Cyclo cross is my favourite cycling discipline so I was really pleased to see that they'd included some in this year's Giro d'Italia.
Erm, actually not! That was officially a road race stage from Carrara to Montalcino (Tuscany), but held on the characteristic "strade bianche" or gravelly unsurfaced roads seen in this region of Italy. There is a pro race, and also a cyclosportive (Eroica) which takes place on these roads, but we normally see these in the early spring or early autumn (respectively) and the conditions are usually dry.
So this is what happens when you run such a race on a rainy day. One great muddy mess! As I said, I like cyclo cross, and all that sliding around in the mud is actually quite fun in a big kid sort of way. But cyclo cross races last for no more than an hour, and I'm good with that. However, enduring all this cack as part of a 220km (almost 140miles) race would just go a little beyond a joke!
I suppose that for most of those guys it's just like doing a "Spring Classic" - a Paris-Roubaix or Tour of Flanders - but with no tapering beforehand and no recovery day, just racing 100 mountainous miles the day before, and the day after! Gosh those guys are as hard as nails!
And huge respect to Australia's Cadel Evans who won the stage in a hotly contested sprint finish - a worthy result for the current World Champion.