Maximum time limit: 12hrs
Time taken: 7hrs 5min
Upon waking up, the first thought I had was OMG, my legs hurt. After yesterday’s ordeal my quads were in agony. I was reluctant to get moving, especially as we had another run up “The Rock” on cold legs. It was a late start to get the town involved and well past 9 by the time I started, with the temperature already 27 degrees! The special stage up the rock went OK, not too crazy but my legs did seem to work at least.
After the fast start to the day we had a long climb up a mountain that I am familiar with after previous years. It was crazy hot, well above 30 and although some of the trees provided cover it was still hard work, being steep and loose in places. Thankfully it wasn’t a special stage so I just tapped a steady pace out. Thankfully there was an extra water stop on the climb and it was very welcome! Reaching the top there was a small descent then another long but steady climb, which topped out at 1750m. It was only the top few hundred metres vertical when the cloud rolled over and it cooled down slightly, still mid 20s though.
A fun, technical descent put a smile on my face from the top, dropping down root and rock steps and passing lots of riders who were walking. It continued for a while, and then into singletrack switchbacks and eventually a fast fire road descent with lots of rounded drainage channels that made for great take offs!
Reaching the bottom we immediately started climbing again, from the village of Villar Pellice at 450m to 1000m all on steep asphalt. The temperature lower down was still crazy and I was stopping at water basins along the way up and holding my hands under the cold water after reading something recently about the British Army saying it was the best way to cool down. It seemed to do the trick; although I was sweating I could cope with it.
From 1000m we started special stage 2. Immediately it went to gravel and it was steep and very loose. The first 5-6km were all hard work and I had to stay seated almost the whole time, which was hard for me. It was just about ride-able to 2000m, although very hard, and then a hike to the summit at 2250m. I knew the climb well, so I was expecting it and also dreading it after yesterday. Thankfully I was able to walk and push the bike for almost all of it and avoided big steps – which really seemed to help – and I was going as fast as I could. At the top, the first 100m or so was not ride-able but then turned into a fun singletrack and then onto a wider gravel road with sketchy corners and switchbacks all the way back down to 1400m. A sting in the tail before the end of the special stage was another steep climb to a refuge, about 150m vertical but it still really hurt.
I was relieved to finish the special stage and hoped it would be enough to keep my position. The final 20km was relatively easy, almost all downhill on a gravel road then a bit of asphalt into the town of Torre Pellice where the locals were out to clap us in. After yesterday’s poor stage I felt pretty good and in a much happier place. Hopefully there isn’t too much walking left, as that’s where I suffer. I’m in a real battle with 2 other people, all fighting for 5th spot but with 4 stages left there is still a huge amount left and anything can happen, and being Iron Bike it usually does.
Current overall position: 6th
Other British riders:
Simon Hawken: 23rd
Michael McCutcheon: 40th
Luke Harrison: 62nd