Today's stage was a 122km jaunt around Lake Orta, which is definitely one of the most beautiful places I've ridden around. I'd love to go back one day when I am not sweating spinal fluid or sucking in the big ones in between mouthfuls of gel. Which is what happened today. The stage was our first foray into hilly territory, and all the hill climbers and GC riders in the bunch were itching to stretch their legs after 4 days of flat stages.
I sucked today. I say that modestly. To borrow a term I learned while I was over here, I blew like a porn star. After being dropped from the lead bunch, my day was over when the group I was in called 'piano' (Italian for 'go slow'), which basically means the group has declared their racing for the day to be over and soft pedals to the finish, way behind the lead group. Rookies like me do not call piano. This honour is generally given to the more senior members of the group, which in my case was an elderly looking Italian rider who then chose to yell at me for daring to ride next to her up the final climb to the finish. 'You're stupid,' she told me. I wanted to reply that I wasn't stupid, that stupid was doing this for a living when you're 35, but we have 5 days of racing still to go and I didn't want to make enemies. Particularly not enemies of people like her who had clearly been around a while and probably had mafia cronies waiting in the wings. Instead, I asked her whether she was afraid. My teammate Emma Mackie and I spent the rest of the stage comparing which one of us was cramping up more (OH_THE_PAIN) and then, just before the finish line, Em grabbed the cranky Italian and pushed her over the line first ahead of us, so that she would get her wish of not being passed on the final climb. I hadn't laughed so much all day. Em is a star.
Tiff, Shara and Carlee all did well today. Lauren went on a solo break at the start and blew the gap out to over a minute at one point. Vai Australia!
I forgot to mention in yesterday's post a couple of things from stages 3 + 4. First, our TT skinsuits (as seen above at the TT start). These are new high-tech additions to the Cycling Australia armoury. We used the same suits as they use for the track team, and they are so tight you actually need a helper to help get them on. When I put mine on (or, to be more accurate, when Beth levered me into it), I couldn't actually stand upright because it was so tight (or 'aero', as we like to call it). Apparently this is a good thing - when you are on the bike you are hunched over, so to minimise drag the suit needs to be skintight in that position. Oh boy. I have huge empathy for all those ladies in Victorian England who endured corsets for all those years in the name of beauty. I now know how you feel.
The othe thing I forgot to mention was that the highlight of yesterday's stage 4 was the protest at the start by the local worker's union. A local factory had closed down and the union decided the best way to get media attention was to protest on our start line. Our start was delayed by 30 mins, which was hot and annoying but quite entertaining (once we worked out what was going on) and gave us a chance to hide Emma Pooley's race bike while she went to the toilet. Hehehe.