Yesterday, I set off ahead of the rest of my clubmates fearing that I would arrive only to find the lunchtime picnic had already been demolished but mainly so as not to keep anyone waiting for me. It was decidedly chilly as I left St Jeannet, having driven there in the car. I was well wrapped up in my long sleeved jersey, gilet and leg warmers. Although it was much balmier later in the day, I stayed thus clad.
Despite the cold, I was going surprisingly well and was joined by another early starter on the road to Bouyon. We rode on together until Roquesteron where, concerned that this might be the last bastion, I took a comfort break in one of the cafes. You do not want to be caught short, or rather I don’t, on the plateau: it’s very exposed.
I then plodded into the unknown as I’ve never ridden this particular stretch of road. It was largely uphill through Sigale, Collongues, Brianconnet, St Auban and Malamaire then fairly flat across the plateau. At this time of year, it’s pretty deserted and we saw few cars and few other cyclists. The countryside, thanks to the recent combination of sunshine and showers, was looking truly magnificent and I rode to the lake at Thorenc where two of the wives had prepared a magnificent picnic for us. The boys had overtaken me on the long uphill stretch and had already feasted by the time I arrived. I only stopped long enough to down a couple of cokes and a ham sandwich before remounting and setting off towards home.
I was determined that they were not going to overtake me on the way back. I set off at a brisk pace and really pushed on the descents. After the climb up St Pons to Coursegoules, its pretty much downhill all the way. I made it back to the car without being caught though to be honest our paths would have diverged after Carros. When I checked with them today, it appears that I wasn’t caught thanks to time lost on two punctures. In any event, I broke 10 hours by 14 minutes. Job well done.
I got back home in time to witness Pippo Pozzato, resplendent in the Italian champion’s jersey, take Italy’s first stage win of the Giro from a breakaway. Not one that had been away all day, but one that had slipped away in the final kilometers and was composed largely of the recently dethroned favourites, minus Evans, who managed to pull back a few seconds on those better placed on GC.
Well wouldn’t you know it, victories are just like buses. You wait ages for one and then another one comes along soon after. Yes, homeboy Manuel Belletti (Colnago CSF-Inox) won the sprint for the line from a breakaway into Cesenatico, a stage devoted to another local, one Marco Pantani.
Karpets, the scariest looking rider in the peloton, who was in the breakaway, took back over two minutes to leapfrog from 19th to 12th on GC. Otherwise, the status quo was maintained. However, it all kicks off tomorrow with a very lumpy stage which finishes in Asolo, home to one of my dearest friends. I do hope she’ll be watching it live.