Another case of calm before the storm today however on this occasion we knew it was coming!! Todays stage was a pretty flattish initial 140km on a nice large highway before turning onto a footpath for a 5km climb and 20km plunge toward the finish! Oh and the 1km wall at the end of that to the finish line!
The first 100km or so were quite the pedestrian pace today. There was a peleton full of tired legs after yesterday mountain top finish and everybody seemed happy to have a bit of quiet time. A small controllable break skipped away early and from there BMC and Katusha kept it closely in check and with it ensuring I nice gentle consistent pace. With a potentially dangerous finish such as today our entire focus was again on Ivan and ensuring he was in the perfect position to avoid losing precious seconds to his rivals. With that being said we stayed as usual in the front part of the bunch ready for the hostilities to begin.
The fireworks started when we turned of the highway about 20km before the base of the days major climb. The road width shrank by a third and everybody had exactly the same idea, get to the front! Unfortunately there is not room for 200 people at the front so normally 190+ riders are in a position they would prefer not to be in. This is where the bunch becomes extremely stressful and twitchy and you really need to be on your toes.
In a situation like this where the road is so narrow unless you are right on the front with your team lined out its impossible to move as a group of 9 in a tense peleton. To get to the front we inevitably split up a little which is fine as when we see one of our men up front it gives a point of reference to aim for. Then once we all make it to this point of reference we can stick together a little more closely. Today the plan was to ensure Sammy and I were fresh as possible before the climb so we could be there for Ivan in the final nervous km's if he needed us. While we got away with it yesterday it is time to start thinking about using our resources a little more sparingly to ensure we give Ivan as much support as possible.
So for the 10km before the climb it was an absolute dog fight for the front. Everyone knew the road get even narrower for the climb itself and with the knew that a lot of energy would be saved if you began the climb in the first positions. I stayed calm and waited for the fight to go out of the peleton before making my move to the front. If you wait until people are starting to get tired and accelerate quickly past you can bluff them into not challenging you for the wheel ahead. They assume your stronger than they are and don't want to waste energy fighting for a wheel that they believe they will lose anyways. So one wheel at a time you move forward like this and today I did it pretty spot on perfectly. As we began the climb I was about 10 wheels from the front and settled into an armchair ride to the top. Well as armchair as 410 watts for 15' can be anyways but in reality this is nothing to severe. I certainly would have wasted an extra 50 watts had I been 20 spots further back.
So once in a perfect spot for the climb I had sammy right beside me, another tick! Now we just had to ensure ivan was in a perfect spot aswell and soon after he trundled past and set up camp on the front. Once I knew he was safe and sound I settled into the bunch now about 20 wheels back to ensure I was close enough to see if he had any difficulties but also far enough forward to save as much energy as possible. The pace was high enough that there was not a crazy fight for the wheels in front of me and I did my best to make it look like I was doing it as easily as possible in an attempt to scare off any would be challengers for my comfortable position in the bunch. This remained the case and all the way to the top I was feeling very comfortable and confident that once we got close to the and the pace naturally rose I would jump up a bit closer to Ivan for the decent. Everything went to script and movistar turned the ratchet and with that I crested the climb in a nice forward position. From here however was when fireworks I had not accounted for began!
Once we crested the climb I expected us all to just slot into single file and casually plunge down to the finish line. How wrong could I be!! It turned from a bicycle race into a round of MotoGP!! All of a sudden riders from behind were risking life and limb to charge past. I took stock again and ivan was safely up front so I just decided to stay tight and get him out of trouble if required. Ratto showed the determination that's netted him so many podiums this year and was still in the main field. Using his brilliant bike skills and sprinting power he was slicing through the field and half way down ripped past me so fast that he almost sucked the gloves of my hands. He knew it was going to be a decisive decent and was putting all fear asside to get up to the front and help out Ivan. Seeing this made me even more content staying back as now ivan had ratto and sammy very close to him and me not far behind. Soon after ratto ripped past longo came charging and sucked the helmet right of my melon!! He loves these fast technical decent's and was carving it up to be alongside Ivan. I was now made very much redundant for the final km's as Ivan was in the best possible hands for a finish like this and I went into energy conserving and no crash mode to ensure I was as ready to go as possible for tomorrow.
Thanks to Ratto's brilliant descending and positioning skills Basso took the final 1km kick to line in perfect position and conceded only a handful of seconds to a few major rivals and put good distance between himself and some others. So all in all it was another positive day for the team captain and another pass for the team with having him where he needed to be at excactly the right moment. In all honesty today was a day Ivan feared most as crazy decent's to the finish are not usually his cup of tea. He said this morning he would be very happy to lose only 15seconds and that's exactly what he lost to the leader so if I thought he had a big smile yesterday on the team bus today it was as wide as bass straight! Day by day his confidence is growing and he is looking stronger and stronger. With this the team is rallying more and more around him everyday so I am really excited to be apart of this and keep it going all the way to madrid!
Max speed 100.1kmph
Max power 1120watts
Max Heart Rate 191BPM
Max Cadence 151
Ave Power 235watts
Ave Heart Rate 128BPM
Kcal burnt 3700
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