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After ten days of action we were rewarded with a rest day today. The rest day marks the halfway point in the race and while it seems to have taken an eternity to get to this point, I am certain the second half will go by in a flash.
What did I do on my rest day?
Well nothing special except I didn’t get to bounce around in a peloton with 200 sweaty blokes for the first time in ten days! For me it’s important to keep the routine as normal as possible because if I change the system too much then restarting it the next day is struggle.
I woke around the usual time and trundled down to breakfast. I had a casual hour or so to make some phone calls and chat with the staff about who’s who in the zoo before doing a bit of a ride at midday. I like to do it on the trainer, as my major priority is to sweat a little bit to keep the system open. Often I feel horrible after a lazy stroll on the road and even at home my recovery days are often on the home trainer.
I don’t worry about intensity or time but simply pedal until I feel like the fatigue has left my legs and they are spinning freely again. This usually takes between 45-90 minutes. Also with my sore rib, avoiding any potential crash situations in the next two weeks is crucial so the home trainer was just what the doctor ordered for me today, literally.
I definitely had a real spring in my step once this little session came to an end. Next was a bite to eat for lunch. We travel with a chef, Alex. Yes he is Italian; and yes we get the most amazingly delicious and most importantly nutritious meals every time we sit down. Any special requests are tailored to whatever we want, but to be honest I have a simple see-food diet! I savour anything Alex serves up and I am pretty much the first to arrive at the dining table and last to leave.
To the hospital
Following my little bingle yesterday, the doctor Magni decided it was best to get an X-ray to see exactly where my fracture was. We already had a good idea of which rib it was but its important to ensure that I hadn’t damaged the lung and even more importantly, that the fracture was not in a position that could potentially damage the lung by continuing in the race.
The Spanish doctor was in no mood to mess about wasting any unnecessary X-ray films so she poked and prodded until I clenched my fists when she hit the spot. At this point, she promptly said, “bale” which means ‘that’s fine’ in Spanish! After she had found the spot, she quickly took two photos which revealed my little fracture.
Fortunately the fracture is on the outside of the rib away from the lung so I am not doing any further damage by continuing. The only issue is pain but at least I know exactly where its coming from and I can expect it so that’s not such a big problem. In fact it was excellent news, as yesterday I was afraid to breath deeply through fear of puncturing a lung.
The doctor said its important to continue to breath normally so long as I can deal with pain to avoid my lungs closing up. In theory I should be at full strength and fingers crossed the pain in my ribs will dull the pain in my legs so I can push even harder!
The team inner-workings
Now for a little more about the teams and the way it functions here at this Vuelta. At a grand tour we always have minimum two sports directors and sometimes a third. These are the guys that drive the team car, steer it with one hand, talk to us in the radio with the other, and somehow seem to have three arms as they hand us drink bottles and food out the window during the race! Yep, these guys are a special breed when it comes to multi-tasking — they never miss a beat.
Mechanics have one of the toughest jobs of all and with their long days they take advantage of falling asleep in the back seat on those long boring days. But my team directors always have their finger on the pulse and ready for action at the blink of an eye.
Mario Screa is our first director at this Vuelta. Mario has the most crucial role in the team as basically every decision needs to be made by him. From race tactics to telling the staff what do during the day, Mario takes responsibility for everything. On the bus every morning Mario leads the team meeting to decide tactics and roles for the day ahead.
Mario spent a large majority of his career as Mario Cipollini’s bodyguard in the peloton and has a reputation as being one of the finest riders that’s ever performed this role. He was there for a countless number of Cipo’s wins so his experience is crucial for the team, especially for our fast men.
The best part about Mario’s role as a rider is he really appreciates the importance of saving energy so you can help your captain when he really needs it. He will never want us working unnecessarily and is angry at us if we do. He simply understands better than most how valuable a leader’s teammates are and wants to ensure we use or energy constructively. With this mentality it’s a huge advantage in a three-week stage race to have Mario constantly reminding us that saving energy is crucial.
At the end of the stage his job is not done. Once he arrives in the hotel he is already planning ahead to the next day with preparing the daily program. The daily program tells us simple things like wake-up time, breakfast time, the time we have to have our suitcase ready, the time we leave the hotel for the race. Also, this tells all the staff what they are doing: some come to the race, some go to the feed zone, while others drive the truck to the next hotel to set things up, like having the massage tables ready for when we arrive after the race. Although all these details on the paper seem simple, it runs smoothly because we have this piece of paper.
Our second director at this race is Dario Mariuzzo. Dario is Mario’s right-hand man and drives the second team-car behind the peloton. Should we have a rider in the breakaway of the day, Dario drives team-car 2 ahead of the bunch, behind the breakaway, while Mario stays with the main peloton. Dario is a real character and a fatherly figure for us riders. I say that because he is great at giving you a kick up the arse when you have made a mistake but more importantly makes you feel very special when you do something well.
As I result I always find myself assessing my daily performance by how Dario treats me after the race. To get a pat on the back or a bravo means you at least did your job well. To get “zio zino zio zino” from him means he was very, very happy with you. When you are aware that you did not have a good day, one look at Dario will confirm you thoughts. He will often just not acknowledge anything and simply talk with you about something else. He’s not trying to make you feel bad; he’s just letting you know he will give praise when its due and only then so that makes it even more special when he gives you a big pat on the back.
To describe Dario’s role at the race is not easy. Of course he is instrumental in all the decisions made by Mario regarding the race and team organisation, but Dario seems to always be doing something. He can be found helping the mechanics wash the cars, helping Lucio cleaning the bus, or picking up wet towels left laying around by riders following their post-bus shower. The next moment he’ll be off washing helmets, making us coffee, charging race radio batteries, etc. Dario is an absolute bundle of energy which is motivating to the entire team.
Our first rest day is now done and dusted and I can’t wait get up in the morning and get stuck right back into the racing.
Ciao for now,