The volta catalunya is always hit or miss when it comes to the weather in 2014 we have certainly been on the hit side!! Yesterday we were lucky with sun an 0 degrees but today some light rain turned into snow which was a little chilly on the w!ll! To say the very least. On the bright side the arctic climate change here in catalunya didn't set in until the final hour or so of racing where it was pretty much all uphill. Why is that a positive? Well if you are going to ride in snowy icey rain with a wind chill factor of god only knows, its a lot more pleasant doing so going uphill than down! As far as the race went today it was a bit of a none event for us on the results front but still as always there were a few interesting adventures along the way.
Todays stage is the type I always look forward to. The definition of the perfect stage for is one that has more uphill, preferably at a steady gradient, and not much going downhill! So on paper stage 4 looked great. The only thing that made it not great was that I have not been feeling great since arriving in europe and its been difficult to figure out why. Well I know I have felt tired but until this afternoon was reasonably annoyed and confused as to why. I received confirmation from the doctor I have been suffering from a small virus for the past couple of weeks thanks to a blood exam I underwent last week before leaving for catalunya. Chances are I picked something up in taiwan and it has just taken the spark of me that I have dearly missed these past couple of days. It comes as no surprize to find this as 4 of our 5 man team from taiwan have now been diagnosed with some form of ailment, Boivin with bronchitis, formolo with chicken pox, Jean Marc with fatigue and now I join the list aswell. As annoying as it is to be a little under the weather its also nice to know there is a reason why I feel a little of and not normal. While I am not suggesting I would be setting this race alight by any stretch of the imagination the important thing is to accept the situation and where I am at and move on. At Cannondale Pro we have a very experienced team of doctors and trainers who I know will ensure I return to my chippa chirpy racing self in no time. On a positive note for 90% of the stages I am feeling good and comfortable, its just when they open the gas and I need the turbo that I find its not there. That shows that the base work we have done has been good and now I must not panic and just ensure I get 100% healthy asap. At the end of the day as a professional cyclist your health is your wealth. Another positive is its still 5 weeks until my first major objective of the season so we have plenty of time to recover and rebuild and be ready for my very important month of may in turkey and california.
Anyways back to today and we had one of the most feared first 30km in professional cycling. 10km slightly downhill full blast then boof! 20km uphill! A day like this is always hard as there is always someone wanting to attack of the front at warp speed and there are always plenty of people wanting to chase them! The result is a 5% climb of 20km is done more often than not at an average speed in excess of 30kmph!! So you have 2 choices to make. Firstly you attempt to be one of the brave ones and attack like a mad man hoping to make the breakaway or, secondly buckle your seat belt and find some good wheels in the bunch to follow and hang on for grim death. The only certainty is its going to be balls to the wall flat out for around 45minutes! Sure enough this occurred. I chose the second option and just perched myself up the front and followed the wheels and was as relieved as everybody else when 4 riders whom had around 20 seconds at the top were finally let go clear by Katusha on the long graceful decent of the top of the climb. With the break gone we could now settle in and wait for the fireworks of the climbers teams later in the day.
We rolled along at a nice gentle steady tempo and the whole group seemed happy to enjoy the calm before the storm. We all knew it was coming and was just a matter of when so you take the good times whenever you can. Sure enough some light rain started to fall around 50km from the finish which corresponded with us travelling along a road the size of a footpath. Again at first nothing happened until I saw the giant yellow and blue clad aussie Rory sutherland hit the front. This meant trouble as contador was playing his hand. Sure enough the peleton instantly decimated on the steady 5km footpath wet climb we were scaling. I was chewing on my headstem at the back of the group until a couple of km's from the top I decided to ride my own pace and back myself to ride back to the front group on the false flat between the top of the climb and the final climb. This was a moment when I did not have the spark and as the rubber band was stretching in and out of the corners I was close to my limit. So I decided to back my false flat TT skills to ride back accross at a more steady pace. At the top of the climb the group was no more than 30 seconds ahead so 5km of concentrated TT work later I was back in the comfort of what was left of the main peleton. Rory was still powering away on the front. This was probably fortunate for me as if he had had any help I would most likely have not got back on. He had been on the front for almost 30min by this stage alone so he would have been getting a little tired fortunately for me.
The snow and sleat was now falling but fortunately it was all uphill for the last 25km. Around 15km of false flat and 10km of climb seperated us from the finish. I found George and Ivan and made sure they had all they needed. George handed me his great big rain jacket which took me about 5 minutes to figure out a way to stuff it somewhere in my jersey. With fingers verging on frost bite its not easy hold onto the handlebars let alone organise a wardrobe on your bicycle!! First I tried stuffing it down the front with no success with zippers and radio cords in the way I was in quite the tangle. Next I tried my vest back pocket but the light rain and freezing temps had literally snap frozen them shut so no luck there. Finally I managed to stuff it under my vest at the back but it turned out I only did half of it as when I went to hand it to our team car I realized I was actually sitting on the other half as I couldn't pull it out. The guys in that group must have had a bit of a giggle at the site of my improvised waterproof fizik seat system. By now I was well and truly spent and knew my boost was not there so once the final climb came I put up the white flag and enjoyed lovely ride up the final climb to the finish in the snow. As I said once I finished I would be notified by the medical staff why I was feeling so flat so was a good thing I took it easy and didn't dig deep, doing so will only prolong the recovery period. With that being said I need as much rest as possible so time for some shut eye and see how I am feeling in the morning.
Elevation gain: 3500m
Ave heart rate: 139BPM
Max Heart rate: 189BPM
Kcal Burnt: 5000kcal
Ave Power: 266 watts
Max Power: 1000 watts
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