Friday, February 15, 2013

Stage 5 Oman

Stage five lent itself to a very difficult finish as was predicted. We did a lap of sorts consisting of a serious mountain ridge. We climbed what I'll call the backside two times and the frontside one time, all three in a 30km stretch of the race with the final summit coming only 10km from the finish. Everyone entered the stage today knowing about the finishing climbs, but I don't know for certain that everyone expected the start to be as hard as it was. We started in a town on the coast near our hotel. From there, the only road out included a nasty little climb. Kilometer zero came and the attacks flew. We hit the climb and the field stretched until it broke. Over the top it had broken into 3 pieces minimum. The majority (maybe all) of our team was in the first group of about 50. After a small descent, the pressure remained on for the break to get away. Eventually 9 guys went clear including Markel and a gc threat from QuickStep, Stybar, who was only 55 seconds down.

Sky threw down a massive chase for the whole stage. It was the second stage in a row that we never went slow. It kept things interesting, that's for sure. I did my best to eat and drink a lot because of the heat. The gap never went over 4 minutes, and it was certain Sky was going to use the climbs to finish the closing the gap. The first time up the climb (backside) Sky rode a very solid tempo, closing the gap a bit and dropping a few riders. When we hit the frontside of the climb for our second ascent, SaxoBank went to the front and turned on the heat. They had an obvious goal to put Contador into the lead. I was in a good position to see them prepare for the attack, then I was able to follow it as the field exploded. I went again to my limit and was in the last 500m of the climb before my will was broken. I lost contact with huge disappointment about being so close (and yet so far). I gave chase with Peter Velits on the descent and flat bit before returning to the backside for the final ascent, but it was to no avail. We never caught the front group; instead, we sat up as the group from behind closed the gap to us.

The group behind caught us. To my surprise, Fabian, Gregory, Hayden, and Popo were pulling full gas. I immediately jumped on the wheel. They did their best to try and bring Tony and me back to the front group, but it was futile. The gap was too big. Fabian took a final pull at the bottom of the climb, then it was up to Tony and me. I decided to try and help Tony because I knew he would have a good chance at a stage win if he made it back to the front. My engine was a bit burned though from my effort the previous climb. I had to pull off after a few minutes and hope he could make it. He made a valiant effort, but wasn't able to make it. I was able to recover and stay with the group behind, which caught Tony and the others who had been dropped from the front group as we approached the final summit. From there, it was a full gas chase (mainly from BMC) for the remnants of the stage. We gave it our best but once again came away empty handed. Nonetheless, these efforts will undoubtedly boost our fitness going forward. One more stage and we're finished. It isn't going to be an easy parade stage as we'd like, but hopefully nothing significant will happen. That's all from Oman.

1 comment:

Scott K said...

Great descriptive commentary on the stage. My legs are burning just reading about your efforts. Hang in there for the final stage.