Saturday 19 October 2019

Conor Dunne's Giro d'Italia diary: 'You could see from everybody's faces in the bunch they knew it was going to be a vile day'

Wednesday May 15, Stage 5: Teracina (140km)

Overall leader and Pink Jersey holder Team Jumbo rider Slovenia's Primoz Roglic (C) rides through the rain with teammates as they take part in stage five of the 102nd Giro d'Italia - Tour of Italy - cycle race, 140kms from Frascati to Terracina on May 15, 2019. (Photo by Luk BENIES / AFP)
Overall leader and Pink Jersey holder Team Jumbo rider Slovenia's Primoz Roglic (C) rides through the rain with teammates as they take part in stage five of the 102nd Giro d'Italia - Tour of Italy - cycle race, 140kms from Frascati to Terracina on May 15, 2019. (Photo by Luk BENIES / AFP)

Conor Dunne

After each stage of this Giro, the riders on our team send a report back to the coach which includes the data from our power meters and a rating of how hard we found the stage on a scale of one to ten.

Most of us gave yesterday's mammoth 235km stage a seven on the scale and the miserable wet stage two wouldn't have been any lower.

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Our Eritrean born rider Awet Andemeskel however, has been marking his efforts a lot lower than the rest of us, giving the tougher stages threes and fours. We all thought Awet was flying until we copped on at dinner last night that he had misunderstood the ratings and thought he was marking it out of ten for how much he enjoyed the stage, which gave us a good laugh.

With a later start of 2pm today, I had a good lie-in this morning before a late breakfast and a chilled out couple of hours in the room.

You could say that those few hours were the calm before the storm because as soon as we went outside we were greeted by torrential rain and it never let up all day.

Although we were only 6km away from the start town of Frascati, a combination of the weather and some chaotic traffic saw the journey on the team bus take 40 minutes.

To make matters worse, all of the team buses had to leave half an hour before the race began to be at the finish in time, so after getting changed and signing-on for the stage, all of us riders were left hanging around in the rain until the flag dropped. You could see from everybody's faces in the bunch they knew it was going to be a vile day.

There was talk among the riders about neutralising the first two climbs, which came inside the first 25km, but I've heard this type of stuff before and, as usual, as soon as the flag dropped everyone forgot about it and the attacks started.

Training in Waterford for a month or so before leaving for this Giro meant at least I was a bit more used to rain than most, but today was a grim day for riding a bike.

The conditions today were abysmal and the roads weren't any better, with potholes hidden by pools of water. There were lots of floods too, some of which were so deep that people were almost coming to a standstill in them.

Today was one of those days where I actually preferred to be going uphill, because at least the effort to get over the climbs meant I was warm. The descents were chaos and, as well as riders crashing, one of the race motorbikes ended up on its side on the second downhill.

Immediately afterwards we had about 35km of flat straight road, and the pace was so slow that things got really cold there. I had five layers on today but as I was only putting out 100 watts, I was freezing.

When I started to shiver, I decided to stop for a pee and let the couple of kilometres chase to regain contact with the peloton warm me up. Thankfully that did the trick and a fourth category climb about 40km from the finish helped keep the temperature up.

At the top, we had a soigneur handing up bottles of warm tea. I downed mine in pretty much one go and started to feel a bit better.

Due to go through the finish line twice today, we were told by the race comissaires that the times for the general classification would be taken on the first passage through the finish, with 8km to go. It was a good decision because it meant that the only ones who really needed to contest the finish were those mad enough to try sprinting for a stage win.

Still, the overall contenders teams seemed pretty nervous as we approached the line for the first time and race leader Primoz Roglic was ushered to the head of the peloton by his Jumbo-Visma team just in case, before drifting back and out of danger as the sprinters tried their luck in the downpour.

My Israel Cycling Academy teammates and I had gathered together to try and get our Italian sprinter Davide Cimolai a good position in the last 30km or so.

The finishing circuit was very twisty and you couldn't even see the road in places with the floods. Krists Neilands did a huge turn on the front for us for about 5km. I did mine after that and I was done with about 2km to go.

Unfortunately Cimo picked the wrong wheel today. He followed Elia Viviani, who got boxed in and had trouble with his gears, so our fast man finished just outside the top ten for the first time in a sprint.

There was another race to get back onto the warm bus afterwards. I got changed Bear Grylls style - as quickly as possible, before running into the shower to get warm and pulling on cry clothes.

I've just heard that Awet crashed on a descent today, overshooting a corner in the wet. He's got a few bumps and scrapes but I think he's alright.

I'd like to see his marks out of ten for today's stage.

If anyone says they enjoyed today, then there's something wrong with them.

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