Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stage 6 Pragelato to Cesana

52 km with 2353 meters of climbing (32 miles with 7765 feet of climbing)

With the end in sight we were all looking forward to our first "short" day at Ironbike. The imposed time for the day was only 5 hrs. The way this race works is that if you finish the whole day under the imposed time, you get no penalty points for that day. For each minute over the imposed time, you accumulate 1 penalty point. During the special stages you are compared to the winner of the stage. Each second you are behind the winner gives you one penalty point.

We all gathered at the bottom of one of the olympic ski jumps and when each of our names were called, we walked up the stairs and started the special stage by riding down the jump. It looked very steep and a couple of people crashed and slid down the jump.

Waiting for the start of day 6

Riding down the ski-jump was the start of Day 6

After riding down the ski-jump (which wasn't as scary as it looked) we started paralleling the river where we had finished the previous day. After a short flat but rocky section, we started a climb which was very steep. There was some riding and lots of hiking. After 4000 feet of elevation gain we finally reached the top. Then we had a really long gravel down-hill toward the end of the time trial. After a while of flying down the road I spotted my dad and figured I must be very close to the end. 6 km later, I finally reached the check-point where the rest of my family was hanging out. My dad had hiked up 6 K to watch us fly by for a split second. He later told us he found a short cut back down, but he had been hiking for about an hour and a half to get up. This hard stage took me 2 hrs and 25 minutes.

A little bike-pushing

The next time trial started right after the check-point. It had a long, but more comfortable dirt climb and finished with a really fun technical single-track. At one point, Filippo Barazzuol, who was in the lead at the time, yelled my name and made a pass so fast rocks were flying around him. Giant rocks started rolling right in front of me. It was pretty amazing how fast he was riding. After finishing the last special stage, there was actually plenty of time to make it to the finish under the imposed time, so I was enjoying the views and sunshine. After a while I passed Filippo who was laying outstretched in the grass on the side of the trail. I asked if he was ok, he didn't look injured, and he said he was just napping because there was so much time...

Finish-line and camp

After only 4 hrs and 20 minutes of riding, there was so much free time to relax! I was actually really tired, the special stages were hard and hot. I was still in the lead, but couldn't afford to lose any time, so I had to race really hard.

This was unfortunately the last day my Swedish family were going to be with us before heading back to the airport in Turin. After a nice shower and the daily massage, I had cappuccinos with them at a picnic table outside the hostel which served as base-camp for the day. I was really sad to see them go, but glad that they had been able to spend almost the whole week with us (even if they only got to see us a few seconds here and there on the course).

In the evening, Eric and I walked into town with Paul Facer and Robert Matusek. Eric, Paul, and I decided to skip the pasta dinner in favor of pizza! It was so good to sit in a restaurant, eat food that actually tasted good, and have a little wine! We got back to camp just in time for the Italian race briefing. There was some very emotional Italian arguments going on amongst the racers and organizers about some of the leaders missing a turn the previous day. From the looks of the racers this wasn't resolved to their liking in the end... Our race briefing was significantly shorter just describing tomorrows stage and especially going up the infamous Mount Chaberton. At the end of the day, Katia and I finished both special stages within a second of each other, even though we weren't riding together!!

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