Northern Italy. Rest day. We’re at the foothills of the Alps in Treviso, and they loom constantly in the background, lying in wait for the riders to ride up to into thin air in the next few days.
Mountains always feature heavily in cycling folklore as the scenes of so many epic victories and defeats and without a doubt they will be where the main GC contenders for the Giro will come out to play.
There’s always a buzz of anticipation before a mountain stage. Here in Treviso (a hub of Italian cycling) it looks like a big pink paint bomb has gone off. As with the Tour in yellow, the Giro is all about pink – the strapline for the race is ‘the fight for pink’.
Take one example – back home in Coventry a guy like me wearing luminous pink would draw a few odd looks. Whether that is because it is Coventry or because I am in my mid thirties and not exactly of a ‘fragile’ build remains to be debated. Here in Italy, there are a lot of guys like me proudly sporting pink in some seriously bright shades – which, I am told, is cool. The big faux pas in Italy would be to wear purple apparently, which really would draw looks!
I’m happy to be here, and I can tell the team is too. Mountains are what they have been training for and the GC teams will see the next stages as the ‘business end’ of the race. It will mean serious hard work for the guys, but this is what they thrive on.
One of the glorious aspects of bike racing is that it is so unpredictable at times. Even if you are Sir Bradley Wiggins and one of the best riders in the world, you can come unstuck on a slippery descent or suffer a puncture at the most inopportune time.
That edge of uncertainty can make for compelling competition; it can also go against you, as luck has done against Bradley these past few days. But that’s pro cycling – sometimes you get unlucky. Plus the sporadic downpours this last week have not helped. All I can say is that there is now going to be some seriously exciting racing in the next few days! Despite the setbacks, Bradley’s only dropped 1min 16s and there really is still everything to play for.
In camp, everything has been as usual – we’ve clocked a cool 1,000kms over the past two days and the constant cycles of rain and sun mean everything needs washing and drying doubly as much. Our workload has been heavy, but it’s times like this when the riders really appreciate our efforts that much more. I did manage to make it down to the Time Trial start zone on Saturday, and in style – on the bike of a Sir D. Brailsford. It would have been on another notable knight’s bike, but he’s so tall that I couldn’t really get on it!
Above: Martin (foreground) rides down to the stage start following Team Sky Rider Rigoberto Uran (front left) and Performance Coach Rod Ellingworth (front right)
The bikes needed to be ridden down and Dave B. asked if we minded taking his bike too so he could ride back to the hotel, so it fell to me to ride it down for him. Cue huge amounts of sniggering from Sergio Henao and Rigo Uran as they saw me actually get on a bike, alongside a pretty big smile from Rod Ellingworth.
Once we had wound down to the start area, we were hit with a cacophony of noise. I swear I have never actually felt noise just created by humans before. There must have been a few hundred of the Tifosi rammed into a corner area by the barriers and they were certainly making their presence felt.
An explosion of pink, rattles, clappers, horns, and good old fashioned Italian tenor was bursting from all corners and they were having a riot. It was my first proper experience of the fans up close this year and they make certain sections of the Tour de France from 2012 look like a peaceful retreat. I couldn’t stay for long, but it was great to get down to the course and see the guys setting off on their individual time trials.
That’s all for the moment – I want to give all my equipment and the Jaguars the once over before we head for the hills, and I can see that the riders are all prepping up to go out for a training day spin. With luck I will manage to get a blog done on Wednesday this week too, so watch this space.
The team prepare for a rest-day ride to experience the mountains they will be climbing in the next few days of the Giro d’Italia
Follow Martin on Twitter : @teamsky_jaguar
Martin Ayres has worked at Jaguar for over twelve years, and once again joins Team Sky as their performance engineer during the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta á Éspaña in 2013. Having not ridden a bike for over 20 years, Martin is a recent convert to the sport after his experiences with the Team in 2012 – including during their historic winning campaign for the Tour de France.