Friday, August 29, 2014

THE Vuelta Stage 7: we've got a bike race!

I slept alright last night, but awoke cold. It seems housekeeping had set the AC in the room to full blast and Ramon and I failed to notice it before bed. I almost didn’t adjust it, just because I wanted to remember what being cold felt like.

We had a real bike race on our hands today. The tough stage profile lent itself well to the success of a breakaway, and after yesterday’s climbing finish, the GC was more spread out. As such, we had permission to go for the breakaway today if we wanted, and I did.

With 30k flat before the first categorized climb, I was active in following moves. But it was a real fight for the break today, and as the climb neared I stopped trying. We’re only a week into the race, and I didn’t want to destroy myself by jumping on every move and then getting spit out the back when we did the climb full gas. Besides, tomorrow we’ll be working for a sprint on the longest stage of the race, followed by a tough climbing stage. Best to be a bit conservative at this point.

Just at the start of the climb, Warren was involved in a crash with Froome. I sat up to help him chase back, but he came by so fast that I ended up just settling back in to the field, unable to contribute. The field exploded on the opening climb as the attacks continued. Finally a small group got away before the top. 

There were some crashes on the descent, one of which took John down—banged up, but he would go on to finish.

The field stopped for a pee break after 60km, then quickly settled into an uncomfortable pace for the rest of the day. We spent a lot of time on smaller roads that twisted and rolled through the countryside, at a pace that stung the legs.

As the kilometers disappeared, the field slowly got a bit smaller, until a real selection was made on a 5-minute climb with 15km remaining. After this climb, it was just me, Tobias, and Johannes to watch over Warren. We got him into a good position at the front with 5km remaining, where the road begins to slowly roll upward. I stayed with the group until 3k to go in case Warren had a problem, then sat up.

In the sprint, Warren’s front wheel was clipped in the chaos and he went down hard. He’ll be sore tomorrow, but his GC position is safe.

Today was definitely the hardest stage from start to finish so far, and I think a lot of that can be credited to the temperature. It was still a warm day, but noticeably cooler than the past days. Hopefully the milder temps will continue tomorrow!

7 down, 14 to go!