Monday 11 December 2017

Sam Bennett: 'There were fireworks going off in my stomach last night'

Giro D'Italia Diary

Swiss BMC rider Silvan Dillier (R) celebrates as he crosses the finish line to beat Belgian rival Jasper Stuyven by half the width of a wheel to win the sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia. Photo: Getty Images
Swiss BMC rider Silvan Dillier (R) celebrates as he crosses the finish line to beat Belgian rival Jasper Stuyven by half the width of a wheel to win the sixth stage of the Giro d’Italia. Photo: Getty Images

Sam Bennett

Thursday May 11, Stage 6: Reggio Calabria to Terme Luigiane (217km)

Having spent the first few nights of this Giro frequenting the toilet with a stomach bug, I've been trying to go easy on my stomach the past few days so my dietary intake has consisted of plain omelettes and porridge for breakfast followed by plain rice and a little bit of chicken for dinner.

With 60km to go on yesterday's stage though, and a sprint finish to contest, I chanced a caffeine gel for the first time this week. It came back to haunt me as I lay in bed last night.

It wasn't painful but the noise coming out of my stomach was unbelievable. It was like fireworks going off. There were gurgles, crackles and pops and I think I even heard a screamer at one point. Phseeeeeooooohhh!

Thankfully we were staying in a small apartment and I was in the room on my own but I'd say Lukas heard some of it through the wall next door. Today began with cramps and another visit to the loo so it looks like I'll be on the plain rice for another few days at least.

With a lumpy start to today's stage and a nasty 2km climb to finish, we weren't sure whether the day suited a breakaway group or if it would come down to a big group sprint so we decided to try and cover the early moves in the hope that Gregor (Mühlberger) or Cesare (Benedetti) would get into the break of the day.

A tailwind along the coast saw a fast start and a lot of attacks but in the end it was our opening-stage winner Lukas (Pöstlberger) who got into the five-man move after about 40km.

Usually after the initial chasing ends and a break establishes a big enough gap, there's a bit of downtime in the peloton.

Although today was deemed a sprint stage we had a couple of climbs that were 12km long.

I don't think there are many races in Ireland with a 12km climb in them, and if there were I'm not sure how many guys would turn up. Thankfully with the break gone, we went up them pretty easy so it wasn't too bad.

With the pace eased off in the peloton, most guys take a minute or two to stop at the side of the road for a pee as they know they won't get another chance if a strong chase materialises again.

Up ahead, the five escapees were still working hard to widen their advantage but Lukie's bladder was also calling him, so when he got the news over the radio that the peloton had a piss stop, he decided to do the same; only he didn't stop riding.

Normally this is easy enough to do. You pick a quiet spot on the road, go to the back of the group, pull down your shorts, lean to the side and, free-wheeling, go on the move.

The problem for Lukie was that when he went, there was a strong wind blowing and he accidentally ended up spraying the bonnet of the commissaire's car directly behind the break. The commissaire normally spends the whole stage standing up through the sunroof of that car so hopefully he had his rain gear on today.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was busy making amends for my own accident.

With about 17km to go yesterday, Italian rider Manuel Quinziato of BMC was coming up the outside as I was trying to follow the wheels of my teammates in front of me.

A Trek guy hit me a nudge and I rammed into the back of Quinziato, hitting him really hard with my handlebars. I didn't mean to do it but he thought I was trying to ram him out of the way, so we had a bit of a shouting match afterwards.

Manuel is a good guy and I didn't want him thinking I was an asshole so last night I texted Richie Porte, who gave him my number so I could explain what had happened and we spent a few minutes today laughing about it as we rolled along.

Having built up nine minutes at one point, Lukas and his breakaway partners still had five left with 50km to go and it was becoming increasingly likely they would be contesting the stage win between them.

I had a quick chat with the rest of the lads and we agreed there was no need for me contest the sprint from our group and it would be better to save my legs for tomorrow.

With a flat day and a likely bunch sprint on the cards tomorrow I wanted to be as fresh as possible for that, so along with most of the other sprinters in the race, I pulled the plug as we headed onto the last climb with 20km to go and rode home in a group of about ten riders.

Lukas took a fantastic third place behind Silvan Dillier of BMC and Trek's Jasper Stuyven but was disappointed afterwards that he didn't have the self-confidence to attack them earlier rather than wait for the sprint.

Another podium spot for the team though gives us a win, a second, and two thirds in six days.

I finished 14 minutes later, third-last on the stage. But this Giro is not about time for me. My main goal here is to try and win a stage and my best chance is in the big bunch sprints.

I was told whatever virus I picked up should be out of my body after a week so maybe I've another couple of days left, but hopefully I can do something tomorrow.

  • Giro d'Italia, Live, Eurosport 1, 12.0

Irish Independent

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