Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rest Day Dos

And just like that, rest day 2 is gone. After a relaxed morning and a nice ride into Zaragoza city center for a coffee, I managed to pack my afternoon full of massage, osteopath, a few various interviews, and dinner. I’m not complaining, but it seems like it went too quick! Regardless, it’s hard to believe there are only 5 stages until we’re finished in Madrid. Nonetheless, I am still taking it one day at a time. Since the last time I had a chance to check in, we’ve had three big mountain days with trying weather and hard racing.

The first of those stages took us into Andorra and passed the highest point of the Vuelta. For the first time during the Vuelta, we felt the effects of rain and cold. It rained for nearly the entire stage and was a dismal 4’C/39’F at the top of the first and highest pass of the day. Nobody really had a chance to think about it much though because we were racing full gas. Shortly after the feed zone, Katusha went to the front and put the hammer down. I was sent scrambling because I had just returned to the peloton after going to the car to retrieve my mussette bag. In all the chaos of the feed zone I was unable to grab my feedbag from the soigneur. I had to go back and get it, which was of course when the pressure went on. At the top of the pass I was able to make contact with the front group, but I needed to get some more clothing from the car. Unfortunately, my radio was broken so I couldn’t hear when the car was available and as the peloton stretched on the decent I had to decide between freezing or losing contact with the leaders. I never got anything from the car but as others were battling the freezing conditions gaps began to open and I had to play leapfrog down the descent. When we hit the next climb I was just a couple hundred meters off the back and I really thought I was going to come back, but fight as I did, my legs/body said no. I had to watch as the peloton rode away. Thankfully though this meant the second racecar could come to me. I took some warmer clothes from my rainbag, and I finished the stage as comfortably as possible.

The next stage everyone was hoping for nicer weather because we had 224km and 4 big mountain passes to tackle. It was nearly 7 hours on the bike. Luck was not with us for the entire stage. We had a dry start, but after the first summit until after the descent of the second KOM the cold, rainy weather returned. The start of the stage was full gas until almost the summit of the first KOM. At the top a group of about 30 guys had formed in front, with the peloton down to about 40 guys. There was regrouping in the peloton but Astana kept the pressure on all day. The sun had come out about half way through the stage and as we tackled the third KOM of the day guys decided they wanted to race again. I rode in the front to help Chris as much as possible, but about 6-7km from the top attacks started going and I couldn’t maintain contact. I fought to stay close, hoping I might be able to rejoin on the descent, but I lost too much ground and never came back.

The next stage we were greeted with sunny skies. Despite the previous two hard days of racing, the field was incredibly motivated to race. The pressure never let off. A breakaway finally went after about 1.5hrs of racing. Movistar wasn’t happy that they were not there though and began pulling immediately. When we hit the second KOM of the day they put the hammer down to bring the break close in order to allow a couple of their riders to jump across the gap. The field exploded under the pressure, but once their riders jumped across the pace relented a little to allow some regrouping. After a brief respite, the attacks began again! It went on like this the entire stage. By the end of the day, there was a total of 23 guys up the road fighting for the stage, while the battle for the GC was going on in the peloton. Nobody really expected this stage to be decisive, but the all day effort coming after 2 hard days of racing and in the second week of the race caused Nibali to crack on the final climb and Chris was able to take 22 seconds back. It was a huge gain for us looking into these final stages.

Today's stage is a “sprint” stage, but it will not be easy. First, there is no sprinter’s team to really control everything, so guys are definitely going to be motivated to try for the break thinking it will succeed. Second, it is incredibly windy, so the possibility of a split in the crosswind it very high. Finally, it is the last week of a grand tour, so people are getting tired! We’re going to do our best to protect Chris and get through it. Then we’re looking forward to the next mountain stages where we’re hoping he can continue his strong riding to take the red jersey. Wish us luck!

5 comments:

Cindy said...

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

We wish you luck. Ride hard and help Chris up the mountain (like you did in Baldy way back then).

Anonymous said...

I mean Good Luck.....

Scott K said...

We are following the action daily and it sounds like there is no time to relax. Keep fighting and riding hard. Best of luck to you and the team!

Anonymous said...

Happy to see you in the front of the peloton today. Keep riding hard and snatch that red jersey out of nibali for horner. Good luck and have a great legs.