Giro Sardegna 2015
Nine Phoenix members raced the Giro Sardegna last week, a tough 6 day stage race. Bella Leach, Mhairi Mackenzie, Laura Cameron, Aoife Doherty, Petra Dolejsova, Jane Dennyson, Dave Bird, Len Delicaet and James Mackenzie, all placing well in the GC. Highlights included Laura taking 3rd in her age category in the GC. Len bagging 3rd to take the podium in stage 4, and Bella taking the yellow jersey on stage 5 and winning the overall GC.
Here’s Bella’s report of the week…
Day 1 Grandfondo – 167k 2200m
I loved this day. 165k with some great climbing. Following Len’s insight into ‘frenchie’s’ breathing and seeing the Italian woman, reigning champ, also struggling on the climb, I broke away, solo and managed to stay away for the entire climb. When it flattened out and the descents kicked in I was soon caught. However, it very was nice to see a friendly face, as Len appeared in the chasing bunch and we rode the rest of the race together. Len powering along the flats, making it look easy with Dave giving me some sound tips too. Despite great fun at trying to get the sprint, a fast downhill was never going to be my forte and I rolled in 2nd Just behind the Italian. A good first day all round.
Day 2 – 91km 1100m
This day was fast, with a few lumps but much flatter than yesterday….I had a new domestique too. An ex semi pro, Ian, who had arrived on the Sunday evening complete with his fresh set of legs. Alongside Dave B, Len & some other newly recruited super doms (I think Len had been busy recruiting at the bar the previous night) I was set with a super team.
The bunch split over the first climb. I maintained contact but then the elastic snapped and I settled into a group. The Italian woman was in this group too, with her 8+male team, alongside another Italian woman reigning champ. This was a fun day, with strong riding all round and some great team tactics. As I debated an attack, the words ‘ride hard or go home’ (Dave B, GiroSardgena, 2015) were all I appeared to need, to propel me up the climb as I attacked. I managed to form a gap taking Ian and two other male riders. We kept a gap for a while, until we were reeled back in on one of the longer descents.
With the same downhill sprint finish I already knew it was going to be tough. The Italian woman had her sprint train down to a fine art and I knew the other women were also very strong. I got split from Ian on the run in, but managed to find his wheel again just in time. It felt amazing being lead out, being guided through the group and just having to trust that wheel. I finished 2nd woman.
Today I felt so privileged to have such a great group of Phoenix men and other guys riding for me. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Truly amazing indeed.
Day 3 TT 21.5k 330m
The course was, as James has already said, up & down. I knew I would have to go all out from the start on the 8k climb to try and limit any time loss I was expecting on the descent and flat finish. The Italian woman started two minutes ahead of me (which I did find odd as she was in yellow). I caught my minute woman about a third into the first climb but didn’t manage to catch the Italian. I finished in 38.07 – 27 seconds behind the Italian woman, but 2nd overall.
My inner voice throughout:
More pearls of wisdom from Len, who said to me on the start line ‘you’re a racer. F***ing race it!’ I can confirm I didn’t stop pushing on the pedals the whole way!
Day 4 – 123k 910m
This was very very fast and very very flat. We averaged 42kph! This time I made it over the first climb in good position and kept contact with the main group alongside Len, Dave, Ian and some other Dulwich & Henley riders. I was feeling quite good and had anticipated another downhill sprint finish. However, with about 25k to go, disaster struck. We came onto gravel, which was fine. What wasn’t fine was the panic that ensued in some of the riders. The Italian woman and her team were on my wheel. I’m not sure what happened next really, only that her wheel touched mine and before I knew it I’d hit the floor at 42kph! Ouch!
Adrenaline kicked in and I was focused on getting back on the bike asap. I saw the Italian woman and her team get sorted, back on and disappear down the road in quick time. I had to take my wheel off, sort my chain and wheels (which appeared buckled) and didn’t really look at the damage I had to myself. Luckily Paul, a Henley rider who had been caught behind (but not come off), helped me sort my chain etc. I also recall seeing Mhairi who had been racing the medio and who had punctured and seen the crash.
