I remember this stage from when I last raced Toscana with the US National Team three years ago, and knew we were in for a tough day in the saddle. Stage three involves four times around a circuit, and each circuit includes a short, leg-breaking climb. The race ends with one last climb – separate from the circuit – followed by a descent ahead of a flat run-in towards the finish.
Before we raced, we remembered Michela Fanini. The winner of the Italian National Road Championships in 1992 and the Giro Donne in 1994 was involved in a fatal car accident in the fall of 2004 on her way to training. The full name of the ‘Giro della Toscana’ is the ‘Giro della Toscana – Memorial Michela Fanini,’ so her name and spirit live on in this race set up by her father the year after her death.
Before the stage start, we did a small lap around town and stopped in front of Michela’s memorial that includes a huge statute of her (pictured above). Several of the Italians, all the jersey wearers and family/friends went in, and they played taps and said a prayer. From there, we took a neutral start before racing officially began.
The race was aggressive from the gun with USAC and Rabobank launching repeated attacks. It’s difficult to move up on this circuit, and the high pace from the constant attacks kept the field strung out.
It rained on/off throughout the day, and the wet roads intimated some people on the descent. It never poured, and we’d encounter dry patches of road along with the wet ones.
Things were fast but fairly controlled in the bunch during the third and fourth laps. The fourth time up the circuit climb, I got popped. I thought there was a chance I could catch on as we descended, but it was raining at that point and the riders in front of me were allowing gaps to open. I never saw the field again, and I rode the last 30 kilometers by myself.
I’m not of fan of solo racing. I had no idea if there was anyone behind me. I looked back a few times but never caught sight of any other riders. After I finished, I learned there were a handful of girls yet to come home – and a few of them, unfortunately, missed the time cut.
When I got to the finish, my teammates filled me in on what had unfolded in front of me. Fabina Luperini (Faren Honda) and Megan Guarnier made it over the top of the last climb together. They were joined by race leader Malgorzata Jasinska (Mcipollini Giambenini), and the three started down the descent together. This front group was joined by two other groups on the road to form a selection of 17 riders charging towards the line together.
Megan ended up taking second on the stage, and both Lauren Hall and Amanda Miller finished in that front group. There was a bit of a general classification shake-up but nothing much changed for us. We still have three riders in the top-ten overall, with Lauren our best-placed in second followed by Megan in fifth and Amanda in ninth.
Just one day to go and I’m looking forward to it. I’m ready to race one last stage, wrap up my road season and head home. I’ve enjoyed my time in Europe, and it was definitely the best training I could get ahead of what is shaping up to be a super-competitive ‘cross season, but whenever I near the end of trip, I start to get antsy to go home.