This is coming many days later, but I would like to offer a summary of the final two stages of Tour of Poland. Stage 6 was a hard circuit that consisted of 15 climbs. There were 11 category "1" climbs, which weren't category 1 of the real sense, but that didn't make them any easier. They definitely were difficult and over the course of 207km and almost 6 hours, they certainly hurt! The race began really fast and quite hard. There was a big split on the first climb of the day, but eventually everything settled out and a small break went up the road. The next 100k or so were pretty standard; although, the effort was draining considering the course profile and the point in the race (stage 6). About 80km from the finish, Astana went to the front and began to drive the pace pretty hard. The field strung out and a lot of guys got blown out the back.
We entered the final lap with a severally diminished and depleted field. We hit the first climb and more guys were shed. I hung in there alright, although I definitely had some tired creeping into the legs. The next climb was even a little faster and more tense as guys knew that they needed to be in good position over the top. Immediately after the top was a narrow, twisty downhill that led directly into a few corners and the valley to the next, decisive climb. I fought hard to be in the front going over the top. I think I was top 25 or so, which left me feeling a little uneasy, but I had to keep fighting. The descent was dangerous enough in the dry, but now it was raining, so I was a little scared for sure. Keeping my nerves about me though, I made it down in good position and started the next climb in an ok spot. I readied myself for the upcoming dynamite and BOOM! The road pitched up from a gentle ~6% to more than 20% for over a km. Guys exploded in impressive fashion, and my legs began to beg to join them. I fought hard and kept contact with the second small group on the road. After the really steep section, we made it across to the front group. When everyone had regroup and gained their breath, there were about 23 guys I think.
After another tricky descent, it was the final 5k of the race. No rest for the weary because it was pretty well all uphill, some sections steeper than others. I came off the descent in the back with a small gap because a guy in front of me got really tentative. There is safe, but there is also lose the group (and race). I sprinted out of the corner and closed the gap. I knew it was only a few hundred meters to the roundabout at 4k to go and the main pitch upwards, so I recovered as best I could and pedaled toward the front. We hit the roundabout and I jumped from the group. After losing time on stage 4, I had nothing to lose, only an opportunity to move up on gc and/or go for the stage win. After I attacked, I think I realized my legs were not so good and the doubt crept in. I did the textbook looking back, which is the telltale sign that the rider is finished. I kept fighting because I still believed I had a chance, but I wasn't catching the rider in front, then another rider came roaring by me and then the field came by me in bits and pieces. I tried to cling to the different groups, but I was pretty well tanked. I watched in agony as the group in front of me swelled to near capacity again. I tried to come back, but it wasn't happening. I rode my own tempo to the finish knowing I had tried and crossed the finish line a tired boy.
I found out on stage 7 that tired was an understatement because I felt almost helpless on the bike. I felt pain in my legs and body as I pedaled from the team bus to the start: not a good sign! The race began and I was miserable. Not only did my body and mind ache, but the road was so rough that I nearly quit mid-race. I was so mentally defeated and physically tired, that I wanted nothing more than to stop pedaling, pull to the curb, maybe throw my bike depending on how mad I was feeling when I got to the curb, then lay on the grass and cry or kick and scream until I was so tired that I fell asleep. Thankfully I have more motivation and mental fortitude that I kept myself together and finished what turned out to be a very difficult race.
Besides for the circuit being rough, there was a lot on the line for the last day of the race. Peter Sagan was trailing Dan Martin by a slim 3 seconds. With one intermediate sprint worth 3, 2 and 1 seconds, and the finish being worth 10, 8, 6, etc. seconds, there was ample opportunity for a fast man like Sagan to make up that time and take the overall. It was evident from the start that he had intentions of doing just that because Liquigas took the peloton by control from the start and kept everything under wraps. A small break went, but everyone was content to sit in the field because they were exhausted, and they knew nobody was going to make it past the intermediate sprint with Liquigas wanting to take the time bonuses. The race got really fast coming to the intermediate sprint. Liquigas did a full on lead out with speeds going over 70kmh. I was fighting frantically to just hang onto the wheel at the speed. Sagan took second and 2 seconds, so he was now 1 second down. In the final, he was able to take second in the field sprint and win the overall. It was a pretty interesting and exciting final day of racing.
Tour of Poland was good for me. It gave me some really good speed work. I also got a lot of good climbing efforts. Most importantly maybe is that I gained confidence about where my fitness and form is at as I look to the rest of the season.
Now I'm back in G-town and enjoying some time with the Mrs. Sunday we had a relaxing bike ride together. It is so fun to have Lisa on the bike and to be able to go explore the roads around Girona together. Monday we planned a beach day, but it was ruined by clouds (AGAIN!), so we improvised and took care of some errands, a little shopping and general quality time together. Today I had a nice ride with Steven Cozza and a local guy named David. When we came back into town, we met Lisa and Jen (Steven's financee) at a cafe. After lunch and a siesta, Lisa and I headed out in search of a local swimming hole. We found the swimming hole, took a little dip and are hoping to return tomorrow. I will report more about that with potential pictures/video later. On our way back into town, we stopped by the grocery store for some supplies. We came home and made a pretty good dinner of zucchini and red pepper stir fry with an oven roasted turkey leg. It was the first time for a turkey leg, so it turned out a little dry, but I think we'll do it again sometime! Tomorrow I will begin some good training again. Hope you enjoyed the read!