Today was like another ticking time bomb! The peleton was full of beans after there day of leisure yesterday, and the wind was blowing just hard enough that if a team wanted to blow the race to bits the opportunity was there for the taking. With that being said there is always hesitation to be the team that turns the screw first. If you crack the whip to early then you risk having a team blown to bits when the fireworks really begin. With this in mind the peleton had a quiet start to the days racing with just 2 men in the early breakaway. Everyone seemed happy to let them go and let the sprinters bring things back for a bunch gallop but also everyone knew at some point the fairytale easy day was going to come to an abrupt end.
I must admit I was perhaps one of the more relieved dudes in the group for the first 150km today. We rolled along at a nice consistent pace which made it easy to remain sheltered but also nobody seemed to determined to fight tooth and nail for position. At the moment I am far from in the mood to fight anyone for my position in the bunch so was good to be able to perch myself up front for the majority of the day and keep out of harms way. Sure enough with around 30km to go the jostling for position started and I immediately switched to the tale end of the bunch to avoid putting myself in any unnecessary danger. After the rest day I feel like my bone is beginning to recover a little so the easier I can take while staying in the race the better, I want to ensure its just a few week injury and not one that's takes longer than necessary to heal.
With a group sprint expected we were looking to ensure ratto was in the right spot at the right time today. The last time we raced here in burgos was only a few weeks ago and daniele was narrowly beaten into 2nd place so we had plenty of optimism for his chances today. With being restricted to light duties I figured I would stay close to daniele for as long as I could and then hit the ejecta button and get right out of the way when things got hairy closer the finish. I found daniele toward the back and just figured all is going ok and we can move up when he is ready, wrong wrong and wrong!
We all of a sudden around 30ish km to go came flying down a fast decent and arrived at a very narrow bridge. Consequently the pace at the back slowed considerably and I immediately had that sinking feeling that for sure they are not riding this pace at the front!! You just know that an elastic band is being stretched to its absolute limit as 150+ riders get themselves up to speed and sure enough a few hundred meters later it was single file and riders were dropping left right an centre. Saxo Bank had hit the front and were ripping the field to shreds. After a km or so of this and the dust settled I spotted daniele just ahead, I quickly realized we were in about the 4th group so realized it was time to get to work! In a situation like this its best to act fast and worry about recovering if you get the chance later! So I jumped on the front of our group and quickly shut down the gap to the 3rd. There I found a lot of our team mates and also quite a few GC riders that had been caught out in the acceleration at the front. Now we had the task of pulling back the 2nd group which was around 30seconds up the road. Fortunately there was no shortage of helpers, and with locomotive longo, hair raising heado, and TTT specialist ripping out turns the pace is always going to be rapid, even with these motors at maximum revs however its never easy shutting down gaps in this situation!
When it splits it's full gas where ever you are. At the front you have the strongest riders forcing the pace and pulling away from the field. Next you have a 2nd group chasing them full gas that need to go faster than that if they want to close the gap. As a consequence the 3rd group has to go even faster than the 2nd group if it wants to close the gap. On a flat stretch of road which was the case today that means if you dip below 60kmph you are getting left behind. That translates to doing between 600-650 watts when you pull through on the front which generally is for around 10-20seconds depending on how efficient your echelon is working. Today took us around 12km to close this 30second gap to the 2nd group so as you are not ever getting a chance to soft pedal as you rotate for you next turn it certainly stings the pins and lungs a little.
Once we had caught the 2nd group I realised we were now over 1min behind the front group containing the strongest guys in the race. So game over. They did not want us catching them and for sure the group was out of horse power to shut it down. There would be no sprint for daniele today so I switched of the engine and road as casually as I could to the finish. Its important I take any chance I can to avoid digging deep into the energy pit in these final stages to give my body the chance to heal. If I keep pushing full gas all day every day then I will just end up run down for the end of year. Just being in the field is great training and the perfect way to keep improving my condition and if I can do this without getting tired then my rib will repair and I will be 100% within a couple of weeks. It was certainly a nice feeling however ripping out some turns to shut down some gaps. At the end of the day to catch people ahead of you you only need to ride faster than the bloke on the front of the group ahead of you! You run into difficulty with this philosophy when there are more than one person taking turns ahead of you! Then your job is a tuff one! But still its a simple philosophy which always keeps me pursuing whoever it is I am chasing when there seems little hope.
So the day for us was pretty average. We missed out completely. No representation in the front group and we never even came close to catching them in reality. We will re group, its far from the end of the world but another little reminder of how quickly you can have your backside absolutely handed to you by the strongest riders in the peleton. The trick is to every now and again ensure you dish some of it out yourself then its a little easier to take. Anyways we will regroup and start tomorrow fresh with new objectives. Daniele is just 4 points behind in the mountains jersey competition so I am sure that's somthing that will now become a focus for him and the Cannondale Boys. So time to get some sleep and put this tuff day behinds us.
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