In the early hours tomorrow morning, the final Grand Tour of the cycling season begins with the 76th Vuelta a España and the battle for the maillot rojo (red jersey).
Stage 6 of the 2013 Giro d’Italia was one of those stages where you could’ve almost predicted the end result and how the stage would pan out before the stage even began.
The stage was a flat 169 km road up the Amalfi coast from Puglia, the ‘bread basket’ of Italy and where the women’s Giro d’Italia begins this year in July, to the Margherita di Savoia, which is famous for its salt flats and thermal springs.
It was the perfect stage to come in from training, park up on the couch and have a ‘siesta’ before waking up in time when the racing heated up. We spent most of the day listening to the commentators rattle on about all sorts of topics and riders both in and out of the race as the peloton rolled along, controlling the break away.
It was great to see two Aussies representing in the day’s breakaway in Jack Bobridge (Blanco) and Cameron Wurf (Cannondale), although the latter is from Tasmania so I don’t know if we can claim him.
Known as ‘Wurfy’ by his mates, he is one of many pro cyclists to come out of Tassie, as they breed them tough down there. He had a year away from the World Tour ranks last year, but is back with Cannondale, regularly working as a domestique.
However, he also is a strong rider in his own right and I’m sure we’ll see a big result from him soon. He is making the most of his opportunities after the late pull-out by team leader Basso before the race began.
I have known Bobridge for years as we both are from Adelaide and have come through the ranks together. I have many great stories about Jack over the years and have spent many hours training together. I was actually watching today’s stage with his lovely fiancé, so she was enjoying seeing him off the front.
With Jack, I will still claim the time I beat him in a local junior race many years ago, although I think it was his first ever race, and this was back when his twin brother raced too.
He is a tough bike rider, and when he is determined and has his mind on something, he will achieve it. This is his first year racing away from the track and doing a full road season, and he’s still trying to find his legs, but once he gets going I’m sure he will fulfill his potential.
It was a long day for those guys out in front and on stages like today, when the sprinters make the most of the opportunity of stages suited for a bunch kick, you just know that you are going to get caught eventually. It was interesting to see the break get reeled in quite a way out from the finish, and this opened up the last part of the race for good racing and potential late attacks.
Everything suddenly got very interesting and exciting with all of the crashes towards the end of the race. One crazy crash was the one where a race moto dropped it through a corner in front of the peloton, luckily not too many people were affected but it was a bit scary.
The other significant crash was the one that blocked the entire road, with Wiggins and many others getting caught behind. Katusha had their whole team at the front protecting the pink, many of the other general classification guys were at the front, and it caused the peloton to split to pieces.
The teams at the front of the race and the general classification contenders could’ve taken the opportunity to make life very difficult for Wiggins and Team Sky by pushing the pace and really make them fight to get back. Instead, they continued to ride tempo and allowed the peloton to regroup as they headed into the final lap of the 16 km finishing circuit.
Ultimately, it did come down to a big bunch kick in the closing kilometres. It was interesting though to see Wiggins at the front driving the peloton in the last three kilometres, but I think after the last couple of days and losing precious seconds, he wasn’t taking any risks of being held up by crashes or dropped wheels.
In the bunch kicks I still don’t know how they do it. When I have been involved in bunch kicks it is pretty full on, and you really have to know how to hold your ground, make quick movements and continually fight for positions, all while travelling at high speeds with only millimeters between you and everyone around you.
It isn’t for the weak and it certainly tests your skills, and I’m sure that in the men’s peloton it is done at an entirely different level. I have a lot of respect for those guys.
The work of Omega Pharma–Quickstep all day, controlling the race from start to finish paid off, as Cavendish continues to show that he is in a league of his own. He waits and waits, and then finally pops out at the last minute to win convincingly.
Cavendish, as a true gentleman, dedicated his win to the late Wouter Weylandt, who tragically died on this day two years ago when racing the Giro and doing what he loved, racing bicycles.