I am here on the French island of Corsica for the two day, three stage Criterium International. My travels here yesterday brought back some fond memories from the 2010 season. First and foremost was the long travel day. For me it started at 4:50am. The alarm rang, I folded and packed a few last minutes items I had washed, closed the suitcase, ran through the checklist in my mind again, kissed Lisa farewell and was off to catch the 5:35am bus to the Barcelona airport. After two flights totaling only about 2:15 airtime, a long airport layover and a 2.5 hour drive, I was very happy to arrive at the hotel at 5:15pm (12.5 hours of travel = LONG DAY!). It was nice to arrive to a familiar hotel (same as last year). A short 30 minutes on the trainer, massage and dinner, and I was ready to tackle the first stage.
The stage had some repeat from last year, but it was much longer and much harder I think. The finishing climb was the same, but different conditions and different riders lent the race a different scenario. In the beginning, it took almost 70km for the break to go. It was pretty difficult and quite fast despite a constantly up/down parcours. After the break went, it was time for recovery and regeneration in hopes of being strong in the finish. My legs felt strong most of the day, probably the strongest they have felt all year. These sensations make me very happy with where my condition is hopefully going. As is normal, as the day progressed and the kilometers and climbing added up, the fatigue began to set in. I was mostly comfortable until the last few kilometers of the second to last climb. As we approached the summit, I could feel the lactic really beginning to creep in. I did my best to eat/drink to help buffer it and prepare for the final climb, but it was not going to make a difference.
As we descended off the top and into the valley, it was time to go to work. With the break still out front, it was time to start upping the pace higher and bring them back. I went to the front with Paulinho and some guys from Leopard and Euskatel, and we drilled it. At the base of the final climb we had reeled the break back to less than 20 seconds. I did my best to take one last pull/follow some guys as we closed the gap, but I was finished. I pulled off and hoped Kloden and Tiago had the legs for the finale. Despite being disappointed that I was not going to be trying for the final group, I took a little pride in seeing that I had helped deplete the group to 30 or so riders. The first group went away, and I recovered a bit and rode my own tempo to the finish. Overall I am very happy with how the day went. I did my job for the team, and I am excited about my form.
Tomorrow brings a double stage day. It starts with a 75km circuit in the morning and a short 7km TT in the afternoon. I believe the circuit is reverse from last year. I remember it being very tight and twisty, always up/down along some coastal roads. The TT is the same from last year with a short climb straight out the gate. Then a quick descent and a flat finishing stretch. I don't know what exactly to expect, but it should be a good day. I think the weather is good again, which always helps to make the job a little bit more enjoyable! See ya.