Boem goes bust

Giro d’Italia: Stage 8 – Molfetta to Peschici (189km)

Your half way up a punishing climb, racing hard to stay ahead of the chasing peloton. The sun is scorching your skin, and the salt from all your sweat means your aero suit has started to disintegrate. Your Director Sportive pulls alongside, and from behind the wheel of the air-conditioned team car, hands you a bottle.

What is it exactly that makes you throw that bottle away even before taking a sip?

This was the question Nicolas Boem of Bardiani left us with yesterday, who, at the foot of the Coppa del Fomaro, was transformed into a thirsty and belligerent litterbug.

He wasn’t the only rider to lose his bottle on Stage 8 of the Giro between Molfetta and Peschici. When the break found themselves cut off from their team cars they went waterless for about 15 kilometers before the race re-organised, and race organisers were spared the embarrassing scene of a dozen or so breakaway riders turning to dust.

But while the drought eventually eased for some, evidently it became too much of a good thing for others.

You can understand why the Bardiani team might have been under pressure these past ten days, and prone to losing their temper a little bit. Two of their riders were thrown out before racing had begun for positive dope tests, and while they’d been in plenty of breaks, they’d had nothing to show for it except cramp and sharper tan-lines.

Boem had been among the super-break for much of the day, only dropped after a long hard slog. He needed something or someone on which to take out his frustration. Bottles were perhaps one choice.

It’s not a new phenomenon. Back in the Brabantse-Pijl, Tiesj Benoot had grabbed a bottle from a soigneur only to throw it away immediately. Here though Boem had plenty of time to consider its contents.

The DS handed it to him. Boem looked at it, and with the same disgust as Benoot, sent it flying towards the undergrowth, lobbing it away like it might go off, rather than simply handing it back.

The DS, by now wondering if he might have lost some of his authority on this team, handed him another. Boem reacted in the same way, this one following the one before into a ditch almost immediately. The third bottle found seemed more pleasing to Boem, who slotted it into his bottle cage.

What is it about these bottles, passed out at crucial moments, in blistering heat, on vertical gradients, that make riders so picky? Perhaps it’s heat exhaustion, or the only act of protest about the crippling conditions.

Or maybe these bottles were empty, and just very, very sticky?

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Maestri does his bit to restore the faith

Giro d’Italia Stage 1: Alghero to Olbia (206km)

So what might have been going through the head of Mirco Maestri at the start of the Giro this morning?

There was the matter of his two teammates — the “idiots” Ruffoni and Pirazzi as your team boss described them –sent home in disgrace the previous night for positive dope tests. On top of that you’re viewed with suspicion by the world’s media, who naturally lean towards the “just the old days” interpretation of the sport. And all the while you’re left wondering if your team will be able to race, and exactly who will be next to set off the siren on the wee-wee machine.

After all, one teammate had won a stage at the Tour of Croatia a little over a week ago, and evidently couldn’t stop pedaling until he won a second stage a day later. Meanwhile another teammate had attacked on the climbs, breathing through his nose and foaming at the mouth.

That meant there was faith to restore, and only one realistic option as the flag waved signaling the start of the 100th Giro d’Italia. Get in the break. Show willing, a little effort, and make it clear to everyone you’re not one of the “idiots”.

In those circumstances you’d forgive a man for trying a little too hard, being a little too eager to make a good impression. Things like saying sorry a lot to other riders, taking longer turns at the front, and not complaining when the others darted off to pick up sprint or KOM points.

Maestri did all of this; getting the Bardiani colours on screen in a good way again, while hoping that his mussette bag didn’t contain rice cakes, half a bottle of scotch, and a loaded revolver.

Then, having worked with the break of six to the point where they reached the first climb, they promptly pulled away and left him, without even a by your leave, inadvertently proving his innocence along the way.

And with that the rebuilding of faith had begun. Although you suspect Bardiani will be doing more of this over the next three weeks, and beyond, to make sure.

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