Posted by: Jennifer Sage | May 21, 2009

The Giretto – Stage 3 Grado to Valdobiadenne

The beginning of today’s ride was, well, boring, flat and even ugly. Well maybe not ugly (this IS Italy afterall), but certainly not scenic. We had very trafficky roads, through numerous cities. Ugh.

Grada to Valdobbiadene

Grada to Valdobbiadene

We just put our heads down and rode in consistent pacelines, with 6-10 minute pulls in front. From a cycling perspective, it was very fun, and I was very happy at the compatibility of our team. I found something interesting out; my HR did not reach as high when in front as in previous days, rarely reaching 10 beats of my threshold. This is due to the fact that fatigue affects the muscles before it does the heart. My legs were tired, my RPE was just as high. I just couldn’t get my HR up there. Nevertheless, the output remained strong.

I know now that I didn’t have quite the volume of training under my belt that I should have had. So with that in mind, I did quite well!

The scenery became more beautiful as we approached the foothills, and the roads a little less crowded. But we knew were getting “reeled in” by the peleton and that the publicity caravan was close behind us. We stopped to watch it go by in a pretty area with vineyards all around us. A local man came over to chat, and indicated with his hand a steep hill coming up – I thought he was referring to a climb closer to Valdobbiadene. I had no idea what we were in for, none of us did. After the caravan went by and we got back on our bikes, we saw what he was referring to…

A few hundred meters later, we made a sharp left turn, and there in front of us was a wall. I mean, a veritable wall! Our first major hill, and it was a monster. Not in length mind you – it was just under a mile, but holy steepness batman! In retrospect I really wish I took some photos, but to get off the bike to take pictures would have meant falling over, or not starting again, it was that steep! At least 17%, but Gene thinks it was even more. See the first bump in the profile map above – it’s practically vertical.

Nina took off like a rocket – what a powerhouse! I brought up the rear – every pedal stroke only taking me that far, wishing I had one more gear in my compact gearing. The road was lined with hundreds of fans, literally 3-4 people thick on either side of the road, pressing in on us. They know where the exciting action will be – right here on the murderous climbs! “Forza, forza bionda! Vai Vai Vai!” they called out to me (many calling me “blondie”). I felt like one of the pros, and was grateful for the exhilarating encouragement, because without that, as well as my iPod pumping out totally energetic rhythms to help me turn the pedals, I might not have made it. I just hope I wasn’t drooling…

No problem getting to threshold there (but still not as high as I would have expected it).

Wow! That was really something. The van came up a little later and he said he had a hard time getting up pulling his trailer. Thank God for his sponsor logos plastered all over the van and trailer – everyone thought he was part of the publicity caravan.

That would have been a fun place to watch the racers, but we needed to keep moving. Instead we found a beautiful spot further up on the crest of a hill with excellent views. Without a doubt, the approaching sound of the helicopter raises your heart rate and gets the adrenaline going! As usual, the peleton didn’t disappoint; at this point, it was in about 3 medium groups, still fairly close together.

Peleton on stage 3

Peleton on stage 3

Back on our bikes, at the bottom of the descent we made a decision to make a little detour to cut off about 20km (and a good size climb) to try to get to Valdobbiadene sooner. It was a fortuitous decision, because it actually allowed us to see the peleton again as they rejoined the road we detoured on! Some action had occurred on that hill we missed – they were more spread out and Astana was leading.

Astana was leading as they came around the corner

Astana was leading as they came around the corner.

As it turned out, we were just 50 meters away from where a decisive crash occurred. Just up a short hill, a traffic jam occurred with the team cars – mechanics were running up the hill with wheels and extra bikes. 

Stage 3 traffic jam due to crash at top of the rise

Stage 3 traffic jam due to crash at top of the rise

After I took this photo, I was going to run up to see the action – but it quickly filled with a mass of people and I didn’t want to leave my bike behind. Had I gone up there, I would have seen one of my favorite riders Christian Vende Velde on the ground with broken ribs – his Giro over. 

Back on the road, we were getting close to the finish. This was Pro Secco country. I saw one sign that said, “No Pro Secco, No Party!”  – wish I got a photo of that one. But I did stop to take a photo of this moving sign. The Italians still love Marco Pantani, and will never forget him:

Pantani will always be in our hearts

Pantani will always be in our hearts

And of course, we had to stop for a cheesy photo at this pink tractor:

The pink tractor near Valdobbiadene

The pink tractor near Valdobbiadene

Arriving in the very small exceedingly crowded village of Valdobbiadene was challenging with all the traffic already trying to leave, but they were still partying heavily in the village.

Crowds at the finish in Valdobbiadene

Crowds at the finish in Valdobbiadene

And of course, we had to have our daily Gelato, a proven recovery food…

Gelato is the best recovery food...

Gelato is the best recovery food...

An unlikely Giro fan in the village square…

Cute Giro fan in Valdobbiadene

Cute Giro fan in Valdobbiadene

Getting out of there was a nightmare – it took forever to find our van and driver, with huge traffic jams getting out of there, followed by a very long drive to Padova to our next B&B. We stopped to eat on the way, but truly, we weren’t getting enough of the right nutrition at the right time. It’s best to replace glycogen stores within 45-60 minutes of a hard effort; we weren’t doing that. I think this added to the challenges I faced on the next day’s stage, as well as the fact that we didn’t get to sleep until after midnight.

Todays’ stage was meant to be 120 miles. We did 108. I felt great, I felt strong, and I was very happy with that accomplishment! Already with two successive 100-mile days I’d done more than I’ve ever done before!



  1. As Prosecco-“addict” the name “Valdobbiadene” is pretty well know to me … now I know actually where it is 😉

    PS: Insider hint: “Sprizz” (Prosecco with “Aperol”) is currently very hip. Viva !

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