Brutt crashes the party

Giro D’Italia: Stage 10 – (ITT) Foligno to Montefalco (39.8 km) 

For a moment or two it looked as though Pavel Brutt had been caught short, or maybe punched in the stomach. He was behind a plastic orange fence, the type used to cordon off construction sites, and bent double. His was the familiar look of a man momentarily unconcerned about racing, just the structural integrity of his muscles and bones.

Then as the camera panned back, and someone wheeled Brutt’s bike back into view, the extent of the crash became apparent. Brutt had torn through the fence and landed in the front garden of a house. More than that. He’d crashed what looked like a children’s party, or at least a Giro party.

It came a few kilometers into the day’s Individual Time Trail. Brutt overcooked a series of tight turns and wound up cartwheeling over the plastic fence. But while it looked bad it could have been worse. The fencing had hidden a series of metal spikes; the preliminaries of a reinforced concrete wall, meaning Brutt had avoided medieval torture by a matter of inches.

It’s the kind of thing that can play on your mind as you sit in someone’s front garden, still dazed. One minute you’re setting a good pace, and the next you’re on the ground surrounded by kids in party hats, looking at your skin suit and space helmet wondering if you just landed from another planet.

Brutt crashed through the bunting

Brutt pre-occupied himself with making sure he was in one piece, and ruled out demanding answers from the kids about the metal death trap. That would come later. Now he had to get back on his bike.

First word came that he was out of the race. Then, having been delayed by a medical check, jelly and ice cream, Brutt was back in. He emerged in a party hat*, having been given a new bike by his mechanic, and was back in the race, reaching the finish line in 183rd place.

That was eleven minutes down on the winner, but he was in one piece.

* This is not true.

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Quintana on to a Winner

Giro d’Italia: Stage 9 – Montenero di Basaccia to Blockhaus (152km)

I’m trying to warm to Nairo Quintana. It’s not him… it’s me. Actually maybe it is him, or at least his immeasurable talent. When he bursts away from the front of a group of knackered, struggling challengers, the race is over. He brings the fun to an end too soon. We saw it in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, and the Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this year. We saw it today in the Giro.

Weirdly though, I can’t help liking the riders that help him with that success, riders like Winner Anacona.

It could be the name. As magnificent as it is, it’s a typo. The story is that his cycling-mad father planned on naming him Winnen Andrew, after Peter Winnen and Andrew Hampsten. But not speaking English well, this somehow became Winner, which I suppose counts as a happy accident.

It could also be the unconventional appearance, with long hair, a hint of Orlando Bloom, and a crucifix that doesn’t seem to bother him as he rattles up a climb. He’s also thin, young and fast, which makes him the cyclist the rest of us like to think we look like when stomping up a 4 per cent drag, right up to that point when we get home and catch sight of ourselves in the bathroom mirror.

And while Anacona (come to think of it, I like his last name too) didn’t win today, he showed the job of domestique at it’s most captivating – riding low over his handlebars and into the wind. He rode his countryman up the Blockhaus at maximum effort for 15 minutes, a selfless and sweaty display of teamwork, passing the 7km to go marker before Quintana took off, showing just how good he is at ruining all the fun.

That left the long hair Anacona to make his own way to the top, albeit at a more human pace. A Winner, for sure. Just not that winner.

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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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