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2011 Giro d'Sardegna (Unabridged)

By Matt Grosspietsch | Apr 25, 2011

Race name: 2011 Giro d'Sardegna
Race date: Monday, Apr 25, 2011

Stage 1 ITT (12k flat):

For some reason the race officials halved the TT to 12km and it featured flat roads with 4 roundabouts to deal with plus 3 90 degree turns. Despite rain we pre-rode the course on the eve of the event, making note of the stretches that were protected by trees as well as the odd pothole here and there. Amazingly, the roads for the entire 7 day race were largely pothole free and in superb condition (probably due to the mild/dry climate and sensibly small cars driven in Europe).

Since this was my first ever ITT, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I quickly settled in to a good rhythm and placed 126th out of 237 riders (29th out of 40 in the age group classification). At the finish I surmised that pushing a bigger gear would have shaved off a few seconds and I’ll keep that in mind the next time I do a TT. Other factors that might have added time were hesitation while dealing with a couple cars on the course (despite excellent course marshaling by the Giro staff) and being overly cautious in the turns.

I still found my result to be satisfactory considering that many other riders had full TT bikes & disk wheels while my 12k sojourn was aboard a Max Lelli Tiburzi road bike with clip on bars and training wheels. Moreover this TT was done the day after a bumpy, sleep-deprived ferry ride from mainland Italy to the island of Sardinia.

Since his own TT was early in the a.m. (top 10 in his age group, I believe), Randy Warren did yeoman’s work taking photos and cheering on the rest of us Max Lelli Bike Team members. Thanks Randy!

Stage 2 Gran Fondo (2 laps x 80km each, ~ 1,500 meters climbing):

The Gran Fondo stage began with a hectic, crowded, roundabout-filled 12k run to a narrow bridge that quickly diffused the pack of 243 riders. With a field of riders composed of retired pros like Max Lelli, soon-to-be-pros, very good Europeand racers who've been at it for years, and then “the rest of us”, my aim was to find a good group to ride with and try to keep the pace hot and always be moving up. Eventually I found myself among a group of approx. 20 riders from various countries and only 3 or 4 of us would spend any time with our noses in the wind. This turned out to be a theme of all the road stages of this Giro. I knew that making any progress toward the lead riders would require coaxing people to rotate TTT-style but that proved difficult to organize.

When the first real climb began I took off and essentially spent the remainder of the race passing people. I expected to have at least a top 100 placing since I spent ¾ of the 160km race passing people on climbs but I was disappointed to be the 171st rider across the line. This can only mean many of the riders I passed all day were competing in the shorter Giro which ran simultaneously but had its own GC and age group classifications.

Still, the beautiful roads and sublime scenery of Sardinia more than made up for the disappointing result. One thing I learned in this long stage is not to attempt to eat while climbing (there’s a reason why feed zones are often at the top of climbs).

Stage 3 Road Race (105km, ~860 meters climbing):

Stage 3 was another epic road stage, deemed “flat” by the race organizers, but in reality was pretty hilly by Midwestern standards. I spent the day leapfrogging from one group to the next and ended up riding with a teammate from the Max Lelli team, Ryan Aydelott. Two weak points for me that came up in this race are losing ground on flat sections as well as descents. Since I weigh in at a svelte 59kg, I’m like a leaf being blown around by the wind which makes it hard for me to move up to the front unless the road is tilted upward.

My GC position and age group classification remained nominally the same after this stage.

Stage 4 Road Race (114km, ~1092 meters climbing):

Stage 4 was another day of amazing scenery and excellent roads, flying through beguiling little villages whose narrow streets were always lined with tifosi both young and old.

I spent this day in what must have been one of the front groups (though not the very front where Max and Randy spent their time). I was climbing well and I knew we were making good time when my front derailleur refused to shift to the large chain ring. I stopped at the top of a climb to manually switch the chain over and it kept hopping back to the small ring. I shoved off in frustration and then noticed a squishy feeling in my left pedal but ignored it thinking the cleat had cracked and I would just replace it after the stage. On a long descent I lost contact with the group I was with since I was restricted to the small chain ring. A bigger problem arose when my left crank completely detached from the spindle. Forced to the side of the road to reattach it (thankfully I did bring a multi-tool), I helplessly watched dozens of riders fly past me, knowing that I would have finished well ahead of them had my crank arm not chosen to come off.

I ended up riding back solo and finished 185th. My overall GC position dropped to 154. I am pretty sure these mechanical problems caused me to lose 15 – 20 spots in the GC but somehow I did not fall to the bottom in the age group category.

