So the funny thing is that I'm not sure where the race actually started today, but the breakaway went with the first attack, which was kind of nice actually. The field immediately settled into a nice little rhythm and began chipping away at the 6 local circuits we had to complete prior to the final 20km ascent to the ski town of Kühtai. Nothing exciting happened on the local circuits, so it was all left to the final climb. The tension and speed ramped up as usual as we went into the climb, but the team did a great job of helping to keep me in good position. I trusted the veteran instinct of Popo to get me to the front at the proper time, at which point I was able to follow Fabian's wheel for the first few km of the climb. From then on, it was stay in the wheels, conserve energy, and fight as long as possible. Today I was able to fight for a long time, too!
BMC was the first to set a good tempo directly from the bottom of the climb. It was fast as I predicted, so the field remained quite large for a long time, strung out for a ways down the road. As guys pulled off the front I'm sure more guys were falling off the back. I stayed near the front to avoid trouble and be ready for the moves, hoping I'd be able to follow. After BMC, SaxoBank took over duties at the front and whittled the field down a bit more until we hit a super steep bit in the middle of the climb. From there on, it was attacks, field explode, field regroup, more attacks, more explosion, some regrouping, and suffering. I was never the first to attack but I was rather active on the climb. I responded to several attacks by fellow American Joe Dombrowski, one of which was the initial separation for the front few guys. I think that was at about 8km to go. Then our small group kept attacking itself, and at 5km to go I finally just couldn't follow the attacks. It was following one of the small downhill/flat sections, and I think I needed just 50 meters more to catch my breath because once I had the chance to recover just a little bit I was able to hold the gap to the front group; although, I have to say that I was sitting on the wheel of Dyachenko of Astana who caught me from behind. In any case, I fought all the way to the top. I knew I was working hard, but when I crossed the line it took me several minutes to be able to catch my breath. I had serious chest and body pain, potentially due to the altitude. Whatever the case, I'm happy with my effort and hope that next time I can follow that final attack. Tomorrow is the infamous Kitzbüheler Horn. It is always decisive in the race. I hope I can have similar sensations and results to today. Stay tuned!