Head in the clouds, looking for a silver lining

Tour of the Alps: Stage 2 – Vipiteno to Innervillgraten

It was the Tour of Taihu Lake all over again.

It was last November, during that part of the season reserved for those of us not prepared to accept the season proper was over, that a stage played out almost entirely inside a cloud. Which was ironic really as this had the effect of creating genuine drama, and a thrilling finale, in a race usually used by teams as a means of punishing their riders for something.

The clock ticked on we waited for the first glimpse of a bike to appear from out of the mist. When they did it was Australian Cameron Bayly, emerging alone from out of the gloop and sprinting around the final turn (dodging a policeman with a whistle) and taking the race lead.

The rest was like arriving at a crime scene. You simply took what you knew and worked backwards trying to piece together the circumstances of what had just happened, in this case using nothing more than about six seconds of murky CCTV footage.

All of which came to mind as bad weather across the Alps grounded aircraft that would otherwise take and then beam down the images we take for granted. That also meant the moto-cameras were useless, leaving only two static ones to cover 80 km of racing – one looking at the corner approaching to the finish line, and the other on the finish line itself.

And so we waited, watching the flags blowing in the wind and fog rolling down the mountains. There was also extended highlights of that morning’s signing on process, carried out 60 km into the shortened stage, riders passing a biro to each other, signing the sheet held down on an ad hoc plastic cafe table by men and women in heavy coats.

Then word came that something was happening — a five-man break on the final climb. It was tempting to sit up and pay attention, but those of us who had endured Taihu Lake knew not to get excited. And who knew what would appear next from around the corner. It might have been another of the endless stream of motorbikes, or a rider, aero suit in tatters, having survived for so long in the mountains only by eating a teammate.

When they finally appeared the speculation ended. The break, if that had been one, was no longer there. Instead Rohan Dennis was in front, on his way to a stage win, covered start to finish in glorious Technicolor, for about 13 seconds.

Double the fun of Taihu Lake.

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