On Stage 8, the message from the Giro was clear: at ease people, take a day off. We know you’re sick of coronavirus, we all are, so here are some suggestions. A curated brochure if you like, for a wonderful, sun-kissed holiday next year when all this has blown over.
The Gargano National Park, the spur on the heel of Italy, suddenly everyone’s destination of choice.
While precisely nothing happened in the race the TV helicopter took us off on rambling tours of the surroundings. The emerald green waters of the Adriatic lapped gently against hidden coves, secret beaches, and tucked-away villas where who knows who might get up to god knows what.
Drug dealing? Diamond smuggling? Really high-quality socialising?
We saw yachts, and pleasure cruisers, and cursed the good fortune of those on board as they sipped a crisp glass of something and baked in the beauty of their surroundings.
That shall be me next year, we thought, as one.Embed from Getty Images
Coronavirus, of course, being on our mind following overnight news of a positive test for Simon Yates and his withdrawal from the race. The first rider to exit a Grand Tour in the fashion. Probably not the last.
With seventy kilometres to go and a ten-minute lead, that the winner would come from our break was in no doubt. These six plucky riders forced to put in a shift while the peloton meandered. And it really was a shift. The sawtooth profile of the day’s stage guaranteeing barely a flat metre of road all day.
Of that six we had two British riders: Matt Holmes, from Wigan, home of pies, rugby league, and straightforward opinion, and Alex Dowsett, the Essex time-trail specialist being the guy with the real bike racing pedigree. Dowsett has won many a high-profile TT over the years. Could he really take a Giro road stage?
If he could, it would be the first Grand Tour stage for team Israel Start-up Nation (weird name, let’s be honest). He would write his name in their history. The inception story, to whatever might come next.
Into Vieste and the finishing circuit, tired legs were in evidence. Lumbering attacks were launched without sticking. When Salvatore Puccio and Matt Holmes went clear on the steep circuit climb that looked, momentarily, like it. Briefly.
But Dowsett was shepherded back to the the leaders by a final effort from his teammate Matthias Brandle and he attacked, with that sustained power so befitting his big frame, and that really was it.Embed from Getty Images
Dowsett gathered enough time to insulate himself from Holmes and Puccio on the second go up the climb, and from there his win was sealed.
Into the finish, well clear, he swerved briefly around a random three-legged dog looking tired, emotional, and very happy indeed Dowsett, that is, not the dog). A bit-part in a Puglian holiday brochure suiting him very nicely indeed thanks very much.
And so it’s back to the hotel, quick shower, and celebratory Covid tests all-round.