The final stage before the rest day and almost 100km shorter than yesterday. 3 climbs on the menu, none of which were overly steep but instead just steep enough for a strong team to absolutely decimate a peleton with some ferocious pace setting. The only thing missing now was a team to inflict this pain on the peleton! You only needed to walk past the team bus of movistar before the start to quickly realise who was going to apply the accelerator today!
We rolled out and the series of attacks went of. Astana tried to quickly shut it down and have a nice controlled day once a group of 6 skipped clear but this wish was very short lived! Step up to plate movistar! After just 10km they put there men on the front and instantly the chitter chatter disappeared from the peleton. Everyone knew we were in for an absolute brute of a day and the only question was how brutal? We hit the first climb after just 20km and instantly the peleton was in 2, then groups of 3, and by the top of the 6km climb the peleton was in around 6 different groups. Today the sun was out so the pain in my rib cage had somewhat subsided. Unfortunately for me today breathing became the issue and as soon as my heart reached 150 beats per min I was worryingly coughing up a lung! If I pushed beyond this point I was choking so simply had to resign myself to the fact that if I wanted to stay in the race I had to keep my heart rate below 150 beats. This is not so easy racing against the best riders in the worlds and trying to stay involved in the race. So basically I would ride a good position and then drift backwards when my heart and lungs pulled the hand break on me.
Over the first climb and all that remained at the front was the GC favourites. Naturally they all looked at each other as if to say what do we do for the next 110km without any team mates?? I assume the answer was something like this, "oh yeah we best wait for them so they can set us tempo for a little longer!!" So it all reformed. I perched myself up front ready for the next round of fireworks. Before we knew it we were at the feed zone and that's when it all kicked of again.
I have not been taking a feed bag for the past week as if I grabbed it would probably leave a rib or 2 right there with mugna who hand them out. Infact I use the feed zone as an opportunity to move up through the field and today even more so. The alarm bells started ringing when none of the movistar riders took there feed bags and they were all on the front. That meant one thing, the were not slowing down and to the poor desperate hungry soles they were in for a brutal 10km climb which was about to begin!!
I started right up the front behind moviestar which was really lucky. I knew unless they rode at my lung and heart restricted tempo of 150BPM then I would be tickedy boo but as guys were getting dropped as soon as we hit the climb I knew I was going to have to be smart! Sure enough my handbrake went on as moviestar continued to apply the accelerator, there were riders everywhere again and attacks started thick and fast. Again a group of favourites formed and again they had a look at each other and eased up. The group reformed and as I did I was a little back but having ridden to my heart rate limit was feeling great and started to move up the bunch and figured bugger this I am going to attack! We were only 2km from the top and I knew once I got over this one close to the main field that even if I dropped immediately on the last climb I would make it to the finish. I was ready to take the risk and have a go. Then just as I was almost within attacking range our polish strongman paterski launched of the front with a group and they were away. I was not about to try and attack solo and risk towing the bunch back the paterski so just resumed my spot in the bunch, no heroics from me today and in all honesty probably for the best. Firstly would most likely have imploded and not made it to the finish. And secondly I was under strict orders from the team directors and doctor to just survive today, make it to the reat day tomorrow, give my body a chance to heal, and reload for the final 4 stages. So from there on that what I did. As little as possible to get to the finish and I must admit I physically could not have done much more today. As soon as I got on the bus I had shower and fell straight to sleep, I have never ever done that before, my poor old body is certainly a little tired from the past few days!
Meanwhile the ever reliable paterski was in yet another strongmans breakaway. There have been 3 this race that the entire field has tried to be in and he has been in them all, he really is a hard hard man. The group behind had a cease fire long enough for the escapees to get up the road and ensure they contested the stage win. In the end a young frenchmen from Argos Warren Barguil showed his stage win a week ago was no fluke by beating one of the worlds best rigoberto uran in a 2 man sprint. Fortune certainly favours the brave in Warrens case as he started attacking 8km from the finish and was still doing it on the line! Obviously an absolute rising star of the sport and huge congratulations to him. Paterski showed his all round class with a fine 7th amoung some of the best climbers in the race and I am sure after he re boots his engine during tomorrows rest day he will certainly come out swinging again.
I am certainly not enjoying being unable to contribute to the race in a way I would like. But I guess I am realising the hard way that I am human and have certain limits. Unfortunately in these past couple of days simply surviving has been my limit. I want to stay in the race as I want to contribute in anyway I can to my team. I can't help much if I am sitting at home on the couch feeling sorry for myself and watching the race on TV. Also I am sure soon my rib will start heeling, its not a major fracture and they is always the chance that in the final week the breaks will come of my upper torso and I can push the pedals in anger again. Also I am on the long list for the world championships and representing my country is always an incredible honour. I know simply by finishing the vuelta that's its the best possible training for worlds and I want to be ready should I make the final 9 for the road race. Also as fabian told me a few days ago it basically like 2 weeks of altitude racing ahead of me! Racing with limited supply of oxygen will ensure when I recover that I am in much better condition. I will be fully recovered in a couple of weeks so in plenty of time to be ready for worlds and the end of season races with Cannondale Pro Cycling team. I simply have to suffer a little more than expected for another 5 stages here in spain. That no drama for me and it adds to the excitement, I honestly have no idea how my body will respond when the flag drops each day. That's what keeps the smile on my face, the optimism that I will feel normal again for just one day before the vuelta ends. For now its some more well earned rest and big day doing a whole lot of nothing tomorrow!
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