10km into today’s stage I was getting dropped. I had nothing… In an internal dialogue in my head I began questioning myself, my legs, my head. What was wrong? Even upon waking this morning I could tell I wasn’t firing on all cylinders. I was quiet, and just generally down. As the gap between myself and the pack grew I tried to settle in to a good rhythm. Was I lacking fitness? Well, no. I had just won the prologue at Eneco and finished 4th overall. Granted, Eneco is an entirely different race than the Vuelta, but still, good fitness is good fitness. Was I tired, still not fully recovered from the efforts I put out there? Maybe. I had 5 days in between, one of those days ruined by a stomach bug, the other by a crash. Was it the heat? Could be.
All I knew is I wasn’t my usual self today. But I fight. And that is what I did.
I made it back to the pack as the breakaway was let go and the pace eased up. There still remained about 15km of climbing however and even when I got there, I continued to yoyo. I would have moments where I felt fine, and then all of the sudden I couldn’t do it anymore. My legs and mind would quit on me. And we weren’t even going that fast.
I made it to the top and got up to the front for the dangerous descent.
All fine, I refueled, tried to tell myself I would bounce back. But soon enough, the road pitched up again and I found myself in the same place as before…going backwards…faster than I would like. I briefly lost contact, by myself, but then I made it back.
Most of the rest of the stage cruised by on a big open highway. Again, I refueled and told myself I would come around. As we hit a few rollers before the penultimate climb of the day I began to yoyo once more, but this time I wasn’t the only one. Cavendish had been dropped. This provided a bit of relief as I figured I would be ok, if/when I got dropped since he was already out the back.
Then, at possibly the worst possible moment, I got a flat–just at the base of the penultimate climb. I changed it and attempted to regain contact but made sure to stay within myself. And Cav was behind me…I would be ok, right?
As I was settling into my rhythm, the pack 200m in front of me–but pulling away, Rik came on the radio: ‘Cavendish has abandoned, Cavendish has abandoned.’
I minimized the damage from myself to the peloton as I crested the top and took a thrilling ride through the caravan on the descent. I could still see them, I might not catch them, but they were there.
The final climb was a grueling 20+km up to Sierra Nevada.
I came off the descent still behind the peloton, but close enough that I knew it was plausible for me to catch the grupetto once it formed. Yet again, I tried to find my rhythm, sitting at some puzzlingly low numbers, but holding them, which was all that mattered. As the km clicked by, slowly, I began to lose faith. I was alone. I had John Lelangue in the car behind me, giving me time splits to the grupetto…but I couldn’t SEE them. I began to get lost in thought, imagining my solo ride all the way up to the top, unsure of whether I’d make the time cut. I was so lost I hadn’t noticed the fact that I was in the cars again, and then before I knew it, there it was. The grupetto.
I made my way up to it one pedal stroke at a time, and joined my slow-climbing compatriots in their struggle to the top of Sierra Nevada.
I definitely still struggled, but I wasn’t alone and finished with them 24 minutes down. Very much within time cut.
I am now attempting to refuel my body for another day of torture tomorrow.
Bye for now.