Today was another GREAT stage. Infact I think the race should be renamed the tour of the great wall as today we actually rode right through it! We have ridden past it and beside it so now having gone through it there is only one more step for the organisers to take! Ride along it!!
Stage 4 marked the first time the race would include a mountain top finish. Therefore our plan was pretty simple, get mr captain cannondale Ivan Basso in the best chance to do a good result. The other objective of the day was to ensure damiano held onto his king of the mountains jersey. At the meeting this morning the objectives were simple. Ensure Ivan starts the final climb at the front and make sure that no break away goes including any challengers to damiano's jersey. I love it when the objective are so simply spelled out for us as after that you simply have to do your job, well simply so long as your legs are happy to do what's required!
From the gun it was full blast as usual. All the team controlled all the moves taking turns in chasing breaks or simply following them. Its so much easier to do this task with a strong team as if you have to chase break after break alone you put yourself in big danger of blowing yourself to pieces in the early part of the stage. Finally a break established itself with nobody threatening damanio's jersey and we settled in for the next move. Initially the break included the eventual stage winner from moviestar but he decided to sit up and return to safety of the peleton, he was obviously confident in his chances for the stage and rightly so! That left only 3 up the road meaning there were still points on offer for the peleton. We had to be carefull of this as wez sulzberger, fellow tasmanin and good mate was only 2 points behind so he now had a great chance to challenge for the jersey. Fearing this Ratto concocted an excellent plan!
The idea was that at around 1km from the top I would attack as hard as possible which would force wez to chase. Damiano would be glued to his wheel and getting a free ride and would then have fresher legs to take the sprint. Or the other possibility would be I would stay clear and sweep up the points, in reality I knew that would not be happening, wez really wanted the jersey! The next glitch to the came with the news Micheal Bling Mathews had withdrawn from the race. Why was this significant? Well all wez's team mates would usually be saving themselves to help bling so now he would have his entire team to help him chase the jersey. None the less I was ready and set up camp right at the front. Fortunately we were not going very hard on the climb so I was happy to take the wind for 5km to ensure I was in the perfect position to execute our plan. So all was set and with around 3km from the top the green edge train rolled along side me! I looked back and damiano was glued to wez's wheel but I also realised our task was going to be a little tuffer.
I thought pretty quick on my feet and realised the green edge guys had a plan aswell. They were nodding and whispering among themselves and they were also trying to block my escape route out the front of the bunch. We were now 2km from the top and I knew we had to anticipate anything they had install and I had to launch first. I waited for a moment when there were distracted and moved aside just enough for me to squeeze through and attacked as hard as I could. I knew I had to go hard as we needed wez to use as many of his men as possible to chase me down. I did not want to leave anything to chance. After 500m full blast I took a look back now saw only 2 greenedge and behind them damiano and ratto. Perfect the odds were now in our favor. The peleton off course let us go knowing we were just chasing the points and therefore the battle was between us. I kept the pace high as possible until 500 from the top when greenedge's mitch docker give it a dig to lead out wez. When he was done wez was alone and damanio and ratto were right on his wheel. Not surprizingly the 2 of them sprinted away from wez and swept up all the points and with it sealed the mountain jersey. So that was the days first objective ticked off.
Next was to keep an eye on Ivan and ensure he took the climb at the front. This was a little more straight forward as its as you just need to keep pushing forward. To keep pushing forward you simply need to take some wind as most are saving themselves for the final climb. That's were having dedicated team mates make a big difference. A leader can ride at the front but does not have to take the wind, its a big advantage. On a day like today Ratto and Elia are absolute masters at this as a result of there excellent bunch skills in a sprint and ability to do sharp acceleration's to stay at the front. Its often the team sprinters that perform this role for the climbers as they are simply happy to arrive atop the climb and not concerned with there result. To be honest I prefer taking the wind before the climb to stay at the front as I know I will start it at the front. Then once the race heats up your already amongst the action or even immediately involved in it, this inturn gets the adrenaline flowing and everything seems a little more painless and enjoyable so for some riders if not the majority, starting at the front is a good start to giving yourself the best chance to do well on a mountain top finish. Just a little on the workings of the team and how roles change day to day.
So between the 3 of us Ivan was always where he needed to be and as we hit the final climb we had he was right on the front row. The climb was always going to be fast so there was a big advantage to be had by staying up front out of the wind and avoiding the rubber band acceleration's further down in the bunch. I was struggling a little bit by this stage, just not quite yet back to where I like to be in the climbs but certainly on the improve again. Think the vuelta and recovery from my busted rib took a little more out of me than I expected, just missing that little edge at the moment. Fortunately ratto stayed with ivan as long as possible and ensured he was safe and sound in the first positions. By days end ivan would be 9th on the stage and 9th on GC so a great showing on a climb that doesn't really suit him.
All in all a good day for the cannondale boys. Us workers had a couple of simple objectives and our leaders finished things off as expected for us. Tomorrow will be another stage for the sprinters so we will be back at the services of Elia. He has been getting closer and closer in the sprints all week so we are pretty motivated to set him up as best as possible for the final stage here at the tour of beijing.
Time: 3hrs 46min
Ave Power: 277
Max Power: 1150
Altitude Gained: 2350m
Kcal Burnt: 3900
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