Yo yo MA PEOPLE.
Sorry I’ve been lay-Z on the updates… This race is a whirlwind. A W-Hirlwind.
I’m on the bus, on our way to the start of stage 3 but I finally have some time to write so hurr goesss.
Stage 1 was a hard one, albeit short at 152km. With 5 categorized climbs on the profile, the last one finishing 3km from the finish we knew it would be a battle all day. I attempted to make the breakaway but just missed it, Greg made the jump just after I got caught and snuck away with 3 other guys. Once the break established it started to rain pretty hard, making the ups and downs quite dicey but alas, we all stayed safe. At least all of us BMC-ers. Greg wasn’t exactly supposed to be in the breakaway so he stopped rotating which caused some problems up front. Finally, Greg returned to the peloton with another rider, leaving only 2 out front, making it pretty manageable to control in the pack. After about 100km, all of it up and down, the pace started to heat up as everyone wanted to be at the front for the last two climbs–one at 20km to go, and the final, like previously mentioned, topping out at 3km to go. Keep in mind that we are in Belgium so these climbs are all around 2-3km. No mountain passes or nuffin. Still freaking hard though!!
Anywho. Murphy started to rotate with a few teams up front as we were planning on setting Greg up for the final sprint. We cruised over the second to last climb, losing some riders off the back. I still felt very good and hung up at the front with Greg, just in case he needed anything. The run in to the final 3km category 1 climb was quite sketchy as the roads were a bit wet still, but we all got to the base safe and sound. As the road kicked up it quickly became a test of survival for everyone as riders were jumping left and right to try to get away. I settled into a rhythm just focusing on breathing and counting down the meters to the top. Once we reached 1km to the summit I knew I could hang on. I was hurting like a dog but dug in until the road began to flatten out. The most difficult part of the whole race was that last plateau. After going full out just to hang on to the group up the climb, the peloton naturally files out into one big line as the guys up front are traveling on flat ground while the guys behind are just cresting over the top of the climb. There isn’t much to do but put your head down, or cock it to the right as I tend to do (thanks track racing), and give everything just to hold the wheel. The last couple km were a bit of a blur, but I fought through the pain and made it back to the front just as things were starting to bottleneck, or slow down as all the teams weren’t entirely organized after such a big effort. I noticed my teammate Mattias Frank on the front and Greg in about 5th wheel. As Mattias began to tire I decided I’d crank up the pace and give what little I had left. I took the pack from 1km to go until 500m, absolutely burying myself. As I swung off, Trek Leopard whipped by with Greg in 4th wheel… He stayed there and managed 4th in the sprint which is not bad for him and I was happy with my efforts. I rolled through the finish with the pack, found the bus and got showered. A day’s work complete, it was time to refuel and relax.
Stage 2 had a forecast that predicted it would rain all day. Since the stage was 194km, this did not exactly excite anyone. Luckily though, for once, it did not rain in Belgium when it was supposed to! The profile of the stage wasn’t bad, however, I had learned from the day before not to trust these profiles. The roads here are not flat, just constantly undulating, making for hard racing and tired legs. The break went quickly and the first 100km passed quite slowly as we rolled along the Wallone countryside. With 80km to go, and Francais Des Jeux rolling on the front to protect their yellow jersey, the terrain went from undulating, to what I would call ‘pretty damn hilly’. The breakaway was at 5 minutes and we sent Murphy to help FDJ out. FDJ decided they wanted to bring the breakaway back quicker than anticipated and started to pull very hard. Hard enough that we caught the breakaway with 20km to go, resulting in a slew of attacks over the rollers leading into the finish. Stage 2 finished on a 1km 11% climb with a max gradient of 18%, perfect for our team leader Greg. My job was to bring him to the bottom of the climb in first position.
With about 10km to go there were still a couple guys up the road and no teams were working well enough together to bring them back. I acted on instinct and got to the front… Even though I was only supposed to wait until the last couple km I felt like it was necessary and I gave it gas for about 4km. After catching the two that were off the front I kept the speed up as we cruised down a valley towards the final climb. I got a bit of a breather as some other teams took over and then with 2.5km to go, 1.5km to the base of the climb, I got to the front again with Ballan and Greg on my wheel. I tore myself inside out for my final pull but it was all worth it to see Ballan and Greg hit the climb in 1st and 2nd position. Job well done again! I was very happy to hear, as I crossed the finish, that Greg had gotten second on the stage and was now in the yellow jersey.
After a shower and a fair share of potatoes I was back to my favorite part of bike racing–relaxxxxxing.
We have a hard and long day controlling this race ahead of us today. 224km! Will check in later:)