Today's stage of Tour of Taiwan went pretty much to its predicted script. The stage was pan cake flat for 140km with a final 600m leg snapping kick up to the finish line. We had a pretty simple objective of ensuring we were present in any dangerous breakaways like yesterday and ensure formolo and I were in the right position for the finish. The start was chaotic to say the least with large breakaways forming left right and centre as is custom in racing in asia. With only 5 rider teams controlling the race can be extremely difficult and it only takes a slight hesitation and 30 guys are disappearing up the road. Its pretty simple really, you have to be in everything as while 9 times out of 10 there will be no cooperation in such a large group, you don't want to miss that one move that does disappear. Its always easier to be in the move than have to chase it down!! Anyways fortunately eventually after covering 50km in the first hour a small group skipped clear and some control in the race was restored.
About the most exciting thing that happened for the next 50km or so was a little bit of rain! Rain always makes a run of the mill trundle along a flat as a pan course nice and stressful! When its raining everyone wants to be at the front which of course is not possible due to there not being enough room! Therefore you simply have to keep pushing forward for longer than everybody else is prepared to and stops fighting you for position. Today there was an annoying light cross wind that meant the peleton ended up in a long line. Big Ted was doing a brilliant job as always in keeping us at the front by forming a second echelon behind the 2 working teams so we were protected from the wind and out of harms way. This job is always a thankless one as you are basically doing the same amount of work as the guy on the front yet your not on the front! Therefore you don't get that adrenaline rush of chasing people down and the occasional rest bite from your fellow chasers so it can be a very mentally challenging role. Having done this many time myself I know how mentally challenging it can be as you just figure you may aswell be riding on the front. Therefore once ted finally turned around and said this is ridiculous, how bout I rotate on the front so we can sit comfortably in the wheels I said go for it, that's going to be much more enjoyable for him and we will be not entitled to sit behind the working teams. Its a basic etiquette in the bunch that if your team is working on the front then your team is entitled to sit up there out of harms way. So ted started rolling over and naturally being the big locomotive that he is the gap to the breakaway started to tumble down. Formolo, jean marc and I sat comfortably in the bunch and waited for final dash for cash to the line!
Formolo is an absolute breathe of fresh air in the team. All day today he would role up beside me to ask numerous random questions with so much excitement in his young voice. He looks and acts so comfortable and confident on his bicycle and with the work ethic to match he is going to do great things in his career, he already is in fact!! He is so smooth to sit behind in the group, no nervous movements and just having him around keeps you calm, he is an absolute champ. Also jean marc has a similar presence about him in the team and today he showed his class with making the right decisions when required during the race. At around 10km to go catching the breakaway was in the balance and the plan had been to save jean marc for the final km's. He said I think I need to go and help Ted and otherwise its not coming back and sure enough his decision to commit to the chase was the difference between the peleton sprinting for the win and not. No doubt about it Ted and Jean Marc really showed how valuable team mates are today which no matter how many days they do that for you during the season you always are incredibly appreciative of there self sacrifice. With 1km to go, jean marc had brought the race under control and it was now down to formolo and I to finish the job!
So after the boys had done everything perfectly this is where I got stage fright! It had been a head breeze for the 2nd half of the stage so everybody back in the group were being nicely sucked along and fresh as could be. Short flat easy stages with a fresh peleton are never my cup of tea as I don't enjoy the kamikaze dive bombing into corners and argy bargy that goes with it. I psyche myself up and am all good until one person collides into me and I shrink into my shell like a scared little turtle! Unfortunately it generally results in my going as slow as a turtle as well so not ideal in the finale of a bike race. Also when I am racing against guys I am unfamiliar with the problem is compounded. I don't have so much drama with this type of stress in the big world tour races, firstly as they are generally a lot longer and more tiring, as secondly I know my fellow competitors as we race together week in week out and as a result have a lot of confidence to bounce around off them. On the flip side of that I am very unfamiliar with the riders here in taiwan so for some reason once I am roughed up a little I act like a scared little kitten and end up putting on the reverse light when I should be charging forward searching for the opportunity to open the gas and make a run at the finish! Basically this week when its been stressful and nervous I have been a real wimp! Any ways will work on this tomorrow.
Fortunately my young enthusiastic team mate formolo spotted my tentative nature. When I was bumped into one to many times on the final crucial right hand corner at 600m to go he left my wheel to ensure he stayed in a good position to fight for the stage win. I spotted him duck through on the inside so breathed a sigh of relief as atleast I had not ruined both our days. I was now quickly further back than full back and way away from the action. Davide then held his head and position at the front on the leg snapping run to the line and would eventually finish 5th. There's no doubt that had I had a little more aggression and helped him into position better then he could very well have finished even higher. Alas hindsight is a wonderful thing and while for whatever reason I didn't have that killer instinct when it mattered today, it was inspiring to see formolo do so well and with another potentially challenging uphill finish tomorrow I am very motivated to deliver him in a much better fashion than today.
Another good but not great day for the team. The boys implemented the plan exceptionally well until I dropped the baton in the final part of the race. I know I have been very tentative this week but hopefully that's out of my system now and I will spark into action from here on in. Today was certainly a good kick in the backside that's for sure! Anyways onwards and upwards and fortunately we have another great chance to do somthing tomorrow. I know formolo will be buzzing like a bumble bee in anticipation for tomorrow so we guaranteed to have a thick sense of motivation in our room this evening. Hopefully some of his enthusiasm rubs of on me to!
Time: 3hrs 20min 145km
Ave Power: 240 watts
Max power: 1020 watts
Ave Heart rate: 131 BPM
Max Heart rate: 191 BPM
Max Speed: 91kmph
Max Cadence: 191RPM
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