills are his forte.