Simon Usborne: 'Wiggins calmly stuffs the bottles of water down his jersey as he rides, hands-free, inches from a car doing 30mph'
Saturday 18 July 2009
"Garmin, Garmin!" The call comes crackling over the race radio from the organisers up ahead. Suddenly Garmin Team Director Matt White floors the accelerator as we pull out of the team-car caravan. In an impressive if terrifying display, he combines the skill of a rally driver with the aggression of a boy racer to steer through tiny gaps between vehicles and straggling cyclists at 70mph. Such is his focus, I dare not ask what has happened. A puncture? A crash?
Professional cycling had always been a mystery of obscure French words and sinewy men in Lycra riding in ant-like swarms to me, so I jumped at the chance to ride shotgun in Garmin's car during the Avellino-Vesuvius stage of the Giro d'Italia, cycling's second- biggest race. An Aussie former pro, White makes a patient guide. But when his guys need help, there's no talking.
As we approach the peloton, White picks up the team radio. "Bar's open, boys," he says. That's it, no disaster – just thirst. Soon, Bradley Wiggins, he of the sideburns and Team GB track glory, is alongside. Driving with one hand, White passes bottles to Wiggins, who calmly stuffs them down the back of his jersey as he rides, hands-free, inches from a car doing 30mph. Then, hand outstretched, White slingshots Wiggins back to his parched team-mates.
Today's mountain stage sends riders 102 miles along the Amalfi coast towards a summit finish on Vesuvius. The Russian Denis Menchov will keep the pink jersey unless the Spanish climber Carlos Sastre can open a gap. As for Team Garmin, "We'll just go steady," White says.
And so we drive on, eating sandwiches, chatting and taking in stunning scenery between explosive forays to the team. In the end, Menchov takes the title in Rome. "Pretty quiet day all in all," says an absurdly calm White as my heart rate begins to settle.
It's been quite an introduction to the organised chaos and superhuman speed of Grand Tour racing. An intriguing footnote to the day is bit-part role played by the man now monopolising coverage in France. Even if some would like Lance Armstrong to roll on back to Texas, they can't deny the man has balls (OK then, just the one) to come back in the twilight of his career. But, as his critics would do well to realise, at the end of a thrilling day in Italy, he's just another cyclist.
Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around
No standstill in global warming: 2014 will be world's hottest year ever
UK wildlife endures roller-coaster year of extreme weather
Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
- 1 The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
- 2 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 3 Andy Murray takes to Twitter to show off his Christmas jumper
- 4 Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
- 5 Top 10 travel destinations for 2015: From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...