STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
NOMAN – 24 Opportunity International – 18 World Bicycle Relief – 10 Soldier on Australia – 8
Today our 8 NOMEN were back to settle their vendetta with the notorious Passo Fedaia after coming up just 13 seconds short on the climb last year. They worked as one team today to battled gradients up to 20% and hailstones the size of golf balls (!) to maintain their lead.
GC 1 – Passo Fedaia
The NOMEN spent the previous evening planning out the stage: hold back the throttle in the beginning, let the others blast out of the gates, and then attack on the second half of the climb. The gradient on Fedaia varies from 8% to 20%, but the first 4 km is an “easy” 4% — enough to pick up enough speed to encounter aerodynamic drag. With Liam and Colin clearly ranked 1 and 2 in Team NOMAN, pressure was on the 6 other NOMEN to emerge and keep the pressure on Opportunity International’s Number 3 rider.
NOMAN Ben Nathan volunteered to absorb the wind for as long as he possibly could – saving crucial watts for “climbers” Justin Teutsch and Tristan Almada later in the climb. He made it to the end of the UNESCO site, the Sottoguda gorge, before shouting in his Aussie brogue: “I’m cooked, mate!”
Ben’s heroic job was done. Working to maintain steady pace and cadence as the climb grew steeper, JT and TA picked off riders from other teams one-by-one before throwing the hammer down on the last 1.5km. The team tactics were executed perfectly and the NOMEN took all the points.
The neutral riding section on the Passo Sella must be considered nothing short of a heaven for cyclists, with the sweeping climbs set against a backdrop of arguably the most beautiful mountain range in the world that have to be seen to be believed.
GC 2 – Passo Valparola
From there the stage was set for the crucial GC 4, and to add to the drama dark clouds were rolling in. Large splotches of rain began to fall as the NOMEN began their ride up the Passo Valparola, and as the pace began to rise, so did the rain.
By the halfway point, hailstones were cascading down from the sky as Holohan again cranked the pace at the front of the train in truly foul conditions. It seemed the stage would be NOMAN’s, but with the hail now falling with real intensity the stage was called neutral as the NOMEN roared onto the summit. A disappointment given the performance, however completely the right call from a safety perspective, as the rest of the riding was cancelled.
Tomorrow’s final GC tackles the Passo Giau, a 10km climb with an average gradient of 9% to test already weary limbs. NOMAN must finish 3rd or better on this stage to win the Maglia Rosa! Let’s hope there’s no hail!