Sunday 16 June 2019

Conor Dunne's Giro D'Italia diary: 'When your team-mate taps you on the arse and says 'go, go, go!', you just go'

Monday May 20: Stage 10: Ravenna to Modenna (145km)

Double stage winner Pascal Ackermann (Bora Hansgrohe) rides to the finish after crashing with one kilometre to go on today's stage of the Giro d'Italia.
Double stage winner Pascal Ackermann (Bora Hansgrohe) rides to the finish after crashing with one kilometre to go on today's stage of the Giro d'Italia.

Conor Dunne

Our 5km trip to the stage start this afternoon went a bit astray when, after half an hour's driving, we passed the same hotel we had just left. Our bus driver Adolfo got a huge cheer from everyone on board for that one.

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As today and tomorrow are the last two days of this Giro suited to the sprinters and we want to try and deliver our fast man Davide Cimolai, a win before we hit the mountains, there was a bit of pressure on us after the team meeting this morning. I left for the start feeling a bit nervous.

On the way to the line, I did a quick interview with Global Cycling Network, which didn't exactly calm me down.

I knew I had seven minutes to go before the off but rushed the interview a little bit, just in case. As I hopped on my bike afterwards though, I saw some of the official cars begin to leave and I thought 'Shit, I've missed the start'.

I sprinted into town but when I got there and couldn't find anything to do with the race, panic set in and I had to ask a few fans where the start line was. Thankfully, the cars I had seen were driving ahead of the race and I made it to the back of the stationary peloton with a handful of seconds to spare before we took off.

We rolled out in sunshine and warm temperatures this afternoon and after two riders attacked and went up the road at the drop of the flag, the peloton ignored them and took it really easy for about 90km.

After a rest day, you never know how your legs are going to react so the flat route and easy start was very welcome today. There was plenty of time for chatting to people in the early kilometres and I found myself riding alongside Costa Rican rider Andre Amador of Movistar.

I've been wanting to talk to this guy for so long because, of all the countries I've been to, Costa Rica is my favourite.

After the world championships in Richmond, Canada, a few years back Stacey and I took a plane to Costa Rica and stayed there for a month, backpacking and travelling around. It was one of the best trips of my life. We both loved it and really want to go back one day.

I regret sometimes that I can't speak more languages. I speak a bit of French, pidgin' Spanish and pidgin' Italian but a lot of guys can speak four languages or more really well.

Amador speaks English pretty well and it turns out that he lives in the area where Stacey and I travelled and, after chatting for a while, he told me that I should come over and go riding with him.

He's probably forgotten all about it now but, in my head, I'm planning it already.

I also spoke to Cork man Eddie Dunbar today, at first slagging him that Team Ineos must be going soft if they only made them do an hour on the rest day yesterday instead of six. Eddie seems to be going really well in his first Grand Tour and I think he will give Irish fans something to shout about in the next two weeks.

After a relaxed start though, it was elbows out again for the last 20km.

With 13km to go, somebody rubbed a wheel a few places in front of me and I could see race leader Valerio Conti and a few others suddenly veer sideways. Directly in front of me, Elia Viviani was skidding in an effort to avoid it and I had slammed on too.

I was sure somebody was going to go down there and then, but it was just one those moments where you keep riding and wonder how nobody fell.

After that it was very messy at the head of the race, with six teams vying for position on the front until Lotto-Soudal really put the hammer down with about 8km to go.

Two kilometres later, I was riding on the left hand side of the bunch, a few rows back from the front, when my teammate Krists Neilands tapped me on the arse to tell me to move up.

I squeezed up the outside of the bunch with the guys tucked in behind me, only to come to a split in the road. I knew if I followed the wheels beside me to the right I'd save energy but might squeeze my teammates a bit and force them into the wind too early so I went the left of the bollards and found myself on the front of one part of the peloton while Lotto and the others rode on the other side of the split on the other side of the road.

A bit cooked from being out in the wind, I managed to get back onto the wheels of the FDJ lead-out train when the bollards disappeared with 4km to go and got my breath back a bit.

Krists gave me another tap with 3km to go and was telling me to 'go, go, go!'.

When you hear 'Go!' in the lead out train you just go. We'd been warned about a chicane inside the last 3km at the team meeting this morning. I had hoped to hang back a bit and stay in the wheels to go after the chicane but I was now on the front and could see it coming so I just tried to get into it first and keep the momentum going.

It was a lot tighter than I thought it would be but I got through it first and kicked out of it with 2.5km to go before flicking my elbow to let them know behind me that I was done.

As Spaniard Fran Ventoso of CCC attacked off the front with 2km to go, I eased over out of the sprinters' way and spent the next kilometre trying not to throw up.

As I tried to recover on the way to the line, there was carnage up ahead when a big crash brought down half the bunch with one kilometre to go. By the time I got there most of them were up off the road and riding in to the finish but a couple of the Trek guys were still on the deck so I hope they're okay.

Double stage winner Pascal Ackermann was one of those who crashed and I found myself riding to the line in a little group containing the German sprinter, who seemed to be in good spirits despite his jersey and shorts looking like they'd been put through a shredder.

French sprinter Arnaud Demare won the stage for FDJ with Cimo taking sixth, his best result so far and another top ten for the team. He was a bit unlucky today with the crash taking Krists out of the equation and leaving him with no help in the last kilometre.

We have another pan flat stage tomorrow, so we have another chance to get things right before we hit the mountains on Thursday.

Most of the slopes are covered in snow at the moment and there's some talk of whether we'll be able to get up them at all or not, so I'm in two minds whether I want it to snow even more to make sure we don't have to, or for it to melt in case they make us ride up them anyway.

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