The stage starts quick from the off with the 12km timed Vezzena starting just 3km from our hotel. This is a wonderful road carved into the mountainside and pretty steep, averaging over 10%. A group of three of us battle it up with Rob Waller setting a very strong pace. A long way from the struggling rider who was barely able to eat a few grapes on the feed stop on stage 2. But he attacks early with 3km to go, Tim and I track him and launch our counter attacks. This was all very early to be working so hard, but thankfully we spend the next few hours riding relaxed up the Passo Coe and Borcola, we are today in the most remote parts of the Dolomites. An amusing lunch is shared with a cow trying to steal our food and we rode off in high spirits thinking the profile for the afternoon looked pretty easy (however the profile shown in the handbook had been cropped off and the final climb not shown!).
I raced up the Campogrosso well but soon afterwards I started to fade. Out of food and water I was struggling. Alone on some remote roads the kms seemed to crawl by slowly. Almost on my last legs I came across a fountain with an old lady washing up her cutlery. Hot and dehydrated I put my head in the water, it felt so good. I drank for a few minutes by which time the old lady had put her arm around me. I must have looked in a right state as I think she then was pointing towards her house next to the fountain. "come inside for cake" I was imagining she was saying but Italian words just confused me. I bid her farewell and press on. The water did the trick, my legs were able to work again. A few out and back cols towards the end were starting to disorientate me but luckily I was joined by a few others and got back on track. In the briefing the night before Phil had missed mentioning the finish to the stage. A horrendously steep 8km climb up to the hotel. We were on our knees by the end. Wow. My room mate took a wrong turn and ended up in a cafe in another valley, but was all smiles when he and a few others were rescued and ferried back.
Everyone was shattered, the reason…the handbook had todays route as 4100m of climbing, the easiest of the tour. However that was a misprint as it turned out to be 5250m. We all underestimated the route. And lastly Phil, who after helping the back markers into the broom wagon, rode the final climb in the dark escorted by the tail vehicle. He finishes as we were all having dinner, looking shattered but clearly pleased with himself for designing such an incredible route.