They say the immense suffering of life in the peloton is one of the beauties of professional cycling.
It’s a romantic view of the sport and one that should only really be mentioned by those iron men who have pedalled over Alps in a search for glory.
Take Adam Blythe for example. The 23-year-old from Dronfield is just a few stages away from finishing the Giro d’Italia for the first time.
The Giro is the tougher yet more aesthetically pleasing sister Grand Tour of the Tour de France.
Taking place over 21 stages from the bedlam of the streets of Naples, across the sole of the boot of Italy, along the Adriatic coast and then the pain of the mountains in the north of the country.
Blythe, by his own admission, is happier on the flat than the uphill. As a one sport man - asked which football club he supports Blythe said he wasn’t really bothered but did like the new Nike England shirt - the 23-year-old has spent his entire career perfecting the quick finish.
However, he’s not had many opportunities to show his prowess and is dedicating himself to protecting his BMC Racing team leader Cadel Evans’ attempts to chase down home favourite Vincenzo Nibali for the coveted maglia rosa.
He told the Telegraph that it’s a role he’s fully committed to: “It’s harder work than it looks but it’s making sure Cadel has everything he needs.
“The weather has been pretty bad so there’s plenty of trips back to the team car for extra layers or to get food and drinks.”
Heading into yesterday’s 203km 17th stage from Caravaggio to Vicenza Evans was one minute 26 seconds behind Nibali.
Time is running out if Blythe is to be on the winning team, but he said there are occasions when just completing a day’s racing is a question of mind over matter.
“Sometimes I love it and sometimes I really hate it,” he said. “There have been times when I’ve seriously wondered whether it has been doing my health any good.
“But there are other occasions when the group is going on well and you look around and you think ‘this is the Giro!’
“Mainly what is going through my head is just counting the kilometres down.
“I know that when we get within 40kms of the finish then I’ll be okay.
“It’s another hard week in front of us but we have a chance with Cadel near the front. I’m enjoying it.”
The race ends in Brescia on Sunday with Britain’s Mark Cavendish hoping to win the red jersey for the points classification and hold off, in the process, Evans who is currently second in those standings as well.
Blythe may yet have a say in helping his Australian colleague as he looks to get in contention to maybe snatch a win over the last few days. He said: “There aren’t many sprinters stages left apart from the last one. I might have a go there, unless I’m just surviving!”
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