In His Own Words: Julian Dean on Giro d'Italia Stage 14

Sat 18 May 2013

We usually leave the live race updates to the official sources, for a variety of reasons we’ve repeatedly detailed, but when Assistant Sport Director Julian offered to share updates from the second race car at the Giro d’Italia today, we took him up on it.

The updates he shared provided insight to a miserable day on the bike; a day made particularly miserable after Pieter Weening crashed out of the early break. We summarise Dean’s tweets below in a Twitter inspired version of our ‘In His Own Words’ series.

Shortly before the stage 14 start, we learned the race organisers had taken out the Sestriere climb due to weather concerns. The roads we used to avoid this climb added 13 kilometres to the day, for a total of 180 kilometres of racing. The boys were motivated after a couple of hard days of racing. We were looking to get Pieter Weening up the road in the break for the win. The other riders would have a more relaxed day once they helped Pieter in the start.

I know I told you yesterday that I expected the team to take a different approach to today’s stage and that we’d use these next two days as a chance to ‘recover’. When I said this, I thought it was true. Once we took a good look at the weather forecast and learned that the projected rain, snow and cold could spell altered, shortened or even cancelled stages, we decided we needed to make the most out of today.

As planned, Pieter made the first break. He was part of a seven rider group that broke away from the peloton and quickly built up a small advantage. Unfortunately, shortly after making the break, he was one of three riders involved in a crash. He got back on the bike – but the break was long gone. While we bemoaned the missed opportunity, we were definitely relieved that he was okay and back in the race. It was bad luck and bad timing.

Once the break was clearly established without Peter, it was time to prepare for the rest of the stage. Our work was mostly done at that point, so the boys all wrapped themselves up in an effort to stay warm for the long, wet day. Five months into retirement, this was not one of the days where I missed racing. I was very happy to be in the car and sorry for the boys as they suffered in the cold and wet, looking for ways to stay warm.

We assisted with clothing changes all day long. The riders were constantly swapping jackets, gloves and whatever else they could to stay as dry as possible in the rain. At one point, we had Chinese laundry going in the car, trying to dry out the guys’ clothing that they had been wearing to give them the option to exchange clothes again later in the stage.

As bad as today was, it doesn’t deter professional bike races. The first hour of racing averaged 46 kilometres/hour. Three hours in, and they’re averaging 42.5 kilometres/hour. By this point, the riders had become so cold, they were unable to accomplish basic tasks. They had to drop back to the car so that we could open their PowerBars for them because their hands were no longer functioning properly. God bless electronic shifting on Dura Ace. It’s much easier to push a button than shift a lever.

As the race headed up the final summit, riders began to go out the pipe. When the road picked up, most of our riders found a group to settle in to ride with for the remaining 35 kilometres to the finish. With an escape group still up the road, Sky took control of the pace-making and continued to whittle down the peloton. Jens Keukeleire and Pieter Weening made the front group selection.

The rain stopped as the peloton tackled the upper slopes of the final climb. It was jackets off and game on. When the pure climbers increased the tempo, first Jens and then Pieter lost contact with the group.

The early break did their best to hold off their chasers but was overtaken in the final kilometre. Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini – Selle Italia) was the first to reach the finish line in Jafferau, just ahead of race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox) was the best placed rider from the early break in ninth place, 58” behind Santambrogio.

Once Pieter was out of contention for the stage win, it was time to save his energy for future stages. Pieter ended up in 60th place, 7'57 behind the stage winner. 

It was a disappointing day for Pieter. The last bits of climbing were too much for him when he had to race up it in the peloton. I feel sad for him. When he crashed, he was in the move that held on for minor places. It would have been a completely different day for him had he been in the break. I really hope he has a little more luck next time. Bike racing is both beautiful and cruel.