Today has been a day I have been looking forward to for a very long time. A mountain top finish in a world tour race with many of the top riders in the world in the field. Added to that being able to race such a stage with a good condition and healthy body so today all that fell into place for me, I chance to see where I stood with the big boys! From the teams perspective I certainly failed in setting up a GC position but christiano salerno consolidated his lead in the KOM competition so tomorrow he will be going all out to consolidate that so go christiano!
It was the perfect stage for me, 3 climbs and only 1 decent! One thing was certain today, I would find my way to the front at some point on the long drag to the finish at 2200m altitude. At the of the day I would be dropped from this position with 2km to go and concede 1 minute to the winner, as for my placing I am not sure, perhaps the top 30-40 but what I took and learnt from the day is what is most important to me.
Firstly I felt fantastic, perhaps the strongest I have ever felt going into a bike race, unfortunately I did not share my confidence with my team mates and. Free lanced my way around the bunch and as I often do when I feel good wasted a lot of energy. Into the final climb I knew the big names to follow and when robert gesink put his men on the front I was right there behind them as bradley wiggins was very generous in giving me the wheel ahead of him. This unfortunately proved to be my first mistake, I knew the wind was infront but figured sitting 3rd wheel would ensure I could ride a consistent tempo so decided taking the wind was a good option. I seemed to be as the km ticked by and was sitting pretty up front but when jurgen van den brook attacked and gesink followed I had not choice but to go aswell. This put me on the limit and then came the much feared sky train! Again I took the wheel at the front right behind sky but now it was full gas inside 3km to go and I was on the rivit. Added to this the altitude was touching 2000m and having not done any altitude training for 8 months being on the rivit at altitude aint the best position to find yourself in. Anyways on we charged and when we hit 2km to go and the steep kick to the line I put on the reverse lights and went backwards fast! Turns out the world tour pace on the climbs is a bit much for having not raced at this level for over 18months and I had to do my best to survive.
I will take a lot from the day regardless of where I finished. First up from the mistakes I made in being way to confident in my own ability considering the competition I was facing and second not have the courage to let my team mates know how good I felt and give me a little hand in taking some wind for me. But hey, its the first race of many big ones this year and returning to the team I am still re familiarising myself with that so all good. It was so nice for me to be able to simply go tow to tow with the big boys I have been watching admiring on TV for the past year and wanting so badly to be back amongst it. I saw them all attack and I heard them all breath heavy, I even saw some struggle, unfortunately today in the end I was the one who stuggled the most! If I also look at my role in this team which after catalyuna switches to support of our grand tour captain Ivan basso then I could not be happier. I was right where I need to be deep into a mountain stage and had he have been there would be been able to have him positioned perfectly to deliver for the team. That what my role is here and that's what they pay me to do so I am super excited about the upcoming races with him on my wheel. That always gives me a few more watts of motivation and exuberance!
Onto tomorrow and its another cracker, again more climbs than decents so will see what I can conger up there, just awesome to be back here racing at this level and seeing the front of the race, not just riding with these guys but being right there in the thick of it RACING them!
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