Today was the Kitzbuhl Horn and it did not disappoint on its reputation. Although my stats from yesterday’s post were not quite right, it was not any bit easier. I won’t offer any statistics because I am unsure of exact length and gradient, but I do know I saw signs for 17.9%, 22.X% and the climb seemed to never relax and let you recover.
The day started with a very rapid pace as the break was trying to establish. It took nearly 30 minutes for the break of 3 to go; perfect, no worries/threats and we get to just chill now until the finish! Not to be because the small teams who had missed the break felt like they needed someone in there or something and started attacking again. This did not last long, but it was unpleasant nonetheless.
After this, I thought it was fine for the rest of the day, although it was quite fast. There was some smaller team on the front with all their guys just driving the pace. The field was strung out and just rolling. It wasn’t difficult, but it was fast. Actually it was kind of nice because it got us there that much quicker and then we got the pain finished that sooner!
The stage was relatively uneventful with the exception of me making a certain neo-pro mistake again. The weather was good for the first 3 hours of the stage, but then it was like night and day as we approached this grey darkness just looming in front of us. At this point, I had taken a chance to water the grass as I had been well hydrated today. On my return, I was at the team car for a brief moment and talking to Jose. He asked if I needed anything and I debated on taking the rain cape. Of course I said I didn’t need anything despite looking into the sheets of water only a few km ahead of me. I rode back to the peleton and no sooner was it raining. Dumb!
It was not just raining either; it was pouring and stinging like heck! My arms were on fire. The only other time I remember “rain-pain” like that was from descending a mountain in Estes Park, CO. I eventually got a rain jacket, but then I was soaked and it was nearly worthless. The rain stopped shortly, but the roads were soaked and the bike spray was incredible. I couldn’t see through my glasses, but I couldn’t decide which was better/worse: with or without glasses. I settled on no glasses and squinted my way through the rest of the stage until the climb.
It was the typical dogfight into the base of the climb and despite my efforts, I couldn’t get to the front and found myself well back at the base of the climb. I thought my day was over, but I fought and saw the main group ahead. I found a rhythm and tried to just save energy riding by/through the carnage. I never caught the actual front group, but I did roll up many who cracked. The climb was relentless, allowing maybe two brief spots for a little recovery. They were not of much help. I held a good pace for the majority of the climb and think I was strong enough to be with the front group for the majority of the climb if I had started there. In the final kilometers, the effort began to take its toll and I was beginning to fade I think; nonetheless, I held on as best I could and finished off probably my best ride of the season. Hopefully next time I can be in the front group and put everything together for my best results. I gained more experience today and know that I have the potential to be near the front group, but it is just a matter of me putting it all together.
Tiago put in a solid 5th place finish today followed not too far by Ben, Ivan, and me. Daryl, Beppu, Markel and Chechu all did great work today to protect the team. Tomorrow is another solid mountain stage starting out of the blocks with a category 3 climb, followed shortly by a category 1 and then another category 1 topping out maybe 25km from the finish. There is a big descent running into the finish. Tomorrow is likely to be a small group finish and I hope to be in it. Guten Nacht von Oesterreich.
Picture: A little post dinner soccer.