Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Giro 2008: the 24% ITT on a gravel road

Ouch. That hurt. Well it touched 24%, and 20%, and all points in between. And it ended with 5 km of wheel-spinning gravel. I have ridden a flat section of gravel a few times in races and training, puncturing only once (touch wood). It's a likely event though, to split a sidewall on sharp stone. That alone would be on your mind, except that with a few 20% + ramps to get over the mind is more focused on rear wheel traction than puncturing. Think of your favourite (if 'favourite' is the right word) steep climb, one where you have to get out of the saddle to keep going. You know the type, a climb that tests your resolve, where turning around is simply impossible and putting your foot down will likely result in toppling over... that's what the Giro just went up.

Around these parts I can think of a few smooth but shady climbs of around 24% where the dew or recent rain turns the surface slick enough to wheelspin. You have traction for a while - then no drive, just a sudden loss of resistance as your pedal sinks too swiftly. You sit down again to put weight on the rear wheel, or lean back just enough to regain traction. Big, sudden efforts are wasted, everything is smooth and gentle. You have trouble now keeping the front wheel on the deck... and look to weave across the camber of the road, searching for the 'flatter' bits. Now try racing on that.

Ricco cracked a little bit, but not enough to lose all hope. Di Luca suffered and lost. Simoni proved the wisdom and strength of a long career with a great ride. Selle nearly pulled off a stunning hat-trick. It was quite a race. But it was Pellizotti who took the climb on and won. Alas Contador was not far behind and retains the lead. He looks strong enough and it will take a mighty attack to dislodge him.

My favourite part remains the gravel: Rujano's finishing time was 41'15, which eventually netted him sixth place. Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems) had a technical problem that forced him to walk the last half kilometre, but with gradients of up to 24 percent, this wasn't much slower. No following cars were allowed today and the only technical assistance came from motorbike support.