Toscana – Stage 1: Bunch Sprint in Viareggio

The first road stage of the Giro della Toscana ended in a bunch sprint. Giorgia Bronzini (Diadora Pasta Zara) won the stage ahead of Marta Tagliaferro (MCipollini Giambenini) and Giada Borgato (Diadora Pasta Zara). Tagliaferro picked up bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint and on the finish line to move into the race lead ahead of prologue winner Annemiek Van Vleuten (Rabobank Women).

Lauren Hall, Megan Guarnier and Amanda Miller all finished on the same time as Bronzini, with Lauren crossing the line in 12th place – our top finisher today. Normally, I’d say nothing lost and nothing gained on a stage like this one, but we were going for bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint. We didn’t get them (more on that shortly), and in a way, it feels like a missed opportunity – especially with how strong Lauren, Megan and Amanda are riding and how tight the battle for the overall looks to be.

Racing in Italy is always unpredictable (a polite way of saying TOTALLY DISORGANIZAED!!). The tech guide is unreliable. Stage start times change without much warning. The racing is chaotic. It makes for quite the adventure.

Today, we planned to lead out Megan for the intermediate sprint. According to the tech guide, there was a sprint for points (in the points classification) at 31 kilometers and a sprint for bonus seconds at 37 kilometers. Given what we had read, we passed the 31 kilometer sprint line without giving it much attention – and then we began to line things up for the bonus second sprint.

The Rabobank train came to the front, too. We drilled it for several kilometers before we figured out that there was no sprint line at the 37 kilometer mark. The sprint at 31 kilometers was for both points and bonus seconds (or something like that – we are still trying to figure it out). Riders who had sprinted for points ended up with the bonus seconds we had hoped to nab.

The course included one GPM, at the 53 kilometer mark, and the peloton got a bit strung out over the climb but stayed together as a single unit. On the descent, the bunch split into two distinct groups. A lot of riders here don’t know how to descend at speed through hairpin turns (which kind of boggles my mind given that most women here are good bike handlers). Consequently, a gap opened up allowing a small group to slip off the front. Our entire team ended up in the second group, and we had to do a lot of work to close the gap.

Following the descent off the GPM, the course was flat all the way to the finish, which came on the heels of two times round a seventeen kilometer finish circuit. In general, the circuit was pretty sketchy. In Italy, they stop traffic for the race by moving it to one side of the road. The problem with this is that the roads are so narrow that we are still dodging cars. There’s always a chance someone is going to run right into a parked car. Heads up riding and trust in the people in front of you to point out the danger is key.

We had discussed doing a lead out for Lauren in the finale, but it proved pretty impossible for us today. We’d each make our way to the front of the field individually before we’d get pushed back by a swarm and have to work our way back to the front all over again. In the end, we were unable to get organized enough for a proper sprint train.

Today felt like an exceedingly long motorpacing session. Tomorrow will feel like a completely different race. It’s a day for the climbers, and I expect the general classification to change quite a bit. We race up to Volterra – twice, from two different sides – with the second time up being the stage two summit finish.

(Note to Twilight fans: We haven’t run into the Volturi here. Yet.)

We’re sitting pretty for a big day of racing tomorrow. We’re looking to move someone into the lead. No messing around. Megan, Amanda and Lauren are all riding really strong at the moment, and it gives us a lot of options for the next three days of racing.

My Strava file from stage one.
Full results from stage one.

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