I was now separated from my super doms, with the Italian woman up the road. You can imagine how relieved I was to see Ian come back for me! We picked up Keith from (Dulwich) a bit further down the road and I rode like never before to get back on the Italian woman. Despite only being 3, we maintained average speed as I entered a whole new world of pain!
We caught the Italian woman and her team and she punctured a little later. It’s that moment when I thought ‘do I stop or not’? Deciding not to (after she had left me on the roadside earlier), the 3 of us ploughed on, picking up others on the way. I thought she would catch us to be honest, but she never did. I gained two mins and got the yellow jersey! Massive thanks to my super doms!!
I then spent some time in a ambulance, realising I had quite bad road rash all down my left leg and that my left shoulder had seen better days! Nothing that the beer and swim in the sea later didn’t help ease…:-)
Len and Dave did amazing this day, avoiding the crash and staying with the main group until the finish. Len taking 3rd in the sprint! Chapeau! Good day’s innings for team LP.
Day 5 107k 1400m
Separated from phoenix riders, I found myself in a group with just Ian, the Italian woman + team and around 20 male Italian riders. There was a definite ‘them & us’ feel as I was blocked lots and they tried to separate me from Ian as they attacked on descents. We lost contact on one descent. It was where knowing the course really pays. This descent was fine, open and long but it turned very sharp, off to the right into an extremely narrow road with an even narrower hairpin. I was not prepared for this. The Italian was already in front at this point and managed to open the gap even further. She had got away with her team and obviously none of the other Italian riders were going help. I got on Ian’s wheel and it wasn’t long before I was chewing my handle bars for what seemed like forever.
I can honestly say that I have never ridden that hard on descents or flats. My legs were really burning but I knew I had to keep pushing on the pedals if I was going catch her. Which we eventually did.
We were joined by Keith (Dulwich) and real argy bargy started. Shoving and pushing and lots of swearing at times. My knowledge of Italian swear words increased substantially this day! I started to counter the downhill attacks on the climbs. I was told afterwards, that it took ten of her men to bring me back on one occasion. It came to the usual downhill sprint finish. I came 2nd again. Today, I really had left it all on the road. A very tough day racing indeed.
Dave and Len did very well again today too as did James and Laura.
Day 6 – 47k 900m
Having learnt on the start line, the first climb had been taken out of today’s race, it was always going to be fast before we hit the final 10k climb. I was feeling tired & emotional, but determined to defend yellow and bring it home for me and my super team/supporters who had supported and been there for me.
I hit the climb with Dave, Len, Ian and two Dulwich riders. I cannot thank any of you enough for keeping me focused and ‘protecting’ me up the climb. I was told we had at least 250m on the Italian at one point so I was surprised to see her regain contact in the final 3rd of the climb….
Dave and Keith hit the front towards the finish, keeping the pace high. No one could pass. I crossed the line having defended the yellow jersey and promptly burst into tears!
I have to say the week was both truly awesome and unexpected. It will take some time to sink in. I’m told I am the first international woman to win the Giro de Sardegna.
I feel so lucky to have had so much support from Phoenix as well as Dulwich and other riders. Showing club riding at its best and great camaraderie amongst everyone. Zipping through the bunch, being lead up the front, being checked on, given advice, having bottles filled, smashing it, trying to get back after the crash….so many memories.
My super domestiques were just the best and I thank you all. My jersey is your jersey too. I could not have done it without you.
There appeared to be a definite theme of wanting to ride for the women this week, which was amazing to be part of. I really hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.
We all partied hard the last night. Beer, wine, limoncello, even shots! There was dancing and not a lot of sleep. Luckily we all made our flight. I slept on the airport floor pre flight, in true winner style!!
It’s hard to try and capture the whole experience in one report to be honest and I’m sure there will be more stories to follow…..
On a final note though, I embraced my inner Italian, learning all the important words:
Machina = car
Destra = right
Ochio = look
Attenziona = attention
Arrggh = move out my way
I am now fluent. Just screwed if the race goes left…….
Thanks again everyone. Back to the day job tomorrow….
Ciao for now