Thursday 23 May 2019

Conor Dunne's Giro d'Italia diary: 'With 60km to go I was busting for a pee - but you never stop on your own'

Monday May 13, Stage 3: Vinci to Orbetello (220km)

National road race champion Conor Dunne gets a bottle from his team car during today’s 3rd stage of the giro d’Italia.
National road race champion Conor Dunne gets a bottle from his team car during today’s 3rd stage of the giro d’Italia.

Conor Dunne

My Israel Cycling Academy team stayed in a smaller hotel last night, which was quite nice.

Unlike some of the bigger budget WorldTour teams, we don't have a kitchen truck or a team chef with us on this Giro, so we just eat whatever the hotel puts up in front of us for dinner each evening.

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In fairness, the pasta and rice in Italy are always good and there are always fresh salads around too. Last night we had a really good feed of pasta, tuna steak and some of the best focacia I've ever had, followed by crostata for dessert.

I was pretty tired after the stage so I went to bed early and slept well until a storm outside blew our window open and I had to get up in the middle of the night to stop the blinds flapping around and shut the window.

I probably would have let my room-mate Guillaume Boivin do it but he'd arrived back to our bedroom looking pretty beaten up after yesterday's stage.

A touch of wheels in the peloton with 65km to go saw 'G' earn the unfortunate token of being the first crash victim of this Giro. Hitting the deck at around 50kph, the Canadian ended up on the side of the road with bad cuts and bruises to his knees and elbows, and last night his ankle was puffed up like a balloon.

Going to bed, he wasn't sure whether he'd be able to start or not today but with his ankle strapped up and his knees and elbows bandaged he rolled out of Vinci with the rest of us for a mammoth 220km stage to Orbetello this morning.

The forecast had been for really strong crosswinds so when Japanese rider Sho Hatsuyama of Nippo-Vini Fantini went off up the road in a kamikaze move after 15km it was no surprise there were no takers to join him.

The gusts were so strong at the top of an uncategorised climb after 35km that a few guys in front of me had to stick their leg out to stabilise themselves against the breeze. Thankfully, the wind direction changed after that and although it was a nervous enough day it wasn't too bad physically.

Mid-stage, I got to have a chat with my old Aqua Blue teammate Larry Warbasse. Last September, when our team folded, neither of us were sure we'd get another one. With our race program cancelled and our careers up in the air, we were left with a lot of time on our hands and we decided to go on an adventure on our bikes as a way of distracting ourselves from the predicament we were in.

We had no plan, no backup and no idea how popular it would become. We ended up riding 1300km, in 50 hours over eight days on our 'No-Go Tour'. We climbed all of the highest mountains in the Alps; Col du Glandon, Col du Finestre, Alpe d'Huez. We ate baguettes at the side of the road, fixed our own punctures, sang songs and generally had a good laugh together. We posted quite a lot of it on social media and were amazed to get a huge reaction from people all over the world.

We've kept in touch over the winter and it's nice to see it's worked out for both of us. Larry is riding with French team Ag2r this year, is enjoying racing his bike again and is looking as skinny as ever. We've both had Italian fans cheering us on and coming up to us about the 'No-Go Tour' this week and we spent a few minutes reminiscing today as we rode along.

Apart from the finish, the two intermediate sprints were the only times the pace ratcheted up in the bunch today. I was a bit too far back during the second sprint after 167km and found myself off the back in a group of about 20 riders but there was no need to panic, we just let the sprint finish and waited until they eased up afterwards, which they did.

Five and a half hours on the bike gives you plenty of time to eat and drink and with about 60km to go I was busting for a pee. When I saw Caleb Ewan stopping, I seized my moment. You never stop on your own. It's best if the race leader is stopping but the little Aussie sprinter was one of the favourites for today's stage, so I knew that if Caleb was stopping, then some of his Lotto teammates would stop too, to help him ride back on. So with safety in numbers, I pulled in and answered the call of nature, before hitching a ride back into the peloton on the Lotto train.

After my team riding pretty well together for the final 30km, the frustrating part of today happened with about 5km to go. As our Latvian strongman Krists Neilands began to take our sprinter Davide Cimolai towards the front, myself and Kristian Sbaragli got really squeezed as we funnelled into a corner and didn't manage to hold onto Cimo's wheel.

Instead, we exited the left-hander three or four wheels behind them to see a pile of riders hit the deck in front of us. I really had to slam on to avoid riding across one of the guys on the ground. I was pretty close to crashing but I managed to keep it up before coming to a complete standstill.

Because a few of the GC guys were caught out, including seventh placed Tao Geoghan-Harte from Ineos, and they were really chasing hard, I thought I'd still get back on in time to help Davide, so I just sat on the wheels and hoped for the best. In the end though, we never regained contact and crossed the line a minute behind Italian champion Elia Viviani, who was later disqualified for moving off his line in the sprint.

Davide was seventh today for us, despite getting squeezed against the barrier by eventual winner Fernando Gaviria in the last few hundred metres. He had to brake but finished strong, so he's obviously got really good legs. Hopefully he can pull something off before the end of the week.

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