TTT day. The top 12 teams get a time bonus today while the rest of the 70 or 80 teams just maintain their time, no time losses. Our goal is to finish as high as possible and possibly take some time from the leader for Max.
6 riders start and the time is taken off of the third rider at the finish. Again, I’m pretty nervous. One of the recruits placed third yesterday in the medio-Giro (the shorter version of the race). One of the other guys is on a full time-trial rig and I know that Max won’t put anyone on his team that he doesn’t think is fast.
As we warm up (for an hour and 17 minutes) we do a lot of pace lines and some of them pretty fast. Our last effort is what I hope is race pace as my legs are feeling pretty good (even after all the work that I did for Max the day before) but I’m not sure that I can go a lot faster than our last effort. I do notice that one of my teammates starts to skip turns in this fast warm up. Hmmm, maybe he isn’t feeling well today.
At the start line we don’t have holders but Max clips in both pedals and leans on my bike to hold himself up. “I’m the one who needs to start clipped in” I’m thinking! We start and after Alessandro clips in with a bit of difficulty, we are off at a fast but not unreasonable pace.
I never see the teammate who missed his turns during warm up as he drops off immediately. Next, the guy with the TT rig starts sitting out pulls and as we head over a little bridge, 8.5k in, I realize that there are only three of us left with the third guy, Claudio the fast guy from the medio-Giro, gapping. Apparently Claudio used to be a pro cyclist but he is having a tough day today. Max is pulling and Claudio is yelling what I take to mean “gap”. Max has me take over the front and Claudio is keeping on my wheel, even though I’m pulling at the same speed that Max just was. I later learned that Max was pushing Claudio up this 3k, shallow grade with a headwind. Once we turn to get a cross wind, Max and I start rotating through with Claudio sitting on. Surprisingly, Max isn’t taking any longer pulls than I am. Occasionally, Max will up the speed with his pull but then pull off right away, as if to say to me “this is how fast I want you to pull”, so I pull at his set speed.
As we head back to the finish with about 8k to go, the course is mostly flat with a little bit of downhill. Max no longer shows me how fast he wants me to go, he just yells “faster”! I up the speed. Max’s pulls have become really short and I’m pulling for all that I’m worth. Claudio tries to pull through a couple of times but he can only rotate through.
When we get to 4k to go, I figure that Max will just pull us all the way to the finish and I hope that I can hang on. But no, Max continues with relatively short pulls and I continue to do relatively long pulls. Eventually with 2k to go, I can’t pull through just this one time when Max pulls off. I’m trying to tell Max to just pull us all the way home but after a bit more rest for me, Max pulls off and, fortunately, I have recovered enough to take another long pull. We go by the 1k to go sign and Max takes a long, hard pull, I’m struggling to stay on. This is when his Tour de France TTT winning days are kicking in. I’m at the edge of my rope, hanging on as best as I can and then with 200 meters to go, I somehow find the strength to pull next to Max and we ride, side-by-side, across the line with Claudio on our heels.
I later find out that Max really expended a lot of energy pushing Claudio. I can see why as I was drilling it at that time. Max even told Emanuele that, at one point, he even had trouble hanging onto my wheel. Apparently he talked a lot about how impressed he was at my strength today and said that he needed “4 Randy’s” today! Wow, I am so humbled by his great comments. I had planned to suffer to my limit today. I thought that I may very well be hanging on to the TTT but instead I was driving it. What a day!
We averaged a bit over 46kph, fast, but not blazing fast. We also learned that the top Assos team finished with 6 riders (one of them being Malcolm Elliot) and averaged 50kph. I’m not sure how many other teams beat us.
A couple of hours later, Bill shows me his IPad and there is a Facebook message from Emanuele stating that he is looking for me as we placed 5th in the TTT and Max is now in the Yellow leader’s Jersey! The former leader’s team only placed 15th and did not get any time bonus while we received a 40 second time bonus. Max was only 5 seconds out of first before the TTT and now is in first by 35 seconds! Amazing, and I was a big part of what got him the yellow jersey! What a great day!!!!
Now that Max is in the jersey, we have a team meeting at night. Max has recruited the help of two climbers from Naples and the rest of us will do our best to help protect the jersey the next day.
Everyone is saying how strongly I road today but Max also says that he is a bit worried that I will be tired tomorrow due to my huge effort today. I head to bed, hoping for a good night’s sleep to be strong for the mountain stage tomorrow.
52nd/8th on GC now.