Monday 18 February 2019

Sam Bennett: 'Dizzy and unable to concentrate, I thought that I was going to die'

The peloton rides during yesterday’s third stage of the Giro d’Italia from Tortoli to Cagliari in Sardinia. Photo: Getty Images
The peloton rides during yesterday’s third stage of the Giro d’Italia from Tortoli to Cagliari in Sardinia. Photo: Getty Images

Sam Bennett Giro D'Italia Diary

Saturday, May 6 - Stage 2:

Olbia to Tortoli (211km)

Coming into this Giro, today was a day I had earmarked as a possible chance for stage victory.

I'm no mountain goat by any stretch of the imagination, but I can climb better than most sprinters so with a 20km-long second-category mountain topping out just 45km from the finish today, the plan was for my Bora Hansgrohe team to ride hard on the climb to try and drop some the fast men, leaving me with less competition in the gallop to the line.

My team-mates controlled the pace on the climb alright, but, instead of riding hard, they were slowing things down in the hope that I could hang on and simply get to the finish with them.

After the delirium of my roommate Lukas Postlberger's stage win yesterday, things took a turn for the worse for me last night. I'd had a couple of visits to the loo before yesterday's stage but put it down to nerves. Obviously though, those trips were a sign of things to come and I spent more time on the toilet last night than I did in bed.

Although Lukas had left our room door open because it was so warm, when I did mange to crawl into my bed, I was shivering under the duvet.

Sitting down to breakfast a full three kilos lighter than I had been the previous morning, with a banging headache and a high temperature, I knew I was going to have a hard time today.

Bloated With a six-hour stage ahead of me this morning and having had to go to the toilet every two hours last night, I did the maths and put a roll of toilet paper in the team car this morning, just in case.

Thankfully, I didn't need it but a bloated stomach and aching joints left me with absolutely no power and I suffered like a dog all day.

Apart from a bowl of porridge for breakfast, I wasn't able to eat anything on the bike and while most of the lads were up the front today trying to protect Lukas' race lead, Rudi Selig stayed towards the back of the peloton with me.

My directeur sportif was radioing me to move up on the flatter sections so that I could drift back on the climbs but I just didn't have the energy to do anything.

Rudi tried to get me to move up the field on the descent leading into the second-category climb but I felt dizzy and couldn't concentrate properly so I just hung back, afraid I'd make a mistake and crash.

Despite the best efforts of the guys to ride easy on the front up the climb, I got dropped twice halfway up so Jan Barta dropped back to help me.

As my stage win drifted off into the sunset with the rest of the peloton, Jan towed me along in his slipstream for the last 50km or so. Without him, I definitely wouldn't have finished today. Afterwards, I boarded the team bus, stumbled into the shower, got changed and fell asleep on the floor.

Thankfully, I've only 150km on the flat tomorrow before the first rest day. Hopefully I can turn things around. I've put way too much into this not to.

Sunday, April 7- Stage 3:

Tortoli to Cagliari (148km)

Having burned around 6,000 calories in almost seven hours in the saddle yesterday, I managed a bowl of rice for dinner last night before skipping massage and heading straight to bed.

I got 11 hours' sleep, almost uninterrupted. The only time I woke up was when a grown man stuck his head in the door in the middle of the night and asked, "Can I sleep with you?'

Afraid Lukas might pick up my tummy bug, the staff had put his mattress out onto the living room floor of our little apartment last night but three little lizards crawling around the tiles meant he couldn't sleep and he preferred to take his chances in my room.

Because I was so empty yesterday, I couldn't even ride in the middle of the peloton, where I would have got sucked along a little bit. Instead I was swinging off the back for most of the day.

At least today I was able to get some shelter, roll along and could even eat a bit in the race so I felt a bit better.

A mid-stage chat with Philip Deignan reminded me that, even though I felt better, I wouldn't recover properly if I hammered myself today.

He was right. The short hills today were still killing me, so even though I was tempted to try and suffer on when the peloton split with 10km to go, I sat up and rode in with a group of 50 riders, 5'22" down on stage winner Fernando Gaviria. Rudi did a fantastic ride to make the front group today and got second on the stage.

Today was hard but it was much better than yesterday. My stomach is still a little bit upset but at least I can handle it now. Yesterday I thought I was going to die.

In fairness, I've been lucky that a lot of things went in my favour.

My team were able to control the pace yesterday; we had a late start this morning, a short flat stage today and we have a rest day tomorrow.

Hopefully, I can take full advantage of having no racing tomorrow and be back to normal the next day.

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