Como to Albese Con Cassano
100k (6100ft up…)
The course started out on a technical circuit through many small towns along Lake Como. Lake Como is truly amazing, with impressive villas around its aqua waters. Como has always been a sort of resort town for the aristocrats, and has some incredible views. However, due to some pollution, the lake is unfit to bathe in because of the bacteria present, although you can still boat and take ferries across it to various towns along the waters, such as Bellagio.
Pretty simple plan for this stage. 15k technical. Then a climb started. A 13k climb. A steep climb. A real climb. I am glad to have climbers on my team. After the decisive climb, there was a long descent into a valley where the race went along the lake before hitting another steep 10k climb, and finally a fast finish into town. USA lined up, and took the first 15k “full gas”. A quick rotating paceline, a team time trial, hard from the gun. This launched Mara and Amber up the first climb. 121 girls in Como at race start. 15k later, 30 girls start the climb. My job was done, and I could pull the rip cord, limp up the climb with the “groupetto” and enjoy the tour of Como. The GC riders took off, and Mara and Amber were in good position at the end of the day.
Chiavenna to Livigno
(7800ft of climbing in that 90k…)
I have never seen a course profile like this one. From kilometer zero, it went up. Up. Like a climb. A real climb. From 0k to 31k. Yes, the race started on a 31k climb. And if that wasn’t enough, they threw in 3 other long, steep climbs for good measure. Some flat roads at high altitude (2300m) into Switzerland, through St. Moritz, then to Climb#2, then back into Italy, and up Climb#3 and down into Livigno. Looking at the profile just made you cringe. At the race start, I felt like a lamb going to the slaughter. Game on.
The first part of the climb started relatively gradual, and the whole team needed to stay in the group as long as possible to help our climbers. It was brutal. The race started from the gun, and we were off. Up, up, up. At 20k of climbing, you are no longer thinking clearly, and you feel the burning in your legs and lungs as you begin to climb above 2300m. You are surrounded by jagged peaks covered in snow, pine tress, Swiss lodges, and then you look up. It looks like a game of chutes and ladders. Yes. The last part of the climg and its switchbacks. The groans are uttered loudly. Surely we don’t have to go up that!? Yes. Mara takes off, with Pooley on her wheel. Never to be seen again.
We take the fast road along the lake, blink through St. Moritz, then up the second climb, past the gondolas, past the tree line and feel the lack of oxygen. Then back down again, welcomed back into Italy, by another climb. This last climb was the shorter one, and the steeper one. This climb was not my favorite to say the least. It went up through the moon rocks. No trees. No life. No oxygen. Up up up. Before I could calm myself with the jingling cowbells and alpine meadows, but into the abyss of this climb, no life was present. There was nothing to do but grind up the beast. Finally to the top of that, we descended down into Livigno, to hear the greatest news, Mara had won, and was now in the Maglia Rosa! Woo hoo! USA is leading the Giro Donne!
We stay the night in Livigno, and start from here tomorrow, and on to Stelvio. Stage 9.