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I’m writing this from Lake Iseo on the last rest day of this year’s Giro d’Italia. The rest day was timed perfectly because we have had a solid week of racing and the next six stages are as hard as it gets.
It’s an amazing part of the world here in northern Italy. Some of my favourite places to ride are around here between northern Milan and Verona, around the lakes and mountains.
I have had a pretty good recovery day. I enjoyed a good ride with the boys around the lake and then we did a climb before parking for a coffee. I finished off with a few heavy five-minute intervals and that was it for the bike today. From then on it was a case of trying to relax and switch off because the next six days will demand a lot both physically and mentally.
If you’re following the Giro closely you will know that tomorrow [stage 16] is the big queen stage (see profile above). It’s quite daunting to be honest. It’s got all the ingredients to be a day that won’t be forgotten and one that will probably scare a few guys for a long time.
For me the big worry is the weather. You always seem to find a way to survive a day like tomorrow in good conditions but they are saying it could be -2 degrees and lower with chances of snow. Climbing in these conditions is hard but manageable; doing 30km descents, however, is another matter. Needless to say switching off mentally has been very important today.
Things have been going well for the team. Wilco [Kelderman] continues to surprise everyone despite having had a difficult moment at the end of Sunday’s Montecampione finish.
His and the team’s goal is a top 10 on GC and I think he is looking good for that. Our race more or less revolves around him now and it’s our job to make sure he is always in the right place and starting the difficult climbs in the front. Because we lost Stevie [Kruijswijk] due to his touchdown on stage 9 Wilco has been on his own on the hard climbs but he is finding his way without a problem. It seems to be the same for most of the other GC contenders as well.
I have been asked a few times how we get through six- and seven-hour stages as far as toilet stops are concerned. As you could imagine it’s hard to hold on that long so you do need to stop sometimes. But it’s also an issue of timing.
In a six- or seven-hour day you might need to relieve yourself up to five or six times so it can cost a lot of energy coming back to the peloton if you have to stop each time (and multiply that by 19 road stages). I can only speak for myself but I set a few rules and try to stick by them.
I normally only stop and get off the bike once per stage and the rest of the time I pick my moment and have taught myself to go while I’m rolling along. For some reason I can only use this technique from the right side which is strange but I also know other riders with the same problem.
I normally start this procedure mid-way through the bunch and end up near the third or fourth team car. I always inform my sports director beforehand so he is at the back of the bunch. All it takes then is a little sprint and I’m at the back of the peloton having taken bottles from the team car on the way past.
For tomorrow, however, this technique will not work at all. I don’t think anyone will be taking a toilet break …
I better be off to sleep. We’ve got a big week coming up!