The longest and hardest stage race on the Women’s calendar is the ten-day Giro Donne. Second place on GC and a stage win for Emma Pooley made it a good result for our women’s team. Sharon Laws reflects on the biggest race of the women’s season.
Despite running parallel to the Tour de France we did get some good coverage and even some footage available on ‘you tube’ so rather than give you a race report here are some highs and lows from my Giro experience.
Day one: Roma-Velletri 86km: mainly flat stage
Starting in Rome, home of the Pope and we even saw the Vatican on the way to the race.
Our big bus: we got to use the Men’s tour bus, complete with shower, toilet, fridge and triple the space of our normal camper! Lucky for us Iris made sure you knew who we were (by day 5 we were down to 6 riders)!
Lizzie finished narrowly off the podium.
The organisers mixed up my timing chip so everyone thought I finished way back in the bunch and lost 24 seconds. I didn’t – and didn’t lose any time. And believe me it was hard work in a frantic finish.
Day two: Pescocostanzo-Pescocostanzo 91km: first mountain stage
I finished second on the stage – a high and a low light. So close to being in the pink jersey but not close enough.
Lizzie crashed, collecting water for the others on the climb, when someone caught her wheel and though she started the next day it meant the end to her race.
There were still some of Emma’s chocolate brownies left. With raspberries to ensure 1 of your 5 fruits a day! Yum.
Day three: Potenzaa Picena-Fermo 104km: the Flanders like stage
Hectic descent start and a stage full of attacks (mainly from Vos).
My derailleur got damaged and I had to swap bikes onto one without a compact.
A hill steeper than the Mur de Huy (note point above – therefore this was a low light for me).
Vos moved into the yellow jersey.
Day four: Forlimpopoli-Forli 101km: apparently flat stage – though we were all slightly unsure about that in the first 15km
Lucy finished 8th
Not much else happened.
Day five: Altedo-Verona: 129km: flat stage with finish in Verona
I finished 8th in a sprint! For those who know me – this was a real highlight. Lucy crashed in the finish and broke her wrist ending her race. No sign of Romeo anywhere.
A shorter stage – some had enough energy left to dance to a CD I put together of ‘oldies’ 80’s music. The kind of stuff that was around when I was at school and most of the others were either babies or not born!
Day six: Fontanellato-Piacenza 128km: Long flat stage
I had the start of a cold. The stage ended with a bunch sprint. Vos took Bronzini’s glory away in her home town. The hotel had an outdoor swimming pool, perfect for cooling off sore legs.
Day seven: Rovato-Grosotto: 122km: the Mortirolo
My birthday! The girls bought me rice cakes, a bag of lemons, some chocolate and some anti-wrinkle ring (I’m the oldest in the team .. by 7 years – yikes!).
We rode through a very dark tunnel for over a kilometre causing slight panic in the peloton. Fortunately I was at the front which was the best place to be. Carla was in an early break and finished 6th on the stage.
Vos, along with Emma, caught the break up the road but then attacked on the descent and soloed to a win in Grosotto.
Ken, our bus driver, took us up a mountain road to Aprica. This caused great entertainment to the locals, Ken’s heart rate was higher than ours in the race and apparently it was the first time ever a bus had made it up that route!
Emma took me to her favourite coffee shop and we had double cappuccinos. I was feeling really quite rough with sore throat and runny nose.
Day eight: Teglo-Valdidentro: 70km: Torri de Fraele
A hard race from the start – we already had a small group within the first 30km. We rode on a red carpet leading into some cobbles on a descent. Ruth Corset made a gallant early attack before the last climb and finished 3rd on the stage with only Emma and Vos catching her.
Emma won the stage!
I dropped from the chase group on another Mur like steep climb before the final climb. This time I did have a compact but the legs were the problem. I grovelled up the last climb, thanks to Rachel Heal (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) for the water bottle and Linda Villlumsen for the company at the end!
Noemi, Jessie and I descended to the bus in pouring rain in weather that was reminiscent of our Giro recce (again with a promised weather forecast of 1mm rain .. that would be per minute!)
We had a six hour transfer to the hotel. Groan.
Day nine: Aglie-Ceresola Reale: 115km
The start of the race was full of attacks with riders trying to get in an early break. I finally succeeded along with some strong riders like Claudia Hausler and Emma Johansson. It was looking hopeful but with Johansson in the group the chase was on behind and we never got a gap bigger than 2 minutes.
Emma Pooley and Marianne Vos came past me on the steep section of the climb about 6km to the finish. I felt like I was standing still.
I was pretty grumpy about the number of girls drafting behind team cars in the tunnel. Ride fair or not at all.
Having already given everything in the race, still full of cold I completely blew up in the tunnel and it felt like there weren’t many people who didn’t pass me. I finished in a somewhat sorry state overlooked by a concerned medic.
Emma was 2nd on the stage. There was only one more day to go. I kept Emma awake coughing all night. Sorry Emma.
Day ten: The time trial: San Francesco Al Campo 16km
I was in survival mode. Rode a lap of the course and then got on the turbo trainer to warm up. My heart rate wouldn’t go above 140bpm which wasn’t a good sign.
My time trial result was shocking. Vos proved despite a puncture she could still get on the podium.
Pour Jessie got two punctures and with no following car had to make it to neutral service riding on a flat tyre.
It was finally over!
Having found nowhere else open to continue the party we retreated to the bus, my CD (note the only CD otherwise I don’t think it would have been the one of choice) was played again and there was yet more dancing. Unfortunately I was feeling the full effects of the cold and had retreated to bed.
My first Giro Donne completed. It was great feeling to have finally done the biggest race on the Women’s calendar. I started last year but broke my collar bone in a crash on only the second stage during the sprint finish.
From a personal point of view I didn’t do as well as I had hoped — I usually love the mountains but when you can’t breathe properly and you are sick they are just relentless. We lost two riders early in the race which is hard on the team and morale.
Having been one of those riders last year I also know the personal disappointment and the challenge of having to spend the next few weeks on a turbo trainer. Emma proved, once again, she is one of the best riders in the world. Marianne Vos showed her versatility, determination, strength and was a worthy winner – but watch out we will be back in 2012 ready for a win!
More photos from the Giro Donne: