The Queen Stage
Livigno to Stelvio
This was the moment we were all waiting for, well at the least it was the stage the climbers were all anticipating. The rest of us might have been satisfied to let them race up the mountain without us, but it was our job to get them there. It was the Queen Stage. It was the Stelvio. It was time to prove who was the best climber in the world. Gone were the stages of flat roads with the inevitable sprint finishes, gone were the 31k “warm-up” climbs. It was time for the real deal. It was time for the Stelvio. The mythical Stelvio.
The race started with some incredibly fast, hot laps around a circuit in Livigno. Couldn’t we ever just start a little slower? No. It was showtime. Nothing like a circuit at mach speeds to fill your legs with a significant amount of burning lead before climbing the 20k out of Livigno. Oh yes, another climb, plus another climb, before the real climb. Mamma Mia. The group was already whittled down cresting the first QOM. Unfortunately, a crash occurred and two of my teammates went down. Amanda Miller and Amber Neben. Neben suffered from a broken clavicle, yet AMiller was able to finish the stage. Once we hit the climb after incredible protection and teamwork, Mara did what she does best. She rode away on the climb, adding to her cushion and increasing her GC lead.
For the rest of us, we could stay with AMiller to ensure she finished the stage, and we counted down the 48 switchbacks of the Stelvio. One by one. The climb is a mere 18k, but it is one for the record books. Another real climb. The countless switchbacks. Oh wait, actually you could count them, and we did count them, every single one of them. 48 of them, or at least 48 of them once you start counting. The narrow tunnels offered shade and cool breeze. Each tunnel with is old carved rock felt more like an entrance to an amusment park ride, than a historic passageway back into tim. With the dripping water and cobbled roads, I would wait for the evil laugh of a ruby eyed skull from the Pirates of the Caribbean. As we continued into the snow, waterfalls gushed down the mountain with pure glacier blue water. Three of us stayed with Amanda, made it to the top, satisfied with our jobs and ecstatic to hear the news, USA won! We were still in pink, and now with a little over a 2 minute margin! Mara is incredible! Go USA.
We were able to ride up the Stelvio. This is the hardest Giro, ever. Well, at least that’s what they tell me.
Autodrome di Monza
Was the day finally here!? Day 10 of a 10. Finito.
One more day, and USA would win the Giro. One day. One very, very hard day. One day to defend. One day to fight.
The last day was going to prove to be one of the more difficult days of the tour. With multiple teams still grasping for a stage win, the attacks were endless. The race was brutally fast. We needed to protect and defend our maglia rosa. The pink jersey. We had our work cut out for us, but we were more motivated than ever. No one was willing to give us the jersey without one final battle. And battle we did. For a solid 112.7k. Yes, we counted every last kilometer to the finish.
We started on the famous Formula-1 race track in Monza, before beginning our final road race around Italy to finish in Monza. Defend we did. At times I didn’t think I would be able to finish. We had to finish. We had to give our last little bit for this prospect. The chance to make history. With 10k to go, we started setting tempo on the front. Coming into the last stretches, Theresa executed a flawless leadout, and ShelleyO did it! ShelleyO won the stage! USA won the stage in a sprint finish, and USA won the overall, the maglia rosa! We made history! Mara became the first American to ever win the Giro Donne, and USA became the first national team to win such a high level race. We did it. We really did it. I crossed the line to hug my teammates with tears of joy. Yes, I may be a little emotional, but after 10 days of racing, I was tired. I was exhausted actually, but I was so proud of our accomplishment. I was proud of each of my teammates. We all worked so hard for our two goals. And on Day 10, it was a reality. We accomplished it. Job well done, USA. Expert direction from Manel, excellent support from our staff, and invaluable experience from USA Cycling. I am truly honored to be a part of such a high caliber program.
Thank you. This one is for the record books.