On The Road at the Giro d’Italia: It’s been three weeks of huge contrasts for Team Sky

Martin Ayres

Martin Ayres has worked at Jaguar for over twelve years, and once again joins Team Sky as their performance engineer during the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta á Éspaña in 2013. Having not ridden a bike for over 20 years, Martin is a recent convert to the sport after his experiences with the Team in 2012 – including during their historic winning campaign for the Tour de France…

OTR31 300x225 On The Road at the Giro dItalia: Its been three weeks of huge contrasts for Team Sky

The giro nearly over, the riders are in a relaxed mood as they look forward to returning home to see their families before their race programmes begin again.

Phew, we’ve done it. As I remember it that was the overriding emotion across the team camp on Sunday afternoon (said in a few different languages, naturally). It’s been three weeks of huge contrasts. From seascapes and sunshine in week one to riding through blizzards in the Alps and even having a stage cancelled by week three, the Giro has kept the teams and riders in a rollercoaster for the whole race and there’s a bit of a ‘we made it out alive’ feeling.

Team Sky has had its share of highs and lows too. With Bradley Wiggins being forced to drop out of the race I have been amazed by the resilience of the riders to keep their heads up and look for success elsewhere – what a stunning effort from Rigoberto Uran to come in second. It’s a marker of how strong the team is that they can still achieve second place, and they have also won the overall team classification.

The past couple of days have been right in line with the contrasting scenery and conditions that has been the hallmark of this race. On Saturday the team was forced to send a very limited number of support staff up the mountain to the Tre Cime De Lavaredo, with the rest of us confined to the hotel. It was a fascinating stage and demonstrated once again how tough bike racers are, as they climbed right up into the snow clouds on roads I think an average human would not be able to cycle on as they were so steep! Rigo formed a group with two other Columbians to chase Nibali (the overall race leader) down, and managed to secure second place, which was very well received back at the hotel. The additional novelty of three Columbians, used to year-round heat, and yet now fighting it out in freezing temperatures, was not lost.

Cue Sunday and a celebration to rival the finale of the Tour de France. The setting may have been less iconic, but it was no less beautiful and the celebration no less passionate. Italians are known for big hearts and there was nothing other than warmth for all the riders who had competed in this toughest of Grand Tours. Of course, special celebration was reserved for Vincenzo Nibali, the new Italian hero and now de facto voice and figurehead of Italian cycling. So packed were the crowds into the streets of Brescia that we essentially had to weave the teams’ Jaguar XF Sportbrakes through the crowd at about 3km per hour, tooting and waving at what felt like the entire population of Northern Italy.

By the time we had shipped off riders into varying cars and airports after the final stage finish and podium celebrations, it was time for me to make my way back to Blighty. Excited to have finished the Giro, but sad to leave the team, it was a funny feeling to say goodbye to all my friends both old and new, which I hate doing. We’ve spent the past three weeks working together and they really are a great bunch. A huge thank you to all of the support staff for having me fit so smoothly once again into their operation. I’ll single out Soren, the Team Sky Chef and my roommate for the duration of the race, for being particularly good humored and for the not insignificant stream of excess puddings that I managed to receive! Finally also a thanks to the riders, for keeping everyone so entertained both on and off the road.

I’m writing this in Switzerland, after a stopover last night on my overland odyssey back to Coventry. Jaguar has been brilliant and given me the week off so it’s an opportunity for time with the family as it’s half term. I’ll be back for the Tour of Britain, and my best friend and long time colleague Neil will take up the reigns for the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana. So for the moment, Ciao e Grazi, Team Sky!

Follow Martin on Twitter : @teamsky_jaguar

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