Today's third stage was wet, but not too cold or windy and surprisingly tranquil, that is after the 49kph average start over the first hour or so. The first 30km involved the three "big" climbs of the day and I was motivated today to make myself work and try for the break. It was full gas straight from the line and I was following and staying attentive. The team was actually quite active at the front despite being reduced to six due to Ivan being sick and Ben having some back problems.
On the first of the climbs, there was a good split and I was in and going for it, but things came back together. Over the descent and short section in between the two climbs, things regrouped a little more, but then it blew up again on the second climb and I was again in the front group and going for it, but again it failed. I was happy though with my effort and the work I did because I am making daily improvement on my condition and I feel quite strong despite lack of racing and not a ton of motivation in training. So as usual, a small break finally went and the deal was sealed. Liquigas controlled the race, never allowing the break much leash and in the end it was all together for a bunch kick.
I thought again in the end I was going to lose time because I was following some wheels and then a guy opened a gap two or three wheels in front of me. The guy in front of me went to jump it, opening a gap for me to shoot through with him and just as I was going, he swung over and sat up, forcing me partly off the road, but luckily I kept it up and proceeded to regain my momentum and do a hard effort to close the gap. Let me tell you, I was pretty mad with this guy. We're going 100% and then he decides to drop anchor and quit, forcing me to brake, nearly crash and jump again with a really hard effort to close the gap. Good work for me though.
Then in the last few km's it was strung out and I was following my teammate Dmitriy (I don't think he really knew, but I was trying to follow him to learn things) and he made a jump up the outside to move up. I followed (he didn't know initially) and he slowed to get Markel on his wheel, but Markel didn't take it. Then Dmitriy looked back and saw me and turned on the nitro. I was full gas on his wheel and nearly dying, but made a big move to the front, but that was more just for safety and to ensure I finished in the front group. That's the whole story! I bet you were expecting more.
I do have two stories from the day though. If my friend Garrett is reading this, you would be jealous of me my friend! I had a short conversation with Jens Voigt today. He is a crazy man. No arm warmers, rain jacket, nothing! Just shorts and jersey, a seasoned man for sure. I asked him when he is finished racing and we talked a bit about the weather; random things. I almost talked to him about his biggest fan (Garrett), but I am sure he gets it all the time and I didn't want to be that guy.
Story number two comes from the final few km's where I found myself fighting for position with none other than Tom Boonen. It amounted to nothing really. He got mad, I told him to chill because I was not taking his wheel and not to crash me. Then we were fine and I think he understood I respected him. That's about it for my interactions with the big boys today.
Course report: local circuit was a bit silly. Are we still in Belgium? Oh yes! That is to be expected. Many turns, narrow roads, road furniture and the best was in the last 300m there was a cobbled speed bump, actually more bricks (smooth cobbles). The speed bump was about a street width long and then the run into the finish was the same cobble/brick material and sloping off to the edges. I really thought there would be a crash there, but I don't think there was. Gert had a strong finish today for 4th. I saw him make a move at the end and thought he might make it to the line first, but supposedly a guy hit his brakes somewhere and it caused him to do the same, so no dice. Good for him still. Maybe tomorrow.
I should tell you about yesterday's last km. Man was it great! I guess maybe it was the last 600m. I'll give it to you play by play or turn by turn: right turn, 100m, left turn onto 200m of cobblestones, right turn off of cobblestones onto the last 300m or so to run into the line. I was dropped, but supposedly no one crashed, which absolutely amazes me. It is dangerous circuits and finishes like these that have no place in racing. They may be exciting and fun for spectators, but it is dangerous for the riders and no one really enjoys it. Oh well, another day of racing! Bye.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY LISA! 9 months of love and joy!