Monday, April 1, 2013

Basque Stage 1

We were treated to beautiful weather today in Basque Country, but no one seemed inclined to enjoy it! I suppose I can be included in that crowd though. Our team doesn't have a clear race favorite, so in the team meeting, everyone besides Kloeden (our race leader) was told to just go for it. We rolled out super slow for the neutral. As the KM 0 banner approached, I was on the front row and feeling a little crazy. We crossed the banner, and I was 1 second from making the first attack (I think...), but my own teammate, Laurent, beat me to it! From there the fight was on. There were two small rises after 6km that we knew might be the spot for the break to go. I was prepared to launch there, but on the first one I was a little far back and three guys rolled off there. Then two guys jumped on the short descent, but I hesitated. Finally on the next riser, I decided to go. I jumped with a guy from Liquigas, and it was game on. We had a few hundred meters to make up, but it wasn't happening so easy! We chased really hard for what seemed like forever. We had gapped the field, but we weren't gaining very fast on the 5 leaders. Finally, after several kilometers we made contact. I thought it was now going to be 7 of us enjoying the day in front, but evidently SaxoBank was not happy. Our gap was at least a minute and a half, but it was closed down. I later asked one of their riders why they chased, and he claimed they were the only "gc" team not represented. I disagree! There was no Garmin or BMC either. Oh well.

The rest of the day was spent going up and down the Basque hills. There was a particularly hard section following the feedzone where the road was one lane wide and super steep for two consecutive climbs. I made the mistake of going for the mussette and losing valuable position. I started the first of the two climbs in the back and paid dearly. By the end of the two climbs, I had made my way into the middle of the field, but it certainly wasn't very fun. The pace continued on the whole stage, especially as we approached the final two climbs. It was a pretty nervous stage all day really. Everyone was fighting for position on climbs when it wasn't necessary. In any case, we hit the final climb of the day at full gas. Everyone knew it was a crucial climb because it was 7km of fast, technical descent to the finish from the top. I made my way toward the front of the group as we approached the summit, but my progress was promptly halted by a crash as we crested the top. I'm not sure what happened, but the crash combined with fans crowding the course completely blocked the road. I got stopped/saved by a fan who grabbed my arm like he was catching a football. I finally got through after several decisive moments but didn't have much choice at that time to do anything other than follow on the descent. I'm disappointed to have this misfortune, but there is a lot of racing left, so I will soldier on!

Tomorrow's stage is almost guaranteed to be a sprint; although, nothing is ever certain. In any case, I suspect we might save our energy for the next, much harder stages. And as a bonus, the weather is predicted to be sunny again! Hasta luego.

1 comment:

Scott K said...

Nice update, thanks. Keep your nose in there. Hammer those climbs. We are behind you - good luck.