The second stage of the Giro Rosa 2019 was a loop of 78,3km commencing and ending in Viù. A beautiful, Italian town, up in the mountains with just one, single, narrow, windy road to get there, little parking space, and many hasty Italian drivers. But the Parkhotel Valkenburg staff made the dream work and set up the camper nicely with the awning out to create the most shade they could get. Bart had explored the course early in the morning and enjoyed the view of the locals watering the flowers, preparing them for the day to come.
During the briefing, Bart shared his insights and made suggestions on what to focus on where and when. Sofie de Vuyst eagerly took in all the information, because she had a goal today: get to the top first. She had her eye on the prize; she wanted that green jersey.
After the signing, the riders climbed on their bikes that were set up in the shade and chatted away. Sunscreen, gels, water, cooling vests, you name it, they had it. Preparation is key, especially when the race starts off hard. No rolling around for the first 20km to warm up, it was straight up and then up some more. The legs needed to be ready to work from the very first clip in.
Although she was slightly more nervous than usual, Sofie took off with her teammates to conquer those hills. At one point, a rider from BTC City Ljubijana tried to get away and Sofie knew she had to respond. This ended up with Sofie and one of the Cogeas riders creating a 50” gap between them and the chasing peloton. Bart dutifully kept reporting the time difference on the radio, and when Sofie heard the peloton was rapidly closing in, she knew she had to jump. The top was going to be hers. With 700 to 800 meters to go, she accelerated and left the Russian rider behind. She reached the top and got her prize.
Of course, there was still a lot of kilometers left to race and Parkhotel was feeling good. So good even, they led the bunch for a while to chase down two leaders. While concurring the descend with some ease after all the climbing, Sofie’s mind did wander off a bit to the fact that now both she and her partner had won a green jersey in the Giro Rosa/D’Italia. The mind wandering could not last long, because the course led the riders to test their technicalities and 100% focus was required. When she reached the wider, ‘flat’ part of the course, Sofie was actually happy she was caught by the peloton, since it would have been a tough job to ride there on your own. Together with Demi in the leading group, she made her way back to Viù and the race felt under control. This started to change when the last 20km of the race approached. Some attacks here and there, and Sofie tried to take Demi with her as far as she could. The narrow roads made it difficult to choose the right position, but those last meters required no more thinking and just hard pedaling. After all that work, Demi got in 8th and Sofie still managed to reach the 13th position.
This green jersey, 13th place and overall great stage might even be appreciated more by Sofie after her crash in 2017. Due to this incident, Sofie says she has gained a much more positive outlook on life and a stronger mental ability. Of course, she was nervous before the stage, but she can take the pressure off and enjoy bike racing a lot more. This has actually resulted in better performances for her as well. ‘Putting too much pressure on myself was not good for my legs. Now, I just do the best I can and if I don’t make it, that is okay too and I will try again tomorrow. I can handle so much more mentally; I won’t let the nerves get to me any more’.
For tomorrow, she is going to enjoy riding in her well-earned green jersey and try to do her absolute best to keep it. Besides that, she and the team are going to make it a beautiful stage and hopefully help each other to get on the podium.
Parkhotel Valkenburg will tackle stage three in Sagliano Micca at 12:10. This stage will finish in Piedicavallo with a category 2 GPM on the finish line!