Thursday, September 4, 2014

THE Vuelta Stage 12: Adding to the tally

I couldn’t believe it when I learned at breakfast that the conspiracy theorists jumped on Ryder Hesjedal’s crash as evidence of a hidden motor. I’ll leave the physics out of the argument and just say this: if he had a tiny motor hidden in his frame, it would definitely have a very limited battery life. Why, then, would he be using it in a slick downhill corner, when he wasn’t even on the front?

Anyways, we were excited to have our own bus back for today’s stage. You don’t realize how spoiled you are until the toilet and showers are taken away from you!

There was no doubt in anybody’s mind that today would be a sprint stage: 8 laps of a relatively flat circuit. With a tough week of stages looming, everyone wanted a fairly easy ride today, which is why it took 3k before anybody attacked. Even then, only one Cannondale rider was willing to fall on the sword.
With only one rider to chase down 160km later, we were in for a very easy day. For 3 hours, the hardest I worked was getting back to the field after one of my four pee stops.

With Lawson on the front sharing the workload with FDJ, the gap steadily fell over the last 100km. With nothing interesting going on, Tobias asked over the radio if he could swap out with Lawson and do some work. I couldn’t help but laugh when’s Lawson’s reply came over the radio, “Just let me be happy, Toby!”

Over the final two laps, the speed steadily increased. With 10k to go, we were at the front before the short descent. Everything was going to plan, until it wasn’t. Due to some miscommunication, half of us ended up at the front too soon, with the others all fighting on their own to join us. We were still trying to find each other at the moment that we had planned to make the big move to the front, and we never properly linked up. Due to skill, experience, and a bit of luck, however, John and Ramon were together very near the front when the field strung out for good with 4k to go.

Nikias and I were fighting to get up there to help until about 1.5 to go, then pulled the plug after accepting that we wouldn’t make it. When the barriers narrowed at 1k to go, some riders tried to force through a gap that wasn’t there, and the crash spread across the road. I was relieved to see no Giant-Shimano jerseys among the fallen, and continued on to the finish, where I learned that John had taken his 3rd stage win after a superb leadout from Ramon.

Just to give you an idea of how motivated we all are: we got the stage win, but most of us are left a bit unsatisfied, wanting more. The end result was achieved, but not in the way we had wanted, and for that we will work harder next time. 3 stage wins is not enough—we’ll fight every day!

We aren’t sure what we’re in for tomorrow…it could easily be a stage for a big breakaway, or possibly a another field sprint. After a relatively easy day today, it could be really exciting.

12 down, 9 to go!