Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Headed Inland

Over the last two stages, we have begun to move away from the coastline, granted we did have the finish there yesterday! In any case, we did start inland and spend most of the day off the coast. It was a nice change of pace not to be looping to/from the coast all day. The roads were a little bigger, too, which was very nice. Thankfully for us, the trend of the break going relatively uncontested continued, so we didn't have to fight for a long time to control the field. Once the break was gone, we rode a steady tempo to keep things in control assuming that eventually a sprinter's team would come to close the gap with interest in winning the stage. The pivotal point in the stage was a short but incredibly steep climb about 40km from the finish. It was only 1.8km, but it had an average gradient of 13% and a maximum of 30%. It was unbelievably steep, perhaps the steepest climb I've ever done, which is impressive considering I've ridden Basque Country 4 years in a row! As expected, it was chaos and tense to get to the climb, then it blew up on the steep slopes. I was unlucky to get caught behind a crash just at the base, but I was able to get going relatively quickly. I had a lot of ground to make up, but I made it over in the second group. We joined the front group relatively quickly. It was a good situation for us at this point with 8 of our guys there. Some attacks began going and I needed to cover them, but I was completely boxed in at the moment they went. That meant we had to start chasing because we missed the move. After a hard chase, we closed the gap with about 15km to go. Now we were going for the stage win with Fabian. We continued to pull to keep things under control. Soon a couple other teams with interests in winning began to help pull. Then at 8km to go I heard the dreaded "psst, psst, psst...". Flat tire, day finished for me. Fabian ended up second on the stage and a controversial split in the field caused Chris to lose the jersey. No doubt it was frustrating, but it was nice to lose a little bit of the pressure to defend.

So that brings us to today's stage. There was a small thought that the break could survive today, so we gave it a go. I was in the first move of the day, which looked really good, but for some unknown reason it was brought back. Another move shortly afterwards went and it did actually get surprisingly close to the finish line. The sprinters did have their day though. I'm expecting/hoping for the same over the next two days as well, which with any luck might allow a little recovery for the legs. We'll see how the race plays out though!

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