Sunday 16 June 2019

Conor Dunne's Giro D'Italia diary: 'A woman ran into the road and fell head-over-heels right in front of me'

Saturday May 18, Stage 8: Tortoreto Lido to Pesaro (239km)

Irish road race champion Conor Dunne finishes Stage 8 of the Giro D'Italia in Pesaro today
Irish road race champion Conor Dunne finishes Stage 8 of the Giro D'Italia in Pesaro today

Conor Dunne

Since leaving Bologna a week ago, my team have been staying in little hotels on our own but last night there were three other squads staying with us; Ag2r, Mitchelton-Scott and Bardiani, which made our accommodation feel more like a race hotel.

Between the pre-stage transfer, the racing itself and the post race transfer, there's not a lot of time left to do anything other than get massage, eat your dinner and go to bed on a race as big as this.

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Evening is the best time of the day on a race like the Giro because you're finished the stage and have food and rest to look forward to. My former teammate and 'No-Go Tour' companion Larry Warbasse now rides for Ag2r so he dropped into my room for 20 minutes after the stage yesterday and we had a good catch up, which was nice.

The only time of the day when you get to totally switch off is massage really.

If you're lucky, you can close your eyes and have a little nap on the massage table before going down for dinner.

Last night, Ruben (Plaza) got mistaken for a waiter for a few minutes by one of the hotel staff and was told that he couldn't eat with us riders, which gave us all a good laugh.

After dinner, a lot of riders spend their time on social media or scrolling through the internet but I prefer to call Stacey each evening and watch a few minutes of TV.

To be honest, after eight days and almost 37 hours in the saddle, I'm finding it hard to muster up the energy to do anything else.

Time goes by so quickly that pretty soon you find yourself downstairs having breakfast and back to square one again.

This morning, we had 239km ahead of us, making it the longest stage of this year's Giro by a kilometre.

I had a bit of a panic before the start when I realised the race was starting at 11.15, instead of what I thought was 11.25, and barely managed to get out of the bus and onto the line with 30 seconds to spare.

Although I spent almost six hours in the saddle after that, the fog of fatigue that accompanied today's stage means a lot of it is a blur.

I was grateful for an easy start today, as we ignored two breakaway riders on a suicide mission and coasted along a big flat open road for the first three and a half hours.

Halfway through the stage, I got my second fright of the day, just as we came out of the feed zone.

As team soigneurs hand up cloth musettes containing food and bottles to riders in this zone, a lot of fans gather at the exit to collect discarded empty drinking bottles, musettes or anything else they can get their hands on as a souvenir.

Today, a woman chasing a bouncing empty bottle ran into the road, tripped and fell head-over-heels right in front of me. I was doing 50kph at the time and almost ploughed into her, swerving at the last minute to avoid her. My heart was in my mouth at the time but a few minutes later I was eating my meals-on-wheels and back in the race.

I don't think many expected today's finale to be as hard as it was. Lotto-Soudal put three men on the front for their Aussie sprinter Caleb Ewan and the build-up started about 60km out, with the pace increasing dramatically as we tackled the much hillier second part of the course.

After riding near the centre of the peloton for most of the day, I planned to move up to give our sprinter Davide Cimolai a hand coming into the final sprint but the hectic pace meant I found it almost impossible.

The frustrating thing was that sometimes I looked up to see the TV motorbike right in front of the peloton, with the leading guys riding in their slipstream, so it was no wonder it was hard to move up. You notice it every day on big races and it's a bit annoying. I think it has a big effect on races sometimes.

For the next 50km, I was trapped in a vicious circle. I didn't have the legs to move up on the climbs, the descents were too technical and narrow to do anything on and then the next climb started straight away.

Spitting rain on the final descent, with about 15km to go, made it even more difficult. Guys were afraid to take any risks on the hairpins that led to the finish and were letting wheels go in the middle of the bunch, with gaps appearing everywhere. I tried to jump around them each time but there were too many to close and my chances of getting up to help Davide were done about 12km out.

In the end, I think about 70 guys came to the finish together, with Davide taking seventh on the stage which was won by Ewan.

I was frustrated afterwards because I felt I could have helped him in the finale but I was too far back today and just didn't have the legs.

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