Tuesday 25 July 2017

Sam Bennett's Giro d'Italia diary: 'Matteo ripped himself to shreds on the descent'

Tuesday, May 16, Stage 10: Foligno to Montefalco (39.8km Individual Time Trial)

Matteo Pelucchi hit the deck hard and spent the rest of the stage fighting to stay inside the time limit
Matteo Pelucchi hit the deck hard and spent the rest of the stage fighting to stay inside the time limit

Sam Bennett: Giro d'Italia Diary

As last night's hotel was only 15km from the start of today's individual time trial stage, I could have used the ride to the start as my warm-up this morning.

Factoring in my ability to get lost and the possibility of a puncture delaying my start though, I opted to go in the team car and warm up on the tacx home trainer beforehand instead.

Time trials in stage races see riders begin in reverse order of the General Classification, with the race leader always starting last and having the benefit of knowing the times of the riders in front him.

As my Italian team-mate Matteo Pelucchi began today in last place overall, he was first to roll down the start ramp at 12.45. A sprinter like me, Matteo was dropped on the ascent of the second-category Femmina Morta, with around 80km to go on stage five to Mount Etna.

Trying to make up for lost time and regain contact with the peloton on the descent, he hit the deck hard, ripped himself to shreds and spent the rest of the stage fighting a lone battle to stay inside the time limit.

The first I knew about his crash was when I stepped out of the shower after the stage and saw his cycling kit lying in tatters on the bus floor.

It looked like he'd been attacked by a pack of wolves.

Missing a lot of skin from his back, arms and hips, he's found it hard to sleep ever since and to rub salt into his gaping wounds, a block of cellophane-wrapped sticker books fell from the overhead compartment on the bus and landed on his back as we went around a corner the other day.

Not one to complain, though, Matteo has fought on for the last nine days and has always been in good humour and smiling.

I don't think I'd be able to do what he's been doing all week.

As I started this morning over an hour and a half behind race leader Nairo Quintana and just five places behind Matteo, I knew today's 49km race against the clock wouldn't have much bearing on either of our standings in the overall classification.

For me, today was a fine line between getting to the finish without exerting too much energy and activating my body enough to be ready when tomorrow's much harder mountain stage comes along.

I intended to wear a full skin suit today but it was too warm for long sleeves so I took my road suit instead, which is basically the same but with pockets.

As I wouldn't need any food for the stage, I just pinned my number over them to try and cut the drag, stashed my radio in the back of my teardrop helmet and left the mic in the car.

Expecting the winner to do a time of around 50 minutes today, I reckoned I needed to finish in a time of one hour ten to make the time cut and my coach decided on a power strategy for the day which broke the whole stage into the amount of watts needed to finish inside that time and also prepare my body for tomorrow with a few harder efforts.

The plan was to stay at around 270-300watts for the first 12km, where the first climb came.

My power was to increase to between 310 and 330 watts on the incline and go back down again on the 7km of flat that followed.

Another climb after 28km saw me up the ante again to 300-320 watts for 5km, go back down for the short descent before progressively increasing my power from 330watts to 370watts to give myself some hard training in the last 5km.

I knew I wouldn't remember any of this though, so I passed the text message on to my directeur sportif in the car and he relayed it to me as I rode.

After that, it was all about keeping down in a nice tuck, sticking to the plan and keeping an eye on the distance.

At the finish, my heart rate went up to 186bpm but my max power rating was only 704watts. With an average of 306watts, I never really went into the red so hopefully I will be that bit fresher for a very tough mountain stage tomorrow.

Finishing almost ten minutes slower than stage winner and new race leader Tom Dumoulin of Sunweb, I never troubled the Dutch time trial champion either but, unfortunately, Matteo's injuries caught up with him today and he finished just outside the time limit, which means he's out of this Giro.

To have to leave his home Tour having come here in really good form must be devastating for him.

We're going to miss him around the table here but hopefully he'll be back in action pretty soon.

Giro d'Italia,

Live, Eurosport 1, 12.0

Irish Independent

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