After an amazing stage yesterday over three cols and 116km of riding with splendid views on the Dolomite peaks, the peloton enjoyed a shorter days work today on stage four’s Individual Time Trial.
The race against the clock started in the South Tyrolean town of Brixen under moody skies; riders lined up to take on the race of truth against the clock. They would be tackling the 17km ascent up to Plancios; averaging 7%, this climb was a first for the Haute Route and would be a testing climb for the time trial.
Culminating at 1,680m above sea level, the climb to Plancios is the major part of one of three alternative routes to the Passo delle Erbe; the second side of which riders will face tomorrow.
The climb in itself weaved its way out of town and remained relatively rolling for the first few kilometers, through a few mountain towns and past the first feed station. After a short plateau and slight descent, the road kicks up 8-9% briefly as it twisted through more mountain towns and past several quaint churches. Snaking through the forest and briefly back into the sun at certain points, the road was deceptively steep in parts but remained relatively consistent throughout. Emerging from the forest just 3km from the summit riders were greeted once again with a stunning view on the snowcapped Dolomites before crossing the finish line in Plancios. Some of those who were taking it easy today took this opportunity to stop briefly and snap a few pictures before resuming their ascent.
Finishing 35th on the day, Dutch rider Paul Vriend shared his thoughts with us after the stage: “It was tough but beautiful once again,” he said, “initially I was just here to ride for fun, but now I’m getting a bit more of a competitive mind set”.
Riding for the first time in the Dolomites this week, Sophie Slaney of the UK was another one of the riders enjoying the views: “I’d done the Alps and the Pyrenees before, but the rock faces you see here are amazing,” she said, “Everyone is really encouraging and friendly, the atmosphere is brilliant we can just enjoy being in the mountains on our bikes”.
Today’s stage winners were our overall leaders Cedrick Dubois and Marcella Toldi; both were run close by their nearest rivals, Cedrick finished just 11s ahead of Ruari Grant and Marcella just 1m28s ahead of Camilla Gianella. The stage winners will take home a brand new Connected Watch from our official timing partner Tag Heuer tonight, and will have to defend their race lead for another 3 days before reaching Venice.
Today’s Individual Time Trial marked the halfway point of the 2017 Haute Route Dolomites. Tomorrow riders will leave Brixen to take on a challenging 94km with 3,250m of climbing including the famous ascents of Passo delle Erbe, Passo Gardena and Passo Sella.