Song for the day:
I believe that I stole this quote from my father, but damn, it feels good…to feel good.
When I went to bed last night, I knew today was going to be a better day for me. I don’t know how I knew or why, I just knew. After a solid 10 hours of slumber, I REALLY knew that today, I was gonna be just fine.
Now, this may have been a bit over-confident of me, as I had been dreading this stage 8 for a couple days now. Featuring over 3700m of climbing (that’s above 12,000ft for you Americanos), and especially with yesterday having been ‘easy’–today was going to be brutal, no matter what.
So for me, today was a day where I NEEDED to feel good, otherwise my ability to continue this most epic of Vueltas would be in serious jeopardy.
The stage started uphill, not for very long, but the first 20km were very undulating. And I know by now what undulating means here in Spain. Very, very hard.
Yesterday’s breakaway went right at the drop of the flag. While I still kept my fingers crossed that maybe, just maybe it could happen again today, I had to remain realistic. After yesterday’s cruise, everyone and their mother wanted to be in the breakaway.
Just hang on.
I knew in the neutral that I finally had decent legs. That aching I had experienced the first 6 days was gone, I felt like someone had tuned my engine and I was finally running back to normal. In the past few days, when the peloton hit a hill, I would go backwards almost so fast I needed brake lights. Today I found myself, found my gear, found my legs. I even kept telling myself, you can do this.
You can do this.
Meanwhile, a big breakaway of 27 had gotten away. This was not good. But, where I usually would be nervous, today I was not.
You can do this.
I even found my ability to be at the front, and STAY at the front. Liquigas chased hard as the red jersey of Chavanel was up the road in the group of 27.
By now we were approaching the first, biggest, and most difficult climb of the day. I kept my fingers crossed that we would catch the group by the base and let something else go…otherwise, if Liquigas is riding all out on a climb…everything would blow to pieces.
Luckily, blow to pieces we did not. The group of 27 was caught and another little break of 4 was let go before we even hit the climb. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as the pace settled.
While I did in fact have good legs today, I am still 82kg and climbs do HURT. Even when we are going ‘slow’. I kept positive, and tried to settle in.
You can do this.
A couple km from the top I was starting to suffer, I found myself at the rear of the peloton after drifting back over the entirety of the last 17km of climbing. It was do or die and I gritted my teeth and held on. As we crossed the top, I heaved in some big gulps of air and gave myself a pat on the back.
You CAN do this!
After the descent the pack settled into a nice rhythm for the next kms as our second climb was still an hour and half or so away. The road was by no means flat, but I had made it over the biggest climb of the day and felt comfortable. As comfortable as one can feel racing a bike…
I ate, I drank, and before I knew it, the next climb was fast approaching.
Upon hitting the base, I kept an ear out for anyone calling for a grupetto as the climb was long enough to cause some pain to us big folk. The pace wasn’t terribly high however and I knew that if it stayed that way, I’d just have to man up and hold on to the peloton.
Just as a side note; I felt good today, but I was still planning on jumping into the grupetto as soon as I had the chance! I want to prolong these good sensations as much as possible…and to do that I need to save energy where ever I can!
I managed to hang on to the pack for the second climb, but was forced to stop for a crash about 500m from the top. As the speed was being maintained in the front, and we had just come to a standstill, I knew that we would have to chase pretty hard to make it back–especially considering there was a very short downhill which ran right into another climb. We dangled off the main peloton for a couple km and I did my part at the front of our group to get Santambrogio back to the pack as he had also been delayed on the climb.
He made it back, and then I even made it back a couple km later, leaving some other riders behind.
Huh. I like feeling good!
The next climb, I was sure that a grupetto would form, as the base was only 30km from the finish. We hit the bottom quite hot and shouts of ‘grupetto!’, ‘GRUPETTO!’ erupted from around me. I eased up, along with some of my grupetto mates from days prior.
A friend of mine who I have spent a fair amount of time with here in Spain, Robert Wagner, came up to me and exclaimed ‘We’re safe! On to tomorrow…’
We were in fact safe. I kept hydrated and fueled and we rolled the last 30km as easy as we could. In the last km we also caught a bigger group that had been up the road with Sagan and Cancellara. Meanwhile, there was even a big group behind us. I hadn’t been the first to get dropped today! Sometimes you have to celebrate the little victories…
On to tomorrow.