- Posted by Martin Ayres; Snow photo by Graham Watson
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When cyclists look back on their careers spanning many hundreds (and in some cases possibly thousands) of race days, I think the past couple at the Giro d'Italia will stand out as amongst the most testing. For all I know we could have been on the tour of Siberia over past 72 hours. It might be May, but the high Alps remained covered in snow and unluckily for the riders, a pea soup mist that you could barely see through.
A supportive word too for the sprinters that we have seen over the past couple of days when near the race route, or watching from the warm comfort of our team hotel. They're much bigger than the climbers, and getting through mountain stages must be purgatory for them even when the weather is nice. Not like this week has been then. They have to spend often well over an hour more than the climbers on the mountain, getting wet and freezing whilst not even being able to compete for anything. Dedication like that gets a lot of respect from fans and teams alike, and so it should do. No wonder it is considered an achievement just to finish the race.
Back in camp, we've been pushing ahead to ensure that the riders are kept as warm and dry as possible, which has been rather more difficult than it might sound, and logistically has been a nightmare. It might appear as though the day is finished for the riders once they roll across the line, but in reality there is whole lot more that will go on afterwards.
They need to get back to the team hotel, which (if they are lucky) will be a short transfer from the finish line. If they're in the mountains however, it can be anything up to about two hours' transfer time. Then they need to have a massage and eat dinner before being able to get to bed and rest up. On a really bad day, this means they might not get to sleep until midnight. When you've got to get up and ride 150km or more the next day, it means sleep is at a real premium!
Above: Team Sky riders Danny Pate and Christian Knees prepare for a short rest day ride.
It's lucky that today the sun is shining and it's really quite warm, with blue skies for a much needed rest day. The riders appear to be made of solid stone; this morning they were up and about looking refreshed and generally pretty happy! Christian Knees has decided that he would really rather like my job and compared to what he has gone through, I do not blame him! Part of the magic of working with the team is getting to share experiences with everyone, all the way from our lead riders to the other carers and support staff.
The other day I managed to buy a dongle to get WiFi whilst we were in the Alps and ended up becoming very popular with Danny Pate, our US rider who had been on the hunt for internet connection. What a nice guy too. We chatted together for a good forty minutes as he flicked through e-mails and all the daily correspondence to sponsors, friends, agents etc. that riders have to worry about whether they are racing or not. Danny's such a down-to-earth character that you completely forget he is one of the most well-respected riders in the peloton.
On we push - spirits are high all around, as we know that following one final big push over the next week, we'll be in Brescia and the Giro will be over. I'm torn - looking forward to getting home on one hand, but I know I'll miss the experience of being on the road. Let's face it, Coventry is no Alpine heaven. That's a bridge to be crossed later though. For now, I need to convince Christian Knees that being a rider is still good, and ensure the Jaguars are all ready to go for the last week of the race.
Roll on Brescia!
Follow Martin on Twitter : @teamsky_jaguar
Martin Ayres has worked at Jaguar for over twelve years, and once again joins Team Sky as their performance engineer during the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta á Éspaña in 2013. Having not ridden a bike for over 20 years, Martin is a recent convert to the sport after his experiences with the Team in 2012 - including during their historic winning campaign for the Tour de France.