Wednesday, September 3, 2014

THE Vuelta Stage 11: Getting over the hump

Today, we were reminded that the race does not happen in a vacuum (fun fact for the day: did you know that that expression comes from physics?). Just as in real life, where your car never breaks down when it’s convenient, our team bus had some issues. While it was off in Bilbao being serviced, we were supplied with a normal coach. With a seat-to-person ratio of 6:1, we had plenty of room to spread out. My biggest disappointment was that I only managed to photobomb 3 of my teammates’ photos of the bus.

We expected another big fight for the break today, and we got one. Movistar was instigating most of the moves to put pressure on Tinkoff, and the field was excited and fresh after the rest day and TT. It’s actually my favorite way to start a race, with a long fight that just keeps going. We weren’t trying to be in a break, but if we followed the wheels and ended up in one, so be it. So 4 of us were surfing wheels while the rest kept Warren out of trouble.

Then there was a crash. A move had just been brought back, causing the field to swell at the same moment a moto was trying to squeeze by. We had been going fast, and I wasn’t able to slow down quickly enough. I managed to stay upgright, putting a foot down (hard enough to crack my cleat) to maintain my balance when I slammed into the saddle of another rider with my wrist, which is a bit swollen now. I’ll definitely have a nice bruise later. As it turns out, this was the crash that caused Quintana to abandon, so I came out pretty well.

By the time the field finally agreed to let a small move get away, we had covered 70km. We’d done nearly half the stage in 80 minutes. We had barely had a chance to eat, and we were already at the feed zone.

The stage was uneventful after that. We worked to keep Warren at the front on the category 3 climb, then focused on delivering him to the final climb in the perfect position. I was with the guys in the fight for position, but was separated when we went from the left to the right side of the field, starting the climb a bit too far back. I chased for a while, trying to stay close to the leaders until the team car passed me, but the climb just didn’t suit me well. It was either flat or steep, constantly changing pitch, but that perfectly suits Warren. He had another great climb to finish high on the stage, while the rest of us finished safely in the time limit, covered in salt.

Although the last climb didn’t go so well for me, I’m pleased with how my legs felt today. I was definitely fresh, with my heart rate shooting up quickly after a hard effort, but I felt good, and the power numbers confirm it. Lawson, though, had a rough day today—the rest days affect everyone differently. Hopefully he can bounce back quickly, as tomorrow is another perfect opportunity to get another stage for John.

11 down (we’re officially over the hump!), 10 to go!