Monday, August 25, 2014

THE Vuelta Stage 3: I'm on a boat!

Today’s stage started, of all places, on a boat. Not just any boat, though…it was an aircraft carrier. For sign-in, we climbed a few flights of stairs to get onto the lift that gets the planes on the deck and were greeted by a variety of fighter planes and helicopters. Both the racers and the spectators were taking lots of pictures.

After signing in, we saw that they were letting the racers climb into the cockpit of a fighter jet. Unfortunately, standing in line for the jet is all I did, because after 5 minutes of getting punked by more important people (who’s this Quintana guy anyway?), it was time to actually get ready for the bike race and stop being tourists.

The stage started in the cargo bay of the carrier, where we rolled across the ramp back to firmer ground for some actual racing. A trio of choppers and a duo of jets were flitting around the sky during the neutral section, keeping us all entertained as we were paraded through the town.

The race itself was largely uninteresting, and can be summed up with 3 words: it was hot. Not quite like Tour of California, but pretty dang close. I know this because ice socks were helpful, not crucial. And so, the kilometers ticked by just a bit faster than our bottle count.

Orica controlled the front almost the whole day over the undulating climbs, but we would not contribute. We would give it a try with John at the finish, but the 2k finishing climb of 4% is not his forte.

I was really suffering in the middle part of the stage, but on the last climb I was actually feeling comfortable again. Lawson and I would try to escort John up the finishing climb in the hopes that we could accelerate when the road leveled out before the line. With 5k to go, the whole team moved up, but Warren, Lawson, and I were swarmed during Warren’s tussle with the Orica train. We spent the next 3k trying to get back to the others. My legs actually felt good, but I used them trying to get back to John, never quite making it. I pulled the plug at 1k to go, saving my legs for another day.

Although the race didn’t end the way we wanted, I’m encouraged by my form so far as well as my ability to fight for position when it’s important. We got swarmed there at the end, but after that (and in yesterday’s finish) I was managing well. I still have work to do, but progress is always good.

In other news, my hair is finally long enough again that it looks alright without product! So now I can save a few more minutes a day by not fooling with my hair. And I ripped all the completed stages and unnecessary pages out of the race book, so now it’s 30% lighter. It’s all about saving energy, right? We’ve been at the same hotel for the whole race so far, but that changes tomorrow. Over the remaining stages, we’ll change hotels over a dozen times as we make our way around Spain.

I turn 26 tomorrow. I’m not one for big birthday celebrations, but I have to say that racing the Vuelta will be far and away the coolest thing I’ve ever done on my birthday.

3 down, 18 to go!