Afterward Randy and I agreed I would have a chance to avenge my bad luck two days later in the big climbing stage.

Stage 5 TTT (30km):

Our team was composed of 6 riders: myself, Bill draper, Emanuele Bianchi, Ryan Aydelott, and 2 members of Max Lelli’s posse, Giampiero and Daniele. We were deemed the ‘B’ team while Randy joined Max and his posse on the faster and more experienced ‘A’ team. I was happy to be on the B team, knowing that Max (one time Italian national TT champ) would likely drop me and others pretty early on.

Bill draper flatted about 2 minutes into the TTT (tough luck Bill!), and about 2-3 minutes later we dropped Emanuele. Five minutes after that Daniele could no longer hold a wheel and we were down to 3 (the final time being the 3rd rider to cross the line).

Eventually, Ryan, Giampiero and I rolled in 39th place out of 78 teams. Our avg. speed was a sluggish 39.86 kph (compare this to the winning Assos team whose avg. speed was over 50 kph! Also if I remember correctly the A team with Max and Randy averaged about 45 - 46kph).

After the race we were happy to find Randy who cheerfully announced that he and Max Lelli did the lion’s share of the work for their team, and I believe thanks to Randy’s efforts, this is the day Max took the leader’s fluorescent yellow jersey. We all know how experienced Randy is, but even he was somewhat unsure of whether he'd be able to follow Max Lelli's wheel in the TTT. It turns out Randy pretty much nailed it. Great work Randy!

Stage 6 Road Race (96km, 1,602 meters climbing):

With 5 stages in our legs, we were well accustomed to the daily routine of waking up tired, eating a large breakfast, racing, eating massive quantities of pasta at dinner, prepping for the next day’s race, then going to bed with the same tired feeling we had waking up. Eating so many calories at each meal is almost as difficult as the racing itself.

Today’s stage featured a remote start which forced us to get up extra early for the 1 hour scenic drive to the start line.

I had hoped to use this stage to gain some ground and possibly use my climbing prowess to help Max up at the front of the peloton. Sadly this was not to be because this stage started out with a long and fast descent, and simply lack the skills to fly past ~200 riders on a dangerous, twisting descent.

Ultimately I bounced from one group to the next, always passing riders while climbing. After two long stretches at 18%, we hit some truly spectacular scenery along the coast that reminded me why I love doing overseas bike trips like this.

In the run up to the day’s final big climb, I again found myself with a group that refused to rotate, and eventually I rode away from them as the climb began.

Finally I rolled in to the finish and was pleased to see Randy at the side of the road shooting pictures. I finished 95th overall and was 22nd in my age group. I had a feeling that this stage would prove to be my best day and I was right. If only we had mountains like this near Chicago…

Stage 7 Kermesse (40km):

The final stage featured mostly flat roads but 50kph winds and frequent powerful gusts. I was nearly blown off the road about 10km into the stage and that is when I lost contact with the peloton. As soon a 3 meter gap opened up, with the winds blowing so strongly, I watched the group ride away from me. More than anything though I suspect it was more of a mental hurdle that caused me to fall off the back.


I participated in the Giro d’Sardegna mainly to have a fun experience and not get too bogged down in the results, especially considering the very elite caliber of riders in attendance. With that in mind, I am proud to have finished in the middle of the pack in both the GC and the age group category. I wish I could do more races of this sort, and thankfully now we have the Tour of Galena which I suppose is our closest approximation just 3 hours from Chicago.

It was truly great to race in a place where cycling is more of a “mainstream” sport that people have been doing since childhood (unlike here in the U.S. where a lot of folks, myself included, get into racing during adulthood). Except for not being able to coax people to perform rotating pace lines (which might have been merely the result of a language barrier), I found all the riders to be great bike handlers with good pack skills.

We are all lucky to be associated with Max Lelli via Chicago Velo Campus and Warren Cycling and I highly recommend riding or racing in Italy with Randy next year. It’ll be like nothing you’ve ever done before (well, it’s kind of like SLO camp but a lot faster and not in English).

Team Lelli Bike:

Randy Warren (Warren Cycling)

Emanuele Bianchi (Chicago Velo Campus)

Me (xXx Racing-AthletiCo)

Bill Draper (xXx Racing-AthletiCo)

Ryan Aydelott (unattached)

Max Lelli

Daniele Lazzari (member of Max Lelli’s posse)

Alessandro ? (member of Max Lelli’s posse)

Giampiero Olivi (member of Max Lelli’s posse)

Plus various mercenaries recruited by Max midway through the stage race

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