Stage/Finish: Orbetello › Frascati
Distance: 223 kilometers (uphill finish)
Stage 4 was a good leg deadener and tank emptier as we aren’t even halfway through this first 9-day “week” of racing. One hundred and fifty miles and 6.5 hours is a big day, no matter how you slice it. When three guys from smaller Italian teams peeled off immediately after km 0, there was mumbling in the bunch of it being a long boring day, but in the end, I don’t think anyone arrived at the finish bored or with too much energy to spare.
It was super windy out there again, which kept the tension up in the bunch, especially when combined with poor road surfaces that had us dodging some massive holes. The sprint teams played around with each other and let the gap go out, brought it back, let it go out, and then repeated this cycle. Not efficient but seeing the demanding finish and also the sheer length, it was understandable teams were skeptical of investing such a huge commitment.
For us as a GC team, it was business as usual. Despite never truly riding pole position, we basically did the equivalent of riding the front for much of the day as we were positioned just off the hip or just behind whatever team was chasing. Once again, it was Jack and me who were up first with an especially long “work zone” from km 0 to km 210. Things started getting super tense and heated very far out from the finish. We spent a solid two hours pinballing through sketchy cities and down potholed roads, battling other teams as the GC hierarchy of respect or consideration was tossed out the window in the spirit of self-preservation. This was draining work.
In the end, it still wasn’t enough to keep Simon from getting swiped on the inside and taken out with around five km to go. Fortunately, he got up quickly, and the guys with him limited the damage, but it is still disappointing to lose some seconds and see your leader on the ground after a long day of working to prevent that from happening.
We will dust ourselves off and refocus for tomorrow. In theory, a sprint day, but a nasty start with two stout climbs in the first hour could shake things up and produce a strong breakaway group.