The break rolled away surprisingly easy today, which was nice, but it also meant the stage was going to take awhile. With only 3 guys in the break, it was a pretty easy ride until the final laps around Asco. As we approached the climb for the first ascent, I was fighting for position and was forced into a drainage hole. I tried to hop it, but I hit the lip with my rear wheel: pop. Shoot, really bad timing. I called the car, got the change, and chased back on just before the climb started. I fought to get back to the front, but it was a mess. The climb wasn't too difficult until the last 3km.
I thought I was in good position the first time, but as the pace rose with attacks, it was quickly evident that I was pretty far back. In the chaos, I also got tangled with a guy who managed to get his saddle hooked over the top of my brake hood, which pulled my front wheel into his rear skewer. By some stroke of luck, we got untangled without crashing or having his skewer rip the spokes out of my front wheel. My wheel was knocked out of true, but it was still rideable. I debated looking for a change, but there was no good moment. I had to try and go on. Over the top, I was in the third group. We chased back to the second and eventually the first on the top.
For the second time up, I again thought I was in/near the front, but I found myself fighting to hang onto the back of the front group as I sifted my way through the carnage. I lost the contact and was never able to chase back on. It was really disappointing for me because I had the legs to be in the front group if I had been in the proper position. I will look at that as a positive though, and hope I can continue to feel strong for the coming stages where there will be more opportunities.
Some side notes: first, I have no idea what was on the road, in the air, or in the hotel yesterday, but the 4 remaining riders are suffering from some breakout all over the skin. It is not nice sounding or experiencing. Second, I have a small complaint that it is bad organization to have a race finish one stage and start the next in the same town if there are not enough hotels within close proximity to put up all the teams. We have to drive 1.5hrs tonight and tomorrow morning because of this situation, and it is not nice. That's all. We fight again tomorrow!