Stage 2 of the tour of utah turned into a nice little training day for me. The stage was pretty similar to yesterday with a similar bunch sprint expected so again we within the cannondale clan had free day to see what we could come up with. The stage started with a flurry off attacks and at 2000m elevation just jumping in moves willy nilly has the potential to basically blow yourself to bits and out of the bike race. Unfortunately we were not positioned overly well in this free for all first 20km of the race and I simply had to retreat to the ropes and just try and ensure nothing to out of control got away. Sure enough 2 or 3 to many strong guys were in the group including big jens and the eventual stage winner Micheal shar so I knew I was going to have a good opportunity to do some good training on the front of the bunch today. The lead quickly jumped out to 7minutes and while it was not our teams responsibility and nor do we have a favorite for the GC, we do have George Bennett whom would like to do well in the race so I wanted to help keep the race under control to give him the best possible chance of doing well. Also it presented a perfect opportunity to put some long periods of pain back into my home trainer watching TV softened legs!! I decided to let the other teams do the work in the first half of the race and keep everything in check and then in the final 100km when the climbs began I would get on the front and work on my suntan!!
On a stage like today, 210km, average altitude of 2500m, and 3500m of climbing, you want to ride at your own pace!! One thing is certain, there is going to be no easy way to get from the start line to the finish line so you just have to find the best way possible! Added to the suffering of today was an annoying breeze which was just enough to keep the group in one long line all day and with it ensure you were never ever comfortable and always on high alert for splits opening up in the tired peleton. Basically put, it was one of those days where you never want to have to go back to the car for water bottles through fear of not making it back to your team mates in the peleton to deliver them safely! So with that all being said with 100km to go it was time for me to become the bat instead of the ball sitting in the bunch and give the garmin and belkin boys a hand to get the break under control.
You know it's a hard chase when as soon as you get to the front and show your there to work the other riders thank you! It means they are in the hurt locker and would really appreciate someone lightening the load a little. Truth be told I was chomping at the bit all day to get on the front and it had been difficult to resist the urge earlier in the stage. I knew it was a training session I needed to put myself through so I was happy as a pig in mud to be up the front with the wind in my face. From my first turn on the front I instantly felt much much better. I was finally able to ride at my own pace and the adrenaline kick you get from chasing a dangerous breakaway is a boost that can't be simulated by any training session. After a couple of good long pulls to give the other guys a bit of a rest and settle my body into a long hard day at the office the advantage thankfully started to drop pretty quickly. Firstly from 5min to 4min then after a bit of a climb and giving it some herbs it was down to 2min. I have to admit I also love the challenge of chasing Jensie down! He is so bloody strong and you know he is going to make you work bloody hard for every second to claw him back. When he surrendered with around 50km to go leaving the imperious schar out there alone It certainly puts a spring in your pedal stroke. While on one hand you do feel good I actually also felt bad as jens is here to put on a show and in his final races of his career it would be so great to see another signature Jensie victory! He still has another 5 chances here and tour of colorado and you bet your house on the fact that he won't be leaving anything in the tank in his quest to go out as he deserve to with another fine victory.
Anyways back to the race and now we simply had a 20km steady climb up to 3200m elevation and a 30km plunge down to finish line. Here I employed my safety car technique of taking the head of the field with our evergreen team leader Ivan Basso glued to my wheel. The ticket here was to ride at a pace to keep the leaders in check more for the GC as to prevent a blow out but also to get as many guys as possible over the top of the climb in the hope that other teams will chip in with some help on the fast run into the finish. Fortunately things played out perfectly and the bunch were happy for me to do my thing with basso dictating the pace from behind me we could cruize at a modest but solid at 3000+m elevation 300-330watts up the climb & at the top 40 riders still remained and it was on for young and old to try and chase down schar on the decent. We went absolutely hell for leather and there wasn't a single person in that front group completely revving way outside the race limiter which is just how a bike race should be. I was still occupying the same spot I had for previous 100km now at the head of the field just that I had a few more willing helpers to give me a breather from time to time that I was now in desperate need off. It's was a jolly exciting final 30km and in the end schar could feel us breathing down his neck as his raised his arms in victory a mere second infront of the field, after 210km of racing that would have to go down as the most well measured and we'll timed ride to victory I have seen.
In the end I was just happy to have ensured that Georges GC hopes are still alive. On top of that I really enjoyed having a good training session to snap a bit of race rhythm back into my pins. Cadel actually asked me why I was so intent on working so hard and I told him of my build up and that I saw it as a crash fitness program or get fit quick regime! Truth be told I feel like I am pretty good nick I just need to top up the race speed to go with my mindless hours spent grinding away on the home trainer and I will finally be back to where I want to be.
In closing I have to share the quote of the day. At dinner tonight I couldn't resist the opportunity to go and apologize to jens for chasing him down. Well I actually told him I was sorry but if he hadn't have been there I would have bothered riding so hard, chasing him is just so much more enjoyable!! In his typical jovial nature He said he knew it was me and said not to worry as he has already burnt the postcard I gave him the other day!! Larickan. He then proceeded to give me the quote of the day to basically sum exactly how I think every single rider in the peleton felt at some point in time today. He said to use Australian language for you wurf so you understand reallllyyyy gooood! "I felt like I was pig rooting a cricket ball"!! What a class act.
Anyways another long unpredictable day tomorrow so excited to get some shut and get stuck into it all over again.