Pro cycling folklore has it that strange things happen on the rest day of a Grand Tour.
Form can evaporate. “Good” legs become bad. From contender to bunch-filler in twenty-four hours. This may or may not have something to do with the amount of down-time the riders have, and the corresponding quantity of Nutella they eat.
In a hotel room.
With a spoon.
To make matters worse the three days prior to the first rest-day of this Giro d’Italia were spent heaving in great lungfulls of Israeli desert sand, and the rest-day itself involved a dawn call and a three-and-a-half hour flight back to Italy.
A nice, relaxing, flat stage was just what the doctor ordered.
What was delivered was a couple of hundred kilometres of Sicily; dog-eat-dog, on ragged roads, approximately three kilometres of which were flat.
The peloton rattled along, chasing breakaways and counter breaks, whilst tired riders were spat out the back like a breadcrumb trail marking the way back home.
With seven kilometres to go, on the approach to the finish town of Caltagirone, a pinch point. The road narrowed at random, a slow motion pile up of riders whose day was suddenly over.
All that Nutella, no doubt, and a once skinny peloton too wide for the road.
With less than two kilometres to go a shiny, slippy, Italian hairpin bend. For the purposes of jeopardy and tension. The riders full gas through narrow, tortuous Italian streets.
Houses high on either side.
Crowd noise echoed and amplified.
I don’t mean to labour the point, but MAN this beats the Israeli desert!
And then, on the steep ramp to the finish, the composure of Tim Wellens amongst the din. Delivered by teammates he’s away, off the front, with three others. Wellens peers, and then peers again, over his shoulder.
We can see the finish line, but only he knows there’s another move to make.
He waits, and the race comes back together.
They jockey for position, Wellens staying cool, then BANG!
He goes again.
All in. Eyeballs out. For the win.