Stage 6 here in Utah was the queens stage of this year's race. 3500m of climbing over 170km and average elevation of 2200m, it was certainly going to sort out who's hot and who's not! But days end I would certainly find out that I was certainly not! Anyways as always there is a tale to be told from every single person who got from start to finish today and here is mine.
Hard days like today there is never A shortage of riders eager to get in the breakaway and today was no exception. As soon as the flag dropped jens as usual kicked of the festivities and it was on for young and old. I was keen to be in the break but knew at the altitude I only had limited bullets so did my best be in things that looked threatening and not blow myself up in The process. I stayed calm and up the front and waited for the break to form before trying to launch across. As it turned out I had way to much confidence in my own ability or got my timing very wrong! 14 riders formed at the front with all strong riders in the group and I waited for the moment to jump. Finally when it appeared to be established I hit out from the group in pursuit of the escapees and instantly had a good gap, perfect, now all I had to do was ride across what was no more than a 15-20second gap. I started to close and it appeared the group was disorganized and not working well together which was perfect for me. Just as my spirits soared things started to go south for me. The group began co operating and now I was full gas simply holding the gap. Not to worry I thought, we had a 6km climb coming up and with all the confidence in the world figured I would just doodle across once the road kicked up. Yeah right! What's the golden rule of altitude?? Don't waste your bullets and what had i done yet again?? Wasted my bullets! While I kept the group in check they started to edge away from me on the climb, 20sec became 25 and 35seconds over the first few km's and I was tiring badly. I looked back for the first time in a while to see if the peleton was still well behind me and spotted a red jersey headed toward me. I figured beauty I will just take it easy and work with whoever it was and ride across on the decent and valley that followed the climb. Yeah right again!
That's red jersey was none other than cadel evan's! The days eventual stage winner who had blasted out of the group and decided to bridge a 2minute gap on the climb. As he approached I looked up in disbelief as to who it was. It seemed like no sooner had I first spotted him well of in the distance coming across he was now right on my wheel and coming straight past. He gave offered me a few words of encouragement to hang tuff and hold his wheel which I was able to do for a few hundred me. Then as the road kicked again he got out of the saddle and just powered away from me and I knew there and then that being strong enough to win the race today was simply holding that wheel and today I couldn't do it. I had no choice then but to put up the white flag and surrender and wait for the group. Cadel was a huge threat to the overall classification so I knew the race leaders garmin would be cranking thing up behind to reel him in or at least keep the race under control. Sure enough they gobbled me up not long after and it was quiet peleton. The start had been all out and now the great cadel was on a crusade to blow the race apart. This was going to be a day of survival that's for sure.
To use a Jensie phrase I had been pig rooting a cricket ball when cadel caught and dumped me! That mean I was already on suffer street and with 140km still to race I went into serious self preservation mode. At altitude you don't recover and I knew today there would be no miracles, Infact the miracle would be making it to the finish! To put in perspective just how buckeled I was from my failed attempt to be in the break away I didn't speak a single word to anyone all day! I would normally happily talk under water with a mouth full of marbles but today cjwurf was well and truly on survival mode. I must admit I have only myself to blame. I arrived here not having ridden on the road for 3 weeks and with a broken rib, stitches in my knee, and a separated shoulder. On day one I had the ordacity to try and ride away from the field in ceder city. Day 2 I decided it was a good idea to do 100km on the front of the peleton for a spot of training up and over 3000m elevation which seemed so enjoyable at the time. From there I have gone out of my way to spend as much energy as possible and hurt myself at every opportunity over the past few days as I knew I needed to hurt myself as much as possible to get myself in the best shape possible for the vuelta in 2 weeks time. So yeah, I only have myself to blame for how I felt today but while on one hand my efforts have all been in vein on a results front but I atleast have done all I can to keep George in the GC fight so in reality I shouldn't complain as I have actually done exactly what I wanted to do. And hey we will still have a day to go so who knows what tomorrow will bring!! One things for sure I will not be leaving anything in the tank. Also one thing I am extremely happy about is the fact that I will have the highest average power for any one week race I have done this year being around 265watts over the 7days and when you consider the race had been at an average elevation of 2500m so in other words no oxygen, I am pretty happy with how much constant suffering I have put myself through.
Anyways back to the race and as we hit the business end of the race with two 11km climbs in the final 40km I it was time to survive. I rolled myself up beside George and managed to get enough words out to see if he needed anything and that was about all I could offer him today during the final part of the race. He was all good and not surprisingly that was the last time I would converse with for the rest of the stage. I watched as George spun his skinny little legs away on the wheel of the yellow jersey as I settled into my own metronome rhythm to ride to the finish. George would go onto put in another great display on the final climbs of the day and preserve his spot inside the prestigious top 10 on GC. He certainly has been very dependable for the team in the hard mountain races throughout the season. With tomorrow's fearsome finish climb up gardsmans pass there is certainly every chance of something spectacular from him there so I am looking forward to seeing what he has up his sleeve for tomorrow.
So another extremely hard day is in the books. I must admit it's been mind blowing the intensity of racing we have maintained from start to finish despite the elevation. I said to Chris Horner yesterday after we rolled across the finish line that I wasn't surprised he won the vuelta after racing here in utah, I doubt there would be too many altitude camps that you could put yourself through to match what we have endured this week. All in all this has been a great week and in my case exactly what the doctor ordered!! Time for some shut eye and recharge ahead of the final round tomorrow.