Giro analysis: Rest day?

Ever wondered what the riders get up to on a rest day during a Grand Tour? A bit of shopping, perhaps? Some sightseeing? Maybe even a day away from the machines on which they will be covering 3,400km over the space of three weeks? Oh, if only …

The term ‘rest day’ is a bit of a misnomer if ever there was one. In fact it’s very rare for a cyclist to actually ‘rest’ on such days. Even though they’ve only ridden three stages, almost everyone will have a build up of lactic acid in the legs so the riders will have rolled out in groups yesterday for a couple of hours’ reasonably hard riding, just to work those muscles. Given that it’s the team time trial today, some may have taken the opportunity to give the course a thorough once over and even put in some rare, and possibly much-needed, time-trialing practice with their teammates.

Taylor Phinney on the "rest" day (image courtesy of BMC)

Taylor Phinney on the ‘rest’ day (image courtesy of BMC)

If the tweets were anything to go by, almost all the riders had a late night on Monday, particularly those like the maglia rosa, BMC’s Taylor Phinney, who also had to pop into hospital for a check on his injuries, sustained in the multiple pile-up caused by a [Roberto] Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli) swerving off its trajectory in the sprint for the finish line. The BMC team doctor announced on the team’s site:

A preliminary review of the X-rays with the hospital’s overnight radiologist revealed no broken bones. We’ll take another look at his ankle later today and see how it’s healing. It’s definitely good that this happened before a rest day, since the transport and treatment process took so long. Taylor will enjoy a good night of sleep without the stress of having to get ready to race.

And the team’s official Twitter account confirmed that Phinney would be back on his bike regardless:

After the stage, which finished earlier than usual, it would have been a quick shower and change in the team bus before hopping onto the flight from Denmark to Italy with backpacks. On arrival, the riders would have been greeted with a lengthy transfer to their hotel for a massage, dinner and bed.

I’m sure many would have taken the opportunity for a bit of a lie-in yesterday morning, before a late breakfast and then that ride with their teammates. After lunch, they’ll most likely have been resting with their feet up while doing interviews or, if they were unlucky, fulfilling other commitments. Those who’ve fallen on the first couple of nervous stages in Denmark will appreciate an extra bit of healing time. Here’s a close-up of Mark Cavendish’s road rash, those of a nervous disposition should look away:

Mark Cavendish's road rash (image courtesy of Mark Cavendish, Team Sky)

Mark Cavendish’s road rash (image courtesy of Mark Cavendish)

It’s rare to have a rest day this early in the race but it was occasioned by the transfer back to Italy. While the riders flew, other team staff would have driven the 1,200km, 15-hour road journey through Germany arriving after midday yesterday with all the paraphernalia and most of the staff who accompany the teams. The mechanics would then have been hard at work setting up the bikes for today’s team time trial. No ‘rest’ for the support staff.

Rest days were introduced into the Grand Tours in the 1960s and typically are taken on the second and third Mondays of the race. However the Giro,whose organisers seek to explore and showcase every corner of Italy (and beyond), is infamous for its long transfers and as recently as 2002 had only one rest day. In addition, with more summit finishes than the Tour, particularly those excursions into the high mountains, the Giro often provokes logistical nightmares and long delays before the riders reach their hotels. They’re not shy about voicing their displeasure and after last year’s torturous route celebrating the reunification of Italy, the previous head honcho of the Giro has been replaced with a younger, more understanding model keen to replicate the excitement of the 2010 Giro won by Ivan Basso.

One consequence of an early rest day means there will be 12 days of racing before the next one.  This will probably be more eagerly awaited with the rank and file counting down the days. At this point their bodies will have become more accustomed to hours in the saddle and they’ll be loathe to disturb the rhythm. Again, they’ll probably go on about a three-hour ride at a lower intensity, still not what you’d call a recovery ride. This prevents their legs from feeling heavy and sluggish on the following day’s stage.

It would appear that rest days pose more of a problem for cycling fans than the peloton:

Fortunately, the action resumes later today!

Link: Official website

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