Thursday, April 29, 2010

Romandie

Tour de Romandie takes place in maybe the most beautiful country I have ever been in: Switzerland. The mountains and valleys are vast and expansive, covered in super green grass and trees. The houses and farms are beautiful and pristine, dotting the country side and hills (if not in a city). The train tracks run everywhere. I am trying to take some pictures and will post later, but the quality is not so good. Yesterday we transfered to our hotel after the race and I got my first solid glimpse of the Alps. They are beautiful, still snow covered and teasing to be ridden. Note I say ridden, not raced. That is too painful to think about! But we will certainly be dipping into them later in the race (I think) and it will be great.
Race report: Prologue was alright. It was a short and vicious 4.3km effort lasting 5 minutes and 33 seconds for the author of this article (me!). The course was not too technical, but had a good amount of small hills and false flats, combined with a steady headwind in a few parts, making it plenty difficult. There was also a section of about 800m cobblestone, not too bad though. Compared to where I started a few weeks ago on the TT bike, I was much better today. My handling was better and overall it was moving in the right direction. Not getting to practice though makes a certain difference in the comfort level on the TT bike. Nonetheless, I finished and was off to a decent start in Tour de Romandie.
Stage 1 included 3 categorized climbs, along with a few others that were plenty difficult to put a little tickle in the legs and lungs. There was not a team plan for the first stage besides save energy and protect our leaders (Jani and Haimar) because we know the upcoming stages will be the crucial ones. Nonetheless, we stayed attentive and tried to stay out of trouble. All went to plan, except one of our riders (Markel Irizar) had a mechanical accident on the top of the last climb. Over the top he was trying to move up a few positions (out of the saddle), shifted and the chain slipped and lost tension. As you can imagine, the unexpected occurrence of this, combined with his momentum caused him to lose control and go tumbling to the ground. He did finish the stage and will continue, but he has a few minor scrapes. As for me, I had a good day and finished with the front group. I felt pretty strong overall and hope that my form will come better through the week. Usually I get stronger as the race goes, which would bode well for my ability to help the team come the pivotal weekend stages.
The weather has been nice so far and is forecast to be ok until the weekend, where we might run into a shower or two. Hopefully nothing too bad, but we'll see. Today's stage 2 is not as serious looking on the profile, but will most certainly be difficult. Always up and down, just wearing on the legs. The true difficult will likely come in the two finishing circuits at the end of the day that involve the only categorized climb of the day (cat 1), but after the category 1 climb there is a solid section of false flat and rolling hills that climb another 200-250 meters more. Certainly if the pace if pushed and the hammer thrown down, the field will split. Today might be the day for the sprinters though, as it is by far the "easiest" profile. We'll see what happens! Ciao.