Stage 4 from Barge to Torre Pellice- 91 km with 4117 feet of climbing
When we pulled out of Barge in the morning, we had a 600 meter warm-up before the start of the first special stage. The time-trial looked as if it was approximately 10 km on a trail around town. The finish was back in Barge so it didn't seem like it should be that hard.
Right away I missed a sharp turn between some buildings. A couple of ladies were standing next to the turn waving their arms, but I couldn't understand if they were trying to say "keep going" or "turn around". Moments later a couple of riders including Katia came by and made the turn so I stared chasing them. For me, this was probably the hardest time-trial of the whole week. It was super steep and extremely rocky, and I was totally anaerobic from the very beginning. As I came up behind Eric, he could tell it was me from my breathing and he cheered me on as I couldn't say anything because my lungs were about to explode and I was hyper ventilating!! I kept Katia in sight, but I was completely maxed out. After what seemed like forever, we had a pretty technical descent and with the adrenaline pumping, I was flying down the loose, rocky single track yelling at people to get out of my way. I caught Katia pretty quickly, she let me pass, and then I kept yelling "scusi" (excuse me) so people would hear me and let me pass. Katia was able to hang on in the beginning, and I only beat her by seconds. It took me an hour and a few seconds to complete the first special stage.
Steep down-hill section at the end of 1st special stage
My parents and sisters were standing at the end of the special stage. It was fun that they were able to watch us finish. For me, this was probably the hardest time-trial of the entire week, very painful!! After filling up water, Eric and I took off together for the 50 km transfer. We had lots of very steep climbing before we reached the next time trial and Eric and I got separated shortly, and I ended up riding this part alone. It was a really hot day as we were now at a lower elevation (at least in the beginning of the day), but there were several spots to get water along the course. The last 4 km before the start of the 2nd special stage is a hot, steep paved climb that follows a fast, inviting-looking stream. Looking at my Garmin, the grade varied between 15 and 23 percent for 4 km. I was looking forward to the special stage with another "Lou-climb".
Along the 2nd Special Stage
I stopped only briefly at the checkpoint before I took off. Katia was still there, and I wanted to be able to leave before her so I could ride by myself. The gravel road was winding up the side of the mountain and you could look down and see way back down through the fog. Halfway up there was a patch of snow with the famous "IB" road marker. We topped out around 2500 meters before starting a really rocky rough descent. It feels like you are riding down a dry river-bed. After a few minutes of descending, I spotted a helicopter and a bunch of people standing over a rider laying on the ground in a particularly rocky spot with water. It didn't look good at all.... Turned out, this was the leader of the men's race. Seeing that kind of thing, slows you down a little, I wanted to make sure I got to the bottom in one piece. The stage finished on steep pavement, and I clocked out at 1:18:54. We finished the day, which took me 8 hrs 48 minutes, in the town of Torre Pellice.
Our camp this evening was at another sports facility. Half of the hockey rink served as tent-camp while the other half was set up for dinner. After eating some potatoes and rice-mix, I had a long, hot shower and a massage.
Dinner in the Hockey Rink
Tent camp inside the hockey rink
After dinner, which actually included chicken this evening, there was the usual race briefing. Fabri started the briefing by talking about the spirit of Ironbike, the volunteers working for free all year, how sometimes things weren't so professional during the race.... Turns out, at the 2nd special stage the previous day, the first 6 men had not been able to clock out because the helicopter had not been able to get the computer box to the end on time. Fabri explained that the 2nd stage would simply be thrown out for the day. I wasn't the only one disappointed by how they handled this situation. It is hard when you race your buns off for 2 hours, just to hear that it didn't count for anything. I also needed the extra 90 seconds I had put on the second place woman. There was no arguing to be done, the judges didn't speak English anyway...
There was a short awards ceremony after the briefing, I was still in the lead, but not a very comfortable lead.