GERRY Ryan is familiar with the white-knuckle nerves that elite sport can provoke.
The highly-successful Australian businessman has cheered on Melbourne Cup winners, Melbourne Storm premierships and St Kilda Grand Final sides.
Yet right now on the other side of the world, Ryan is a blur of tension and excitement.
“I’m having a nice little glass now to relax the nerves,” he told the Herald Sun from Italy on Friday.
Ryan is on the edge of his seat because the cycling team he created in 2011, now known as Mitchelton-SCOTT, stands on the cusp of creating history as the first Australian team to win a Grand Tour.
He is riding every pedal stroke of young Brit Simon Yates, who with the help of seven teammates, is clinging to a 28-second lead over Tom Dumoulin with three days left in the Giro d’Italia — one of three Grand Tours and the second-biggest race in the world behind the Tour de France.
Yates’ commanding grip on the race loosened for the first time on Thursday night’s Stage 18 summit finish at Prato Nevoso.
He couldn’t respond when Chris Froome hit the gas in the closing stages as defending champ Dumoulin latched on to Froome’s wheel to further eat into Yates’ lead.
“I didn’t have the legs to follow him. Was it a first crack? Good question. I don’t know. I hope not,” Yates said.
“This does not hurt my confidence. I’m much more confident about tomorrow and the next day than I was about today.”
Yates was expected to come under further pressure overnight on the toughest day of the tour, with Dumoulin suddenly smelling blood.
But Ryan and general manager Shayne Bannan told the Herald Sun the team remained buoyant.
“If you’d have told us yesterday that we would be 30 seconds up after the time-trial (Stage 16) we would have been happy,” Ryan said.
“Everyone has a bad day and that was his day today and hopefully he can get back up there tomorrow. He’s confident and positive and he knows he’s got a bit of work to do, but he’d rather be 28 seconds up than 28 seconds down.
“It probably suits him a bit better tomorrow.”
Bannan said the mood remained upbeat in the Mitchelton-SCOTT camp with three days remaining.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tense. It should be — we’re going for the win in the Tour of Italy,” Bannan said.
“The thing about Grand Tours is it’s 23 days and you have to keep a tap on the emotional levels. You can’t get too high or too low.
“The law of averages says you will have a bad day at some point, but Simon has been super.”
A history-making Giro d’Italia victory would cap an amazing week for the Australian team after Amanda Spratt won the four-day Emakumeen Bira and Michael Albasini saluted in Norway’s Tour des Fjords.
“I just feel a sense of pride, regardless,” Ryan said.
“If we miss, we miss. We are now a genuine General Classification contender and Simon has proven that he’s capable.”
Bannan said the team had steeled itself for what is to come.
“This is the Grand Final,” Bannan said. “It’s the first half tomorrow (overnight), second half Saturday. It would be great to pull off the Giro. It would be just fantastic.”