Today was an absolute hum dinga of a stage! There was Just 115km on the menu for today but when a fresh peleton faces such a short stage its always absolute chaos. Oh off course through in australian race conditions of dead undulating twisting turning roads and a constant breeze threatening to decimate the peleton at any km between the km 0 and the finish. The suntour has become synonymous with a first stage breakaway deciding the tour. This year we had a prologue in the legs so a sort of pecking order had been already established so I was pretty curious as to how the stage would pan out. Surprisingly a regular 1st stage of a tour breakaway formed very early in the day. Not only was this great in as much as you could seek some refuge in the bunch for a little longer but our sole Italiano on the roster her in aus, Alberto the beast Bettiol was one of the 3 escapee's!
This was fantastic to see from a team perspective. In TDU we had been largely un sited in the race so was so great to see the young guys attacking from the gun. The boys had been training hard in melbourne since TDU and today we definately saw a different cannondale pro cycling team in the bunch. By days end alberto had wrapped up the most combative prize and also the sprint classification and will wear that jersey in stage 2 tomorrow. So 2 trips to the podium for him today which was so great to see and he definitely had an extra spring in his step at the hotel this evening. In just his second race as a professional it certainly bodes well for an exciting future for the young italian.
Back in the bunch Matty Junior Mohoric and Mattias Motorbike Krisek were keeping geoge, boivin and I in the perfect position. The stage was always going to blow apart one way or another on a steep short 1km climb 40km from the finish. As we hit the climb the boys had positioned us perfectly. The bunch seemed happy to cruise up the climb and keep the group together which at the time seemed like a very courteous thing to do, YEAH RIGHT! Green edge had strategically blocked the road with there team and at the top we found out the hard just why they had done that!!
As we crested the climb and the crosswind awaiting us kicked in WHACK, pre race favourite Simon Gerrans hit the gas with his boys and the peleton exploded!! I thought I was in a good posi but unless you basically beside them when you go you not in a good position. Sure enough I went to follow and riders one by one ahead of me got dropped and I was forced to grit the teeth and chase down greenedge's assault solo. Our kiwi climbing ace george bennett had tacked onto the back but was severely outnumbered so I knew I needed to get myself there. I actually rode accross pretty well and was closing fast and just as I got to george I had a brain melt and forgot to think which I seem to always do on the first stage of every stage! George gave me the wheel in front and I decided to seek refuge for a little breather instead of simply riding up to the front and joining in with the greenedge boys. Unfortunately as I seeked refuge so did my legs which were screaming at me for chasing down this split and simply decide to have a breather!
What happened next was something I am not so proud off. I almost single handedly ruined the race for the team! George letting me in and my simultaneous leg explosion dropped us both from them front group meaning we had nobody in the lead group. Well that's not true as alberto was still up the road however green edge quickly gobbled them up and he was now getting a free ride and by not assisting in the work to maintain the front groups charge hopefully discouraging them from continuing the pace making. So I took stock, I realised I no longer had the power to ride back to the front group but also knew I needed to get into that group again somehow! I looked behind and saw the days life savers clad in green a few hundred m's down the road driving the bunch toward us. They saw we were dropped and immediately got on the front of what was now the second group and were driving the pace. They gobbled us up and now all the other teams not in the front contributed some men and I knew we would be ok, well I believed that for a few km's but then realised if I was on the limit then for certain so were those chasing, the race was in the balance.
At this point George took the bull by the horns and said "c'mon mate let's go and give em a hand and shut it down". George knew the longer greenedge dangled out there the more they would believe they would survive so when you get close you need to shut it down asap. Krizek and Matty had done an huge effort and now seemed to get a 2nd wind when george and I chimed in. They were truly life savers. Boivin was also safely in the group and saving his legs for the sprint and for the first day this trip to aus we really were functioning as a team, it was awesome to see. Eventually we rejoined on a hard punchy climb and as expected Krizek and matty slammed it into reverse and went out the back, they had given there all for us. Boivin, George and I were back in the front group so the day had been saved, I was so appreciative and while you never need to look to far to see why this is the ultimate team sport you always realise how special our sport is in moments like that. Boivin went back for water as he knew he was freshest from sitting in again illustrating his thought of his team mates. Bettiol was up the road and now with us and instead of dreaming of a stage win now sacrificed himself riding in the wind next to garmin controlling the peleton to ensure we were perfectly positioned to avoid missing any more crucial splits. Bettiol's work proved crucial in giving boivin a chance to sprint for the win and while he came up short today 7th was a great result and shows that his condition is riding and capped of a great team day for the Cannondale Pro Cycling team.
So I did my best to ruin the day for the boys and my team mates saved me and with it the day for the team. George and I are still in the race for the overall and boivin is growing in confidence for the bunch sprints. The suntour can always be turned on its head at any moment and todays stage was a shark kick in the back side to remind you of exactly that! Looking forward to getting stuck back into it in the morning!
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device