She was waiting near the team bus for “her” rider to arrive. Finally, Guy Niv appeared with his teammates after riding the extra 18 kilometers from the finish line to the hotel, and DS Cherie Pridham found a moment to take him aside.
“I am proud of you,” she said to the Israeli, patting him gently. “And I am proud of the whole team.”
You can raise your eyebrows and wonder what she was proud of; after all, there was no victory in our name today in the opening stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. But what the ISN 7 showed today was precisely the team spirit we were looking for after being forced to come here without our GC leaders, Mike Woods and Dan Martin. “ I just need that 120 percent effort from you today,” said our team manager Kjell Carlstrom to the guys in the last briefing before the start. “And do your best to execute the plan.”
Minutes into the start, it was clear that everybody listened. Israeli Guy Niv jumped right on the very first breakaway attempt and made it. But that was only part one. The idea was to try and fight for the King of the Mountain jersey, which was up for grabs on the climb he revisited three times during the opening three laps.
He saved nothing while trying to win the points time after time. He attacked once and again close to the top, ultimately finishing third before
going for a solo attack the third time around, only to be caught a few hundred meters from the top. “The problem was,” he explained later, “that the second part of the climb was not steep enough for a climber like me, and I wasn’t punchy enough to beat the other guys. I am still not there.”
But nobody could ask for more, certainly not DS Cherie, who was following him all day in the team car – in her debut as the first female sport director in a WorldTour race. “Guy did a fantastic job in the breakaway all day, and it also allowed me to get back into the heart of things. I had a little bit of apprehension, of course, but I had to put it away pretty quickly.”
When the peloton finally caught the breakaway, the rest of the team got down to business leading our sprinter Hugo Hofstetter into the best possible position. They did just that, keeping it together and launching Hugo, with Davide Cimolai doing a fantastic job as the lead-out man. “They positioned me just great,” said Hugo later, after finishing 10th. He explained that he found it difficult to accelerate in the most critical moment and, in retrospect, regretted choosing a ring a bit too small. “I chose a 54, but with the enormous speed of the sprint, I should have chosen a 56.”