Hey all, I'd like to give a nice long update, but I'm typing via phone and just don't have that in me! I'm currently in Hainan, China for Tour of Hainan. It is a 9 stage race with more than likely 8 sprints and one mountainous day; although it is not a mountain top finish, instead a descent to the finish. Rumor has it that a small group usually finishes together, but we'll see. The time bonuses and cumulative stage placings seem to be rather important in determining your gc because there is not a real decisive stage or two to shake things up. Regardless, I will be honest and say that I will give it me best through the race, especially in stage 8, but my top priority is finishing this race with my body intact, so I can go home and finally hit the reset button on what has been a tumultuous season.
We're three stages in and the race thus far has been a sprinters delight, aka Matthew's nightmare. I fear the chaos of a "controlled" World Tour sprint, but here is a whole different level of chaos. Guys are fighting for every position and there is no team strong enough to really line it up with speed and keep it safe, so guys are just kamikaze everywhere. We have a kamikaze (sprinter) on our team in Fabio Silvestre and he surprised with 3rd on the first stage and then two top tens; good enough for me! I've narrowly avoided the crashes on stages one and two, and kept my stress levels to a minimum today by surfing the back of the field all the while thinking to myself, "it isn't a matter of IF, but WHEN will the crash happen?" Thankfully for me and anyone who would be involved it didn't happen today.
Tomorrow is the most unnecessarily long stage of the race at 237km, all flat, where we will ride a u-shaped course from the start to the finish and then make a loop back to the finish. All the while we could've just gone point to point, maybe with a loop or two on the end for a nice total of maybe 140-150km of racing and likely the same result, but instead we get to test the comfort of our chamois and ability of the sunscreen to protect our skin for around 6 hours. Fun!
Other than the racing, things are fairly normal. Ok I lied. The WiFi here is very poor. You'd think such a tech obsessed country would have blazing fast internet, but I guess they don't need it because everything is censored/blocked by the government anyway. You can't even search Google! Also we've been doing our own laundry, by hand! Not sure why it seems so impossible to get laundry done at a hotel or even find a laundromat, but I certainly don't speak or read Chinese and I don't think my European counterparts do either, so figuring it out is difficult. And lastly, the food is on par with any race in Europe, so that's to say pretty bland. I'd love to try the chicken curry or beef dish, but I'm not eating the meat because of the fear of contamination with doping controls. So that means I'm eating rice and maybe some veggies. I've been spicing that up with some hot pepper sauce I've discovered here combined with some peanut butter I brought for kind of a spicy peanut rice. It's alright actually. Usually we're lucky enough to get eggs for breakfast, so that at least helps. And they seem to have lots of different pastry options, so you can have that if you want/need. I can certainly say that I'm looking forward to a nice hamburger or steak upon my return to the USA though! Alrighty, well I've written a lot more than I planned and successfully killed enough time that I can now head off to make some spicy peanut rice rice. Bon appetite!