It's called the Hawaii of China and I've seen why several times throughout the race. We've had moments of beautiful sea and beaches with the same tropical feel people think of when they think Hawaii. But there's also big disparities between the lush tourist spots and the normal people. The difference is vast and striking to see. Since stage three, we've had 4 more sprints, a couple big crashes, and generally good weather. Fabio has continued his good sprinting with three other top 10 finishes. In today's stage he had some bad luck with the guy in front of him having a mechanical with 300 meters to go, but still managed 7th. He says without that he had a really good chance at winning. Bummed for him because he deserves it, especially after fighting so hard all week in the sprints. Hopefully he can come through in the final stage.
For me personally, I've done my best to avoid any catastrophes and keep my stress levels low. I tried to help Fabio in the sprint of stage 5, pulling from about 4 to 1.5km to go, but we don't have a real leadout train here, so it's really hard to be successful. After my pull I dangled at the back and had just enough time to grab my brakes and avoid the biggest pileup of the race. Counted my blessings. :) Then stage 6 brought the first climbs of the race with three KOMs in the first 50km and first opportunity for the mountains jersey. We decided as a team why not try for it, so we set out trying for the breaks. The group was mostly together on the first climb and I was too far back to try, but I bridged across to a few guys before the second climb and managed to take a few points on that one. Then the break went before the third climb, but there were still a couple points available. I tried for it but was beaten at the line. I'm not the fastest sprinter! We're not winning much here, but we're racing hard as a team, so that's all that can be asked.
Tomorrow is the penultimate and queen stage with the real mountains. There are three category 1 climbs, each 5-6km in length and around 6% gradient. They aren't the hardest on paper, but it will certainly be a difficult and defining stage. The road quality here has been generally good, but in the mountains, they tend to have more concrete roads, so they aren't as smooth, which makes things a little more difficult, at least it feels that way. The climbs will definitely create some selection, but I'm not sure how much of one. I believe a really important thing is actually going to be the position before the last downhill because it is technical and fast. If you lose the wheel in a corner, you might not come back. And with the race being decided by mere seconds or even placings, that will certainly matter. I believe I can climb with the best and might see if I can't sneak away toward the top of the climb with hopes of a stage win, but we'll see what happens tomorrow!