By Nigel Wynn
You may expect to see it in your local cyclo-sportive, but it's not often that you see seasoned professionals forced to get off and walk up climbs during a race.
But that is exactly what happened during the sixth stage of Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy, which packed numerous steep climbs along its 209km route looping in and out of Porto Sant'Elpidio.
Many of the riders turned up over-geared, and were forced to dismount in front of the crowds to scrabble up slopes made even harder to traverse by rain. Luckier riders got a friendly push from the tifosi, others jumped in the broomwagon and called it a day. Over 50 riders failed to finish.
Overnight leader Chris Froome (Sky) lost the race lead to Italian Vincenzo Nibali, and put some of the blame on being over-geared. Even 36x28 proved too hard for the climbs, he told Cycling Weekly at the finish.
Back in the warm and dry team buses, riders took to Twitter to pass comment on the day's terrain.
Classics hardman Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack) thought it was too much, saying on Twitter: "I have just to say todays stage has nothing to do with bike racing. all the steep climbs we done you find in the area. i call it #sadomaso [sic]"
Manuel Quinziato (BMC Racing) said: "In dry conditions would have been the hardest parcours I've ever done! With rain and wind turned into something between epic and insane!"
Overall hope Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) commented: "Ufff... long and rainy day as usual in this Tirreno. How slipped the bike climbing the hills up at 30% with the water! Tomorrow Time Trial!"
Even Zdenek Stybar, 2010 and 2011 cyclo-cross world champion, was forced to concede how tough the day's racing had been and to praise stage winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale): "I think that was one of the hardest days in my career. Huge congratulations to @petosagan he is amazing"
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) was one of those who withdrew during the stage: "I didn't finish the stage, for the record, but hats off to the hard b*****ds who did! So proud to be teammates with @michalkwiatek"
Not everyone hated it. Irishman Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) said: "Epic day of racing. Guys will hate me for saying it but loved every minute #mything. Cruising till I messed up gear change #doh"
Race director Michele Aquarone was quick to respond to criticism on the toughness of the stage. "If you lose half your peloton, you just have to be honest and learn from mistakes," he said.
"If riders are not happy, fans are not happy and I'm not happy too. Sometimes it's not easy to find the right balance.
"After Prati di Tivo and Chieti it was too much."
Former Tour of Flanders winner Stijn Devolder (RadioShack) was one of those forced to get off and take a hike
One of the days many short, sharp climbs
Hard day: the expression on Chris Froome and Cadel Evans' faces at the finish says it all
Chris Froome loses Tirreno-Adriatico lead to Vincenzo Nibali
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