A very exciting day here in catalunya for the Cannondale pro boys. Our german strong man micheal koch powered his way into the days breakaway and daniele the rat man ratto continued his rapid progression into top form finishing 3rd in the bunch sprint. Our plan was pretty much as it played out, ideally have a guy in the break so we did not have to chase and ensure daniele was in the perfect position for the sprint. The results will show that it was almost a perfect day for the team but there was a little excitement and action on the road to girona this afternoon.
The stage got of to the perfect start for us with our german micheal koch in the days breakaway. On many many occasions I have been blown away with the power of this young lad and I knew once he was up the road it was going to be a fast day in the peleton to reel him and his fellow escapees in. As expected that's exactly how it panned out and by days end micheal had not only saved our team from doing any work but also would climb atop the podium to pull on the leader of the sprint classification jersey. Big pat on the back to Mr Koch. As I said back in the bunch the pace was high all day. Along with micheal there some serious powerhouses in the breakaway and the peleton knew that could not be given much of a leash. As a result the pace was high and we were all enjoying getting sucked along basking in the Spanish sunshine en route to girona. This is how it remained until the heavens decided to open around 50km from the finish.
The day went from being extremely pleasant to extremely cold wet and miserable in the space of 100m. The sun was gone and the heavens had decided to dumb what seemed like ice water upon us instead of UV rays. When it rains stress in the bunch goes through the roof, surprize surprize. With wet roads comes the increase in crashing potential and with that comes more people wanting to be at the front, and with that come a big fight for front positions. So the consequence of that is that when we should be slowing down and riding safely (Yeah right!!) We travel even faster and increase the risk and danger! That's make perfect sense doesn't it?? Oh the logic of bike racing!
Anyways the simple way to avoid trouble is stay at the front, and I mean right at the front. Infact you can never be far enough forward and out of harms way be it to hold a front position for your leaders or being protected by your team mates, the less people in front of you the less chance there is of somthing going wrong, simple as that. We did this quite well and were immediately up the front. As expected Ratto was on the ball and right there the whole time saving precious energy and staying safe for the big bunch sprint to come. As I said yesterday ivan likes to be up front and out of trouble and takes this to a new level in the rain and sets a great example to the team for riding this way. If we are not protecting him he simply protects himself and waits for us to come to him again and protect him from the wind. Basically the rain makes it extremely hard for everybody and you simply need to keep fighting for position for longer than anyone else is prepared to to stay up the front. So in this