Julian Dean Diary
2009 Giro d'Italia: And so on and on it went...
Finally we've wrapped up the Giro - the 100th edition of the World's second greatest bike race.
After Tuesday's rest day, I was looking forward to what I hoped would be a more settled and relaxed race as the pattern of the race became more apparent. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Every stage of the last week was just as intense as the first week. Even the two mountain top finishes were stressful. The first of which, immediately after the rest day, looked probably the easiest stage of the race, as it was only 80km long. However the final 30km took us straight up a mountain. Because it was such a short stage, us non-climbers still had to ride solidly to finish inside the time-cut so the pressure was still on for much of race until we knew we'd make it. So contrary to what I'd longed for, there was nothing 'easy' about that stage....
Stage 18 turned out to be one of only two stages where a breakaway would ride to the finish for the win. Somehow, through a rare stroke of luck, I managed to pick the right time and follow a wheel that landed me in the break with 24 other old mates. It was pretty funny actually, as I hadn't seen the front of the race the whole day and at times, was swinging off the back 'til the one moment that the break went. It was nothing but pure luck. The one effort at hunting down a breakaway and there I was and off I went!
The first 20km of the stage was uphill and I actually thought that it would've been hard up to the top of the climb by which time the break would have established itself. But no, instead it was all on like Donkey Kong for the first 80km, with groups going and coming back willy nilly until I, spending most of that first 80km bringing up the rear 'til this moment, found myself in the right place at the right time. I followed the right wheel and our breakaway was the one to stick. We were a group of 25 riders - a big break - and it was always going to be a bit of a lottery coming in to the finish.
Once in move, it was a matter of doing my bit - but not too much. We were a big group with a lot of very capable riders. 15 km from the finish, a group of 7 went away from our 25 and they went on to win the stage. Danny Pate was in there for us so once that group was established, I couldn't do much except jump on the other guys who tried to close the gap, and shut them down. Danny went on to get second which was pretty sweet. It felt good to be a participater in the race again instead of just filling the bunch, like it seems I've been doing most days. Although, to be honest, I was a bit disappointed that I didn't make the final group to go for the win.
The last couple of days were uphill finishes and as the GC got tighter at the top, the intensity of the race increased with the time bonus seconds available at intermediate sprints and at the finish, looking like they could possibly make the difference to the overall in the race. Pretty strange after 3 weeks and over 3500 km of racing.
The finale of the race was different to other years, with the finish being in Rome - as opposed to the traditional Milan finish - and it was a short but very technical 14km TT. I didn't get to see it on TV as I never do when I'm doing these races, but after doing a warm up lap of the course, which started and finished outside the Colliseum and looped through Rome past many of it's most famous sights, including the Vatican, I imagine that it would've looked great on TV. Despite the fact that it was a shit circuit with dangerous turns and a crap road surface making it horrible to ride on. Unfortunately it's not always about what is good for the riders.
The historical significance of finishing the Giro in Rome and in such a way as we did, did have its appeal to me though and it was nice to put it up there with some of the other great places I have raced around, through and over. Such as Tiananmen Square and the Great wall of China, the Acropolis in Athens, Central Park in Sydney, underneath the Petronas Towers in KL, around and through central London, and up and down the Champs Elysees in Paris.
And thus the Giro ended with what became it's trademark of this edition over the last 3 wks - with intensity and 'down-to-the-wire' excitement. Although Menchov crashed within the last km, his mechanic flicked him a legendary bike change and off he rode, pumped up on adrenalin, to his first Giro d'Italia victory. Hats off to a valiant ride.
As far as my form goes, I have finished much better than I started here. The final few stages I would even go as far to say that I was feeling good - which I don't say too often about myself.
From here I go home for 10 days and then off to a 3 day race in Holland. From there, all going well, the Tour will be my gig in July. Between now and then the first task becomes recovering well, then I need to try and lose a couple kgs and sharpen myself up. I hope to go do a couple weeks at altitude if time allows, and I will try and look for my own chances in this year's Tour in some of the more selective sprints. For the flat out sprints, I'll be there to help out our rising amercian star to a stage win - which I'm also looking forward to guiding him to, as I really believe that he is the only rider in the world that is capable of beating Cavendish in a drag race.
The whole team here at Roadcycling.com wishes you great success in the 2009 Giro Julz! Burn rubber!