We slept like logs last night – maybe it was the fact that we were emotionally drained or maybe it was the grappa we had for a nightcap here in Piombino?
We stayed in Cecina, on the Ligurian Sea, roughly half way between the Stage 4 finish in Ligorno and the stage 5 start today in Piombino.
The season hasn’t started yet on the Ligurian, it kicks off in June; over on the east coast the Adriatic season has already begun and they’ll be out there on their sun loungers as I write this.
We tucked in on the HTC convoy to get to the start and did the ‘sound bites’ and pictures round of the team buses.
We said ‘hello’ to David Millar and told him proud we were of him – but no pictures as he had Olbas oiled cotton wool dangling from his nose.
But later in the morning we ‘got the shot’ – Jimmy with David, to add to Jimmy with Super Mario.
The crowds were huge at the start and the assembly area for the riders was very compact, making for a great atmosphere.
And now it’s 16:00 and we’re on the last section of the ‘strade bianche’ – the white dirt roads.
This is the third ‘settori’ – the first sector had a cat 3 GPM within it; those dirt ramps are savage.
But we figure that this will be a better vantage point because there are guaranteed to be punctures and crashes on the descents between the cat 3 and this rise.
The crowds aren’t huge, but there’s a fair turn out – if this was Belgium, there’d 100,000 people up here.
The early part of the race route today was a tad bland, but there are always hilltop towns to draw the camera.
There’s certainly no problem with photo opportunities now.
Fast forward, 18:37 in Bolsena on the glorious Lago di Bolsena – that’s one of the things I like about working on this race: seeing parts of Italy I didn’t even know existed.
The white roads were amazing – our vantage point was spot on, at the top of the last drag on the dirt.
One word? Carnage!
Graeme Brown was stone last – and like Jim said; ‘there’ll be a thousand stories to be told in that race, today.’
The GC ambitions of many riders foundered – the main two who spring to mind being Visconti and Di Luca.
Late in the evening – after our none too spectacular dinner – we saw Di Luca interviewed on TV.
He wasn’t the witty, charming Danilo I remember from 2009 – he was unhappy, abrupt and not wishing to make eye contact with anyone.
A bad day too for Adam Blythe, well off the back, his big sprinter’s legs not suited to long dirt drags.