Today's stage seven was flat by the standards we have established in this Vuelta. Only 1600m of climbing and no classified climbs, easy right? I woke up feeling pretty jaded this morning. My legs still ached and my body felt tired. We had a 2.5hr transfer to the start, so I tried to sleep, but it wasn't happening. As we did the neutral, I could feel the blockage in my legs. The start was going to be one of two scenarios: the first attack would go, or it would take 50k for it to go. I was SO happy when the first attack went. Now I could spend the day in the peloton hydrating, eating, and trying to recover/prepare for the days ahead. A note of personal accomplishment, I believe I urinated 4 times in the race today. I have been lucky to go once the previous stages, so I did really good at drinking!
The stage spent almost the whole day rolling up and down the hills/valleys of the area on the same road for 180km. No seriously, it was almost one road all day, maybe 5 turns today. Thankfully it wasn't pancake flat or straight, so it was slightly eventful. So let's talk about the events! The majority of the stage was fairly low stress; although, we had to be on alert for the cross winds. We kept it under control until the last 40k or so and the course became a little more open. It was the typical everyone getting nervous for the conditions, as well as the increase in pace for the finish that cause a crash on an uphill, which split the field. Tiago got caught up in it somehow and needed a new back wheel. With him being a gc guy, we can't just leave him for dead! Nelson gave him a wheel because the team car was behind, and Sergio and I waited for him. The field was going very fast at this point and was shattered into several groups because of the crash, wind, and pace. We chased full gas for what seemed like forever. After probably 10k, we began to come back. We had picked up a few others chasing, so thankfully they helped us chase. We reintegrated just after 20k to go I think. I felt on my limit at this point and wanted to pull the plug, but I knew I needed to stay and try to help our guys again if they needed it. I did my best to recover and move up in the peloton.
With about 15k to go, it was evident the field would stay mostly together for the rest of the race because it was flat and the wind was not blowing hard. I drifted toward the back to chill out and just be available if any of our guys had an issue. At this point, I ran into Kloden who was also doing the same. I asked him if he wanted me to lead him out today, but he said he didn't feel like winning today. Instead, we will save it for another day! I carried on toward the finish, but noticed something felt funny about my bike. Finally at about 2k to go, I felt my rear wheel going flat. I called Eki for a new wheel and rode it to the line easy. I gained a compatriot inside the last km. I asked him if he wanted to put on a show for the fans and do a 2-up sprint. He said no thanks. Maybe he was intimidated of my sprinting reputation!
So how about yesterday's stage? Umm, it was a hard, long start. Took 60k for the break to go. We went through another one of those "glass road" towns, and a motorbike and some cyclists crashed on a very off camber corner. I think the slippery surface was caused by fine dust/sand on the road. I avoided trouble and was very happy when the break finally went. The rest of the stage was the standard. The run into the final was quite crazy. I did my best to help bring our guys to good position for the start of the climb, but I was really struggling to get my bike going. I am not sure if it was dehydration, lack of food, the heat, or any other number of reasons. In the end, I was tailing off the back of the group and was not finding any comfort, so I pulled the plug to save it and fight another day. I rode the rest of the stage feeling disappointed, but I had to do my best to just let it go because it is a long race with many more stages/opportunities ahead!
The next couple stages are going to be very difficult and maybe quite decisive in the first gc shake up. Our guys are riding strong, so we still hold high aspirations. Thanks for checking in!