Giro delle Dolomiti 2019 – Stage 6

We had a pretty flat stage today with a team time trial in the middle. We had the usual start in Balzano and the peloton headed down the valley towards Lago di Garda passing by the Kalterersee. We stopped at a small town in the middle of the valley from which the time trial started.

This was a 16 km loop around the little windy roads near the town. I rode for “Team New Zealand”, a team comprised almost solely of German guys. The exception was a guy from Wales and of course myself from New Zealand. Dirk our German captain had come up with the name. New Zealand because he’d been there recently and loved it and is going back again. He had a black New Zealand cycling jersey on with a silver fern on the back.

We were the 9th team to start from the town square. The pace was high, and we seemed to average mid 40s. Dirk was very strong and him and I did a large chunk of the work. We pushed a little hard and two of our team fell off. The course wound around and it wasn’t long before we were flying towards the finish line. I was on the front and peeled off near the finish line. Leonie, standing there filming with her cell phone, shouted go “Team New Zealand” as we crossed the line.

A very nice few days of riding even if the format of the “race” was a little annoying at times. I think I placed 3rd in the short course (as I wasn’t there for stage 1). I’ll have to try and dig up the results sometime. I can’t seem to find them on the web.

At the team time trial (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)

Above: The last stage of the race was a team time trial. I entered with “Team New Zealand”, a team of Germans whose captain Dirk was a big NZ fan.

Us at the start of the team time trial (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)

Above: The time trial was a short 5km or so course with no climbing.

Cris at the time trial finish (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)

Above: The race started under the arch and headed down the street before weaving around and back for the second lap. Each team raced separately. We went out too fast and ended up dropping a couple of guys from our team. Dirk was strong and pulled us a long. I did my best to push hard too. Leonie cheered us on as we flew across the finish line.

Riding back after the time trial (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)At prize giving (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)Last dinner with Leonie (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)

1) Everyone rode back slowly to Bolzano after the last stage.

2) Lunch was in the starting hall after the race. And that was it. Race over.

3) A last dinner with Leonie back in Hating. One of the very last times I saw her.

Above: Stage 6

Giro delle Dolomiti 2019 – Stage 5

Today’s stage started in Bolzano again. We headed out to the start shortly before 8 am and then rolled with the group up the same valley towards the Brenner Pass. We turned off right much before the pass and cycled up a nice but quite steep road to the first refreshment stop.

After many a melon we were refreshed and the timed section started a bit further up the road. I started right at the back which was good for my ego. I panted and grunted past a large portion of the field. Apparently I placed 15th in my category.

There were more melons at the finish line and after a small rest Leonie and I decided that we would rather cycle down in front of the race car so that we could cycle at a sensible pace. We had a nice descent and rode the rest of the stage to the finish. The other advantage of arriving back early was the lack of queue for lunch.

We cycled back to the camp site in the afternoon and blobbed.

Us at the start line again (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)

Above: Another stage, another start photo.

Going up (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)Riding up (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)Ascending (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)Refreshments (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)Taking a break (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)

1) The route took us up into the hills along a road that I’d ridden partially in the past. I think…

2) The road climbed steeply in parts.

3) We left the more familiar roads and continued cycling upwards.

4) Then it was time for our usual refreshment stop. It had been set up in a farmer’s meadow with a view up to the mountains.

5) Many cyclists in a field.

Leonie crossing the finish line (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)

Above: The section after the refreshment stop was timed. We were free to start when we wanted. I hung around the back waiting for the crowds to depart before cycling up to the pass. The road ascended gently to begin with but picked up further into the climb. I must have passed Leonie on the way as I think I started after her. Here she is about to cross the finish line.

Giro delle Dolomiti 2019 – Stage 5

Giro delle Dolomiti 2019 – Stage 4

Between Stage 3 and 4 there was a rest day. Leonie got some of her studies done and I rode around Bolzano looking for new cycle shorts.

We got up at 5 am as today’s stage started in Bruneck. It was going to be hot, as usual but the temperature was still ok as we cycled to the usual start area. We took a bus from their to Bruneck and at 9 am the race started.

We cycled up a valley that Thomas and I had driven up a few weeks back while we were in the dolomites for our training week. It was the usual snail’s pace. Actually some snails are probably faster.

We had a food stop and then continued towards Passo Valporola. The timed section began just before the last steep climb to the pass. Leonie had already started and I took a short break to drink some water.

I cruised past the hordes and caught up to Leonie near the top. The timing finished below the pass and we had a short ride to the refreshments at the top of the pass.

Leonie (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)Leonie and Cris cycling (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)In the bunch heading to Passo Valporola (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)Cris  (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)Cris at Passo Valparola (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)Leonie and Cris (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)Us at Passo Falzarego (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)

Keen to avoid another slow decent and mindful that the weather seemed to be deteriorating we left before the race car and rode down to Cortina more or less at our own pace. Not long before Cortina it started to rain. I stopped and put on my jacket and continued. Leonie was waiting ahead and we continued together to Cortina. We found a spot beside the road under the eaves of a house and waited. Instead of the rain easing it got heavier and heavier.

Hiding from the rain (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)Leonie about to head off into the rain (Giro delle Dolomiti 2019)

The group wasn’t following, just a handful of cyclists. After perhaps 20 minutes it cleared a little and the lead race car came by with about 15 cyclists behind it. Leonie decided to join but I wanted to wait until the rain stopped entirely. It didn’t though. Instead it got heavier again and windy and at some point it started to hail a bit. I gave my riding jacket to a guy who was shivering uncontrollably and we waited. We started again later but they had decided to reroute the race through the quicker route missing out the Drei Zinnen and the Tre Croci pass. I thought I’d missed out on the pass and that the riders who’d gone through earlier had ridden over the pass but it turns out nobody had gone the intended route.

It was quite nice to ride right at the back as I could ride my own pace. I time trialled along passing stragglers. The route took us through a gorge and we ascended to a low pass. I caught up to the main bunch after a while and rode back on and then sat in the bunch until we got to our lunch stop near Dobbiaco. Leonie was already there having arrived much earlier with just a handful of cyclists.

We opted to ride back at our pace before the race cars and ended up cycling with a group of perhaps 30 or 40 cyclists. We cycled along the main road mixing with the traffic which at times was a bit hairy. It was still grey to begin with but it improved as we progressed. The highlight for me (and something I’ll remember from my time in Europe) was leading the bunch over, perhaps, the last 10 km to Brixen. At one point I looked behind in a long corner to see 40 cyclists strung out behind trying to stay with me. I didn’t feel like I was pushing very hard but it seemed to be enough. I had to keep checking my pace so I wouldn’t ride off the front. It’s the best feeling in the world to feel fit and like your body is working as it should.

Not far before Brixen we had a huge tail wind and then a descent. The guy behind me couldn’t keep my wheel so well. His friend said something to him in Russian and he asked in English “do you need a change”. Nope my legs were fine and we continued our speedy approach to Brixen. After the descent the bunch gathered at a round-about. The Russian guys seemed pumped. One excitedly said to me “that was a great group ride” and another Russian guy, “thanks my friend”. I guess they probably also enjoyed riding a descent pace instead of the wombly speed we normally ride behind the race car.

We waited for the bus for a bit before driving in pouring rain slowly back to Bolzano.

We got out of the bus in Bolzano back into the heat and cycled to our camp site in the fading light. Another massive storm came through in the evening and Leonie and I sat in the tent hungrily devouring a fruit salad with yogurt followed by crackers and cheese. The temperature dropped with the storm and so did large balls of hail.