Thursday, September 11, 2014

THE Vuelta Stage 18: Another one down

At the start line today, there were a lot of spectators (as always). I was particularly impressed/annoyed by the two guys screaming chants about Movistar for 10 minutes. They were really passionate, but for some reason the Movistar riders seemed to pay them no attention. I would come to learn later that they were chanting hateful things and death threats. Pretty ballsy with all those police officers there….

The general consensus is that today’s start was the hardest fight for the break so far. Even if you had no interest in the break, you were still in for 80 minutes of suffering on the same twisting and rolling terrain from yesterday. I was focused on floating around in the bubble, just behind the attacking riders, to save as much energy as possible. My legs weren’t destroyed from yesterday—they actually felt alright—but I didn’t want to waste them needlessly.

At long last, a trio of riders got away after a 10 minute uncategorized climb that knocked the field down to 50 riders. We caught our breath for just a few minutes before Movistar strung the field out again. They never let the break get very far, and it wasn’t long before we were on the finishing climb for the first time.

The profile showed the climb as a steady 7% grade, when in fact it was very pitchy the whole way up. I hate that (‘that’ being both pitchy climbs and profiles with a deceptive smoothing factor). I was dangling just behind the lead group of 40 riders for most of the climb, hoping that it would flatten out and I could help Warren leading into the final climb. But nope, I just ended up in a group of riders that had been dropped halfway up the climb, riding easily to the finish.

Warren is up to 8th on GC now, but John’s lead in the points competition took a big hit when Valverde finished 3rd on the stage. It’s not over yet, though! Unfortunately, Koen had to abandon today—his body is too busy fighting an infected saddle sore to send any power to his legs.

You can really tell now that the whole peloton is tired. We’re going just as fast, but our faces show much more agony. The peloton that started at 198 riders is now down to just 164. We’re as tired mentally as physically, but the good news is:

18 down, 3 to go!