Well, as our amigo Dave is won't to say at this stage; "our creds are no good to us now." Just a curiosity on the windscreen; the Giro is won and lost, Contador confirmed as one of the all time great stage racers - he's won all three Grand Tours - one of only six men in history to do so, along with Nibali, Gimondi, Anquetil, Hinault and Merckx, and now stands fourth in the all time Grand Tour winners list. The route from Torino to Milano today was as bland as you could get but Radio Nostalgia was cool and our coffee stop was a cracker. The Milano circuit was similarly bland and it's one aspect where the Giro doesn't quite get it right but Iljo Keisse and Luke Durbridge delivered an exciting finale as you get.
It was a privilege to be there and great to be part of it all on Stage 20; a marvelous spectacle on the 'sterrato' without doubt - but is it sport or simply a circus? The cameras love it and it's great copy - maybe I'm being too harsh? Paris-Roubaix throws back to the old days so why not have stages like this, many would say?
It was nice to wake up in the shadow of the Matterhorn this morning; imposing, snow capped and stunning against a picture post card blue sky. Yesterday? There's a clue in what Contador, Aru and Landa call themselves; "professional" cyclists. It's a job, a commercial enterprise, a way to make money for riders, sponsors and organisers. The way we read yesterday is that Alberto is due a big favour from Astana whilst Landa is due one from management and Aru.
Monte Ologno, high above Lago Maggiore, Thursday 15:00 hours; we had to get up here early to beat the road closures; we got a slapped wrist from Vancouver for 'missing the cut' on the Mortirolo so no slip ups, today. The stage describes a big curve from Melide near Lugano to Verbania on Lago Maggiore; but there's a late surprise - which we're sitting at the top of. It's a nasty one; 10.4 K @ 9.0% average with a max of 13% makes it Category 1 and very tough. Where we are - 450 metres to go - it's scenic with wonderful vistas across the lago but lower down it's not unlike the Mortirolo in that much of it is a tunnel through the trees.
If you're working the race it's really hard to see a stage finish - the best spots get grabbed hours before. The answer is to find a good bar with a big tele, order a beer and enjoy the racing. That's what we did today, we were at the start then on the big climb and that was about all we could cram in. The traffic around Milan/Como/Lugano is absolutely horrible and to get from points A to B takes forever. There was no way we could make the finish, so a bar it was - on lovely Lake Como side, Bellana with cool beer and a nice TV...
You forget how gruesome the climbs are here in Italy; I'd never been over the Mortirolo before but it was an eye opener - 11.9 kilometres (that's more than seven miles) with an AVERAGE gradient of just under 12% and a maximum of 18%. Lance reckoned it was the toughest climb he ever raced and 'Bert' was on 34 x 30; 'nuff said !' On most of the big climbs there are sections where it eases a little; not on this swine, it's unrelenting and unforgiving - ask Fabio Aru ...
‘Sorry, I fell asleep, I need my afternoon nap after one of Flavio’s training sessions – a 90 minute chain gang then six laps of a circuit with a steep ‘kicker’ in it.’ That was Hamish Strachan explaining to us why he’d missed our call – good to hear that the young man is back in the groove after a difficult start to his year.
It was 2019 when we last spoke to Iain Macleod - he was with Aberdeen Wheelers then but is now with Kelpie Racing - he’d just won the SC 50 mile championships and the man is making the headlines again; a couple of weeks ago he took the Scottish Cycling Olympic Time Trial title and before that recorded the fastest 100 mile time trial ever ridden on Scottish roads.
It was ironic that Chris Anker Sørensen’s life should end doing what he had become known for after his career as a professional cyclist was over – preparing meticulously for his role as a TV race commentator, out riding the parcours of Sunday’s World Individual Time Trial Championship in Flanders.
We liked our jaunt to the Tour of the Campsies last year and feel at home among the rolling countryside and green hills there so we headed west, first of all paying our respects to the Robert Millar mural at the foot of the Crow Road; when you watch Roglič take the Lagos di Covadonga stage in the Vuelta it’s difficult to imagine the wee fella from Glasgow winning that stage – but win it he did.
We had a look around Hawick as the 2021 Tour of Britain race carnival hit town, we caught up with friends then headed out on the course, hiding from the wind on Wanside Rig to see the peloton as it headed towards Gifford...
With victories already this season in various time trial distances ranging from 25 to 100 miles (with a two mile hill climb win too), Iain Macleod (Kelpie Racing) added the Scottish Cycling Olympic Time Trial 2021 title to his growing palmarès.
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