Saturday, February 15, 2014

Three Stages in Two Days

Over the last two days we've had stages 2, 3, and 4. Friday we had a challenging stage with a few tough climbs to make things interesting. Giant Shimano took charge of everything because they had the jersey and believe that Degenkolb could win again and/or keep it. They weren't wrong! He ended up winning the stage again.

Despite the fact that only 2 guys were in the breakaway, the pace was fast all day. We did what we could to keep Bob and Ricardo protected, stay out of trouble, and make it to the finish with a chance for Fabio to do the sprint. There were some mid-race jitters due to the small roads and building tension as the pace rose heading into the final two climbs. I got tangled up in a couple mishaps and found myself last wheel on the second last climb, so that was less than ideal. I was able to fight my way back to the front third of the field by the top, but I had burned a lot of extra energy. The descent was crazy fast again and the pace never let off until the finish. The approach to the final climb was single file and I had to fight from mid-peleton or further back to make it over the top in the front group. We had Bob, Ricardo, Fabio, Laurent, and me in the first group at the top. The descent was single file, full gas. Then the attacks came fast and furious. I covered a few moves, then did what I could to watch after Bob and Ricardo. We all finished fine, but definitely missed an opportunity to help position Fabio for a good finish. We all agreed and learned from it, so hopefully it won't happen again.

The morning stage today can be described simply: fast and furious. The tension was high before any team left the hotel this morning. At the start guys were warming up on the rollers or road, which is quite atypical unless it is going to be hard. Immediately in the neutral the fighting began. There was a short climb immediately out of the blocks and I'd say that was the most civil part of the race today. Somehow the guys in front managed to sort of block the road to prevent a little bit of the chaos. That didn't last very long though. A handful of guys managed to break the blockage and attack, which was fine with most guys because we all knew when the real chaos would start: the downhill. As we crested the top, IAM attacked in an effort to split the field. I was very happy to be in the front. They definitely were thinking like the rest of us that there would be a crosswind at the bottom when we turned onto the bigger roads, but it turned out to be more of a tailwind. I'm not sure what the average speed ended up being, but I think we did the 63km in 1:15 or so. It felt quick!

I had a horribly timed mechanical to end my day. Just as we began the last climb of the stage, I went to shift from the big ring into the little ring and heard something bad. I looked down to see my rear derailleur hanging from the chain. That meant I wasn't going anywhere fast! I knew my day was finished. By the time the car got to me and got me my spare bike, the field was long gone. I rode it in knowing that in one way it was good because I was able to save a little bit of energy for the afternoon tt.

So about that tt. Not much to say besides I went full gas. I felt like I had a really good tt, so I have to be honest and say I was disappointed to see where I finished. After looking at my file and splits compared to a couple of the other guys, I was able to see where I lost the majority of the time. I think my largest loss was on the last descent and few flatter kilometers. I think I needed a bigger chainring in the front. I only had a 54, while a few of my teammates had a 56, which would've made a big difference in the false flat downhill. I was spun out in the 54, but with a 56 I would've been able to still push the pedals and go faster. It doesn't really change much for me because I wasn't in the general classification, but perhaps I could've had a better stage result. Regardless, I put in a hard effort and I'm happy with where I am for my first race of the season.

For my teammates, we had some good performances. Fabio was 5th in the morning stage, while Bob was 7th and Ricardo 2nd in the tt this afternoon. That means Ricardo is now 2nd in the overall and we have a big chance to win tomorrow. He is riding really strong and we will definitely go all in for him. It is a tough stage with a few climbs throughout it before the final climb up to Mount Faron. I'm not familiar with Mount Faron, but I've heard it is quite hard. We will see what happens. Wish us luck!


Anonymous said...

Luck (always a big factor in cycling) hasn't been your ally this week, but it certainly sounds like your form is good and you've improved your TT skill set. Finish with a bang then post a photo or two from Africa! M & J

Anonymous said...

Your last two posts are great. I was disappointed to see you had finished 59 seconds down on stage one, but the posts really give a better idea about what actually occurred.

If I recall you had the same too small of a front gear issue last year in a TT...time to get that fixed. Keep writing and have a great 2014 season.