That was one very very enjoyable day for the cannondale clan here at the tour of turkey! Elia Viviani did what most thought wasn't possible this week beating Cav to the line in today's bunch gallop! As always there plenty that went on between the flag dropping at km 0 and the green flash of Elia blasting though the finish tape ahead of the field so here's a little recap.
The day got off to the perfect start for the team with the austrian oxe Mattias Krizek jumping into the days breakaway. Today's stage started on a 3km climb which obviously meant it was going full gas so the men that make a breakaway like this are always the strong men so was a big hats off to krizek forging clear with his fellow escapees! It was a good sized group up the road and 3 climbs in the first 30km's of today's stage all the sprinters were happy for the break to get away early so the climbs could be done at a more gentlemanly pace. For us it was a golden situation as we didn't have to contribute to chasing the breakaway and could save our legs for the final km's. Coupled with this the fact that such strong riders were up the road meant that although there capture was seemingly inevitable, the chasing teams would have to use a lot of biscuits to do it and in the process weaken there sprinting trains, this was going to prove to be a big advantage for the Cannondale Team and Elia at the finish.
Following the 3 climbs in the first part of the stage it was basically a gradual downhill for the remaining 150km. As always once the race was under control we assembled our troops around Formolo and Elia to keep the as protected as possible and out of harms way. At one point around 70km from the finish Cav asked me if we were going to help chase? I said what do you mean we are contributing to the chase!! We have our strongest engine up the road and you guys are having to go full gas to try and catch him!! We had a laugh and he called me a smart arse but I knew from this exchange that he wasn't happy with how hard his boys were having to chase and burning precious matches, another advantage for us!
Today Elia and I spoke much more than usual in the race. The tour of turkey has been really enjoyable for me earning back his trust following my letting him down at the tour down under in January. Half way through the stage we both realized we had done this stage finish before in 2011. It was a harder run in over the final 30km than it looked on paper and unique in that it had a nasty kicker climb at 1.5km to go, downhill until 500m to go, and then flat to the finish, all on a massive road. Last time the finish was real messy sprint as no team could keep the pace high enough on the decent to form a train. We realized this was going to be an important element in elia executing his perfect sprint so luckily I had a good idea of how we would make this happen!! Elia's face really lit up when we realized how well we knew the final 50km of the race. He beamed with a big smile and said to me "that's really good for us isn't it?" and I of course said "absolutely! Today's our day". The plan was basic, withstand all the inevitable attacks on the rollers and on the final kicka 1km from the finish we had to have Elia on Cavs wheel. My job was to keep motorbike marongoni, GB and Elia protected from the wind onto the climb so at the top they were in the perfect position. When spelled out like that it seemed easy and I have to admit being able to visualize exactly how that could play out made me 100% confident we could execute the plan. I realized today more than ever there is a lot to be said for experience and homework on the lay out of decisive points in a bike race!!
Up the road krizek was driving the breakaway along. We were absolutely motoring all day and that meant that the quickstep team were working very very hard all day. Elia looked confident from km 0 today and all of the team realized this straight away. When you spend so much time racing and training together you can often see in a team mates pedal stroke and in the position he is holding in the bunch how he is feeling. Today Elia looked sensational and as we know he is one one the fastest men in the world on a bicycle that means there is a good chance he can win the bike race. The 6 of us left behind by krizek back in the bunch continued to move as one ensuring we were always where we needed to be. I barely had to look around at all for elia or formolo today, we always knew where each of us where. It's been really great to see how this group has gelled over the first 5 stages in the tour of turkey.
So into the final 50km and our plan began. Motorbike marunga and I kept the boys in a safe position up the front and out of the wind. The pace was really picking up and you could sense a lot of fatigue in the group thanks to the strong men still 2 minutes ahead in the breakaway, again, great job krizek! Snr Sagan ensured that we always had a our drink bottle cages full with fresh beverages. It seemed like every 15min he would arrive with a fresh cold one, when your going all out a nice refreshing cold bottle can be the difference between imploding and charging on and with Juraj around there was no way we were not going to be nicely hydrated! Inside 20km from the finish lotto played there hand and while adam hansons attack was neutralized quickly it did dispatch 2 of cavs workers under the forcing of the pace. The rollers kept coming and into the final 5km fighting for position became so much easier. We were still all together and people where not trying to push us around anymore, it was going to be our day! You could see the difference in the way the sprinters tackled these rollers most of which powered over in a big gear. Elia on the other hand maintained a high cadence and spun a light gear, another great sign for the finish! Of the sprinters that would survive the rollers Elia was surely going to have the most spark left in his finishing sprint kick! My optimism continued to grow. At around 5km Krizek was swept up. He had made a massive effort and contribution to the team plans today by being one of the hairs being chased by the greyhounds and again underlined what a great team player he really is. Every single stage of the race this week Mattias has been present and accounted for doing way more than has been asked of him and most importantly he has done it all with a massive grin on his face! He truly is a real great motivation to be racing along side, great stuff krizek!
At 2km to go the final kicker was infront of us. We were in the perfect position ready to make our charge for cavs back wheel. I was so chomping at the bit to execute our final play and Motorbike marunga, elia and his bodyguard GB were lined up behind keen to get the party started. As we started the climb marunga spotted cavs wheel free and promptly roared past me and dropped elia of onto it, his role was executed perfectly. GB was locked to Elia's wheel so if anyone wanted his spot they would have to fight the cannadian cannonball for it first, good luck!! With the boys in the box seat it was now time for me to do what I should have done on stage 1, get to the front and drive the pace as high as possible to ensure it stays lined out and elia doesn't have to focus on anything else than roaring of cavs wheel. As I broke from the pack to ride to the front Davide Rebellin Attacked hard in the hope of a solo victory. Sorry Davide but not on my watch you ain't going anywhere, this was our day and promptly closed him down and let him know he can ride as hard as he liked but I was not leaving his back wheel. Not surprisingly he relented and slipped back to the bunch. It was now just over a km to go and I took a quick look to ensure elia was still glued to cavs wheel. I waited momentarily for what was left of cavs lead out train, being 2 guys, Pettachi and Mark Ren Dog renshaw and promptly drilled it!
We were now on the downhill drag to the line and inside 1km to go. Behind me Peta was doing a great job in instructing me on how to ride with left and right and good and a lot of faster's! Problem was we were going downhill and I was spinning like a egg beater at 70kmph so I resorted to the technique I had decided to use for this exact moment earlier in the stage. Back in california in January Junior matty mohoric had taught me his much famed sitting on the top tube while pedaling technique. When he did it I realized I had to do a million watts to keep up with him going down hill so knew it was effective. I decided this downhill was the perfect place to adopt it for 2 reasons. Firstly my legs were screaming from the effort of the stage and secondly and although maby not so sporting of me I knew the man behind had to take on more wind. As it was a crucial leadout man for cav the less Peta had at the finish the better for us as cav would have to start sprinting earlier into the headwind and elia would get more time to plan his blast straight past him! So, onto the top tube I went and pedaled as fast down the hill as I could. It was my only possible way to increase the speed as my power was gone and if quickstep or any other team thought I was going to slow well they didn't have to stay on my wheel and could pass me at anytime. I quickly realized that there was no one coming up on my left so knew the group was strung out a little and Elia was sitting pretty!! As the road flattened out I returned to the comfort of my saddle dug as deep as I could for a few more m's, had a quick look over my left shoulder to see that there was still nobody challenging me for the front position and got the jolly hell out of there before I slowed down the train. I had the birds eye view of watching elia fly by on the 3 quickstep boys wheels and thought little rippa, Elia is definitely going to finish this off!!
And did Elia finish it off!! He blew past cab so fast that even cav retreated to Elia's wheel to ensure he finished 2nd. It was an emphatic victory for Elia by over 2 bike lengths which gave him time for a big salute as he ripped though the finish tape and although my heart rate was still north of 200 beats per minutes I somehow found enough oxygen to let our a cheer of my own. That was a really special day.
You don't get many days like that where you have the chance to really execute a plan. The most important thing today was that all 7 of the cannondale pro cycling boys here in turkey believed we could do just that. Quickstep have really dominated all week and to be fare they almost did everything right again today. Perhaps had elia of not had the knowledge of previous finishes here then things may have been different but he did!! Also don't underestimate the massive contribution krizek played by being up the road. They breakaway was never allowed more the 3min and that meant strong men were riding very hard up the road and the group behind was riding even harder. The only way we could take on cav and his merry men was by trying to tire them out. I have to admit they are a class above and if they are all fresh and have it all there own way they just give everyone a wholopping! Today however we got our chance and while Elia was the star of the show it was awesome simply to be apart of our support act. To Motorbike Marunga, austrian oxe Krizek, Canadian Canonnball Boivin, formula 1 formolo, my roomy Snr Juraj Sagan and of course the lead singer of the band Elia lightning Viviani, thanks so much for putting on today's show, from where I was watching, it was extremely good viewing