INFINIT is continuing our Spring Classics Series, insider stories about what actually happened in the peloton, the race conditions, terrain and and the custom-blended nutrition solution needed to complete the race.
"Nothing is like a three week race. The demands exceed what is anticipated and the struggle determines what makes up your heart and soul as a cyclist. This Giro is known for having crazy hard mountain stages. It’s the mountains that separate the strongest from the weakest and at the Giro it’s these colossal climbs that will reveal the overall winner..."
About the Race:
- Giro d' Italia, translated in English means Tour of Italy;1 the race is also known as Corsa Rosa2 or Giro.
- Giro d' Italia is an annual stage race bicycle race primarily held in Italy, while also passing through some nearby countries.3
- The race was first held in 1909, and only was interrupted for the two World Wars.4
- The race route changes each year, but the format of the race stays the same, with the appearance of at least two time trials, and a passage through the mountains of the Alps.5
I never saw him. I was competing in the same race as this rider but he was only a mystery to me. The crowds knew him well, the fans loved him, but he was on an entire different cycling level then I was. It was 1990 and this was my first Giro d’ Italia. I’d never ridden a 3 week race before so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was going to be hard, I knew it was important to recover each day, and I knew I needed to do everything correctly in order to make it to the finish. For a large endurance event there is no question a lot of carb’s are needed along with some protein.
That year, 1990, I sat on the start line and raced for 3 weeks straight. It was the year when Gianni Bugno won the prologue and held the leaders pink jersey from start to finish. He was my mystery man, I never saw that pink leader’s jersey because I never finished anywhere close to where he finished. His team relentlessly rode on the front of the pack. A place I never managed to find during the race. In fact, I only got slower as the race went on. My legs were blown and I could only manage one pace, a medium hard tempo. I couldn’t go harder because I just had no power left and my legs were so sore from the racing I couldn’t even get a massage. In my cross eyed suffering day in and day out I was seeing pink but it wasn’t that of the race leader.
I was on the 7-11 team with a bunch of young riders that were thrown into the mix with some experienced guys. Riding our first Grand Tour was John Tomac, Tommy Matush, Thomas Craven, Norm Alvis, and me. We were paired up with Urs Zimmerman, Jeff Pierce, Nathan Dahlburg, and Andy Bishop. Half of us had no idea what to do and we all raced our hearts out to make it to the finish.
That 1990 race was comical at times. We got lost heading to starts and we got lost trying to find our hotels at the finish. I can remember the team driving around looking for the start in some small Italian city and our director yelling out the window, “Gianni Bugno, Gianni Bugno.” Speaking no Italian this was the only way we could get directions. On one stage the weather was rainy and cold at the start. John Tomac decided he need some hot cream for his legs so he lubed up head to toe in hot embrocation cream. After two hours of racing the sun came out and Tomac’s legs were on fire. They were tomato red and he was in pain. So much so that the team car had to stop at a store and buy some milk to pour over Tomac’s legs to stop the burning. Tommy Matush was from Wisconsin and he loved cheese. Every night he would attack the cheese tray at dinner and every night either Zimmerman or Pierce would yell at him to stop eating all that fat. The New Zealander Dahlburg would come down each morning with his vegemite and try to convince us that this his vegemite was the key to making it through the race. He may have been right because he was one of the five from the team that actually made it to the finish in Milan.
Nothing is like a three week race. The demands exceed what is anticipated and the struggle determines what makes up your heart and soul as a cyclist. This Giro is known for having crazy hard mountain stages. It’s the mountains that separate the strongest from the weakest and at the Giro it’s these colossal climbs that will reveal the overall winner. The mountains are also where the weather takes its biggest toll on the peloton. This spring the cold and snow has lingered in parts of Europe and this will surely affect the Giro riders. History was made in 1990 because it was only the 3rd time a rider had kept the lead for an entire Giro. The others being Costante Girardengo (1919), Alfredo Binda (1927) and Eddy Merckx (1973).