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Wednesday 16 October 2019

'I'm not sure where I am. You really lose track of the days'

Giro d'Italia diary

Team Lotto’s Thomas De Gendt in action during yesterday’s Giro d’Italia time trial. Photo: LUK BENIES/AFP/Getty Images
Team Lotto’s Thomas De Gendt in action during yesterday’s Giro d’Italia time trial. Photo: LUK BENIES/AFP/Getty Images

Conor Dunne

Sunday May 19, Stage 9: Riccione to San Marino Individual Time Trial (34.8km). After seven long road stages in a row, yesterday's six-hour effort ensured I arrived to our team hotel last night very tired, cranky and for the first time on this Giro, very hungry.

I was actually on the verge of being 'hangry' and at dinner I hoovered up a plate of pasta so quickly that I tucked into another one straight after, before polishing off a salad and two apple strudels.

For the second night running, Guillaume and I ended up with one decent bed and one pull-out kid's camp bed in our room.

Even though 'G' graciously took the springy, camp bed with the paper-thin mattress again, I didn't have a great night's kip. I slept quite well during the night but woke up at 7.30 and couldn't go back to sleep.

Wrestling

After wrestling with sleep for a while, I got up and went down for a more leisurely than usual breakfast which slowly saw me come around.

With a time trial this afternoon, I didn't have to leave the hotel until 10.40, so I had a bit of time to chill out and relax this morning.

Stage race time trials are run in reverse order of the overall classification, with the race leader going off last and the last man going off first. Because I was 150th overall this morning, I was the first one of my team to start the 35km race against the clock.

Tired after a long week, my legs were fairly heavy this morning so I did a good warm-up on the turbo trainer beforehand.

It was pretty painful just to get the legs going at first, but I did a decent tempo with a few three-minute efforts at threshold thrown in just to get the delayed muscle soreness from yesterday's efforts and the heaviness out of my legs.

For me, today was all about just getting through the stage. Riding hard enough not to be outside the time cut.

I hadn't seen the course beforehand so a few tricky little corners surprised me a bit. But I gave it a bit of a nudge on the 22km flat section at the start, before riding the 12km climb to the finish hard enough to ensure the little whipper-snapper climbers coming behind me didn't put too much time into me.

I like to listen to music before the start of every race to get into the zone and in a time trial especially, I like to have a good song stuck in my head to keep the rhythm going.

Today though, I forgot my headphones for the warm-up so I was left with my thoughts for the 58 minutes and 57 seconds it took me to complete the stage.

I felt okay really, maybe even enjoyed it - even if riding the time trial bike for the first time in ages meant my glutes were absolutely killing me on the flat section.

As it was a place-to-place time trial today and I was first of the team to go, I had all of the soigneurs and media staff in the car on the way to the finish behind me cheering me on. However, my glutes were so sore that all I wanted to do was get to the climb so that I could stand up out of the saddle and give them a bit of a rest. Even then, I had to really dig in on some of the steep parts in order to get on top of my lowest gear of 42x28.

In a time trial, riders start one minute apart and there is no slipstreaming allowed. My minute man, Markel Irizar of Trek-Segafredo, started a minute after me today but caught me at the bottom of the 12km climb, and we had a duel from there to the finish.

We didn't draft each other but were both climbing at the same tempo on opposite sides of the road. If he went to the left, I went to the right and vice versa. It went on for so long that we were smiling at each other by the top, where I just rolled him on the line - so I could boast that technically my minute man didn't catch me today.

With the team buses back at the start town, at the finish I was ushered to a hotel where the race organisers had booked each team a room for their riders to shower and get changed after the stage.

With riders milling around everywhere afterwards, it felt a bit more like a club time trial - where everyone hung around afterwards to get changed and grab a cup of tea - than a stage of a Grand Tour.

My team-mates, Awet and 'G', arrived into the room soon after me and the three of us left together for the 50-minute drive in the team car to our next hotel.

I'm not actually sure where I am at the moment. Usually I just press location on Google maps to see where I am because you really lose track of it after a few days, but I haven't had time so far today.

The good thing is our new hotel looks nice, which is good as we'll be here for two nights. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's rest day. I'd go so far as to say I need tomorrow's rest day, because we're heading towards the mountains now and things are only going to get tougher.

⬤ Read Conor Dunne's diary every day of the Giro d'Italia on Independent.ie, in association with Velo Revolution

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