The balcony from our digs has the most perfect views you can imagine.

Plan de Corones
The view from the digs last night.

It was a hassle to find, but now that we’re here it’s simply magnificent, it’s like looking out of a plane, we’re so high and the view across the valley is so spectacular.

The Plan de Corones stage made for great TV and if we’d had mountain bikes with us and no deadlines to worry about it would have been great to be up there on the dirt section.

However, in the ‘real world’, we knew it would be nightmarish trying to get down off the hill after the finish and there are deadlines to meet.

Plan de Corones
Andreas Klöden heads for 19th place @ 2’40”.

The mountain TT was a big deal to the ‘capo’ but to the other riders it was just a pain, do it – get back to the bottom, get to the hotel and start the rest day early.

Dave gets a hug from Claudio Chiapucci.
Dave gets a hug from Claudio Chiapucci.
Plan de Corones
Dave meets Gabriele Bosisio on his way down the mountain after racing to 21st place on the Stage at 3’04”. He looks pretty fresh for having fought tooth and nail to keep his Pink Jersey yesterday.
Plan de Corones
Geraint Thomas, oor Dave, and Steven Cummings.

We had a good scrape about the buses in search of interesting toys, but the fact is that the ‘every day’ bikes ridden by the teams are so light now – virtually all pushing the UCI limit – that there’s no need for ‘specials’ anymore.

Plan de Corones
David Millar’s crankset for the day: a Shimano prototype mountain bike version, 180mm cranks with 34/50 rings. Dave ran 11 thro’ 27 at the back.

We didn’t get high onto the climb, but we had a walk up for a couple of K. It was overcast, but the UV rays were working just fine, as the ‘somebody playing a blowlamp on my head’ sensation kicked-in, I was never so glad to see the boy handing out the free Skoda hats.

You’d think, that having been bald for most of my adult life, I’d remember to take a hat? Dave, always quick with a comforting word told me my head looks like a “Bellisha Beacon” – cheers Dave. The euro 1-90 I spent on Nivea cream at San Lorenzo was my best investment in a long time.

Plan de Corones
Coolest guy bar none: Daniele Bennati.

We watched the top 50 go off, it was one minute intervals for the first 30 but no following car. The last 20 – that’s top 20 on GC in reverse order – went at three minute intervals and had the luxury of a following car, but only until 5 K to go, when the dirt road started.

Plan de Corones
Jurgen Van Den Broeck – 12th @ 1’58”.
Plan de Corones
Paolo Bettini riding in his club colours for a change.

When we were chatting about the stage over breakfast this morning it dawned on us why the orgainisation would get involved in such a logistically complex operation – money! The Plan de Corones ski resort is probably paying the race a fortune.

Plan de Corones
‘Bert’ Contador, 4th place today @ 22 seconds.

After Contador bounced past, looking pretty in pink, we watched the finalé on the big screen.

Plan de Corones
Franco Pellizotti – a great win today.

Pellizotti’s ride was an excellent, if surprising one – we just have to hope that too much of that Tyrollean dust didn’t get into his hair or he’ll be up ’til late with the conditioner.

Plan de Corones
Marzio Bruseghin warms up.

Just off the plaza where the big screen was situated they were hard selling Marco Pantani’s life story DVD’s. One of his Bianchis was on display together with a few of his jerseys.

Plan de Corones
The Pirata’s steed.

I’ve just finished Matt Rendell’s book about ‘The Pirate’s’ life and death; try to read it – a sad, sad story.

One quote of the little man’s, regarding female attention strikes a chord, along the lines “Before, I was a little, bald guy with stick-out ears, then I make two big efforts in the Giro and suddenly I’m very attractive!”

(Coincidentally, as I get this diary up to date, Tuesday lunch time, Dave has just pointed out that we’re passing the road end for the Madonna di Campiglio, where Pantani was ejected from the ’99 Giro.)

Plan de Corones
Breaking it up already.

The drive back to the digs last night was a bit of a stress job – the address was listed as San Lorenzo, but the hotel was actually about 10 K from there, high in the mountains. If we hadn’t bought a map, we’d never have found it.

The owner was a sound chap and let me use his computer to (slowly) send my pics off.

Dinner was on the premises and we had time for one last look out over the valley in the darkness before lapsing into comas.

Rest day tomorrow – ciao, ciao !

Plan de Corones
OK, we’re sold: full-blown Bruss fans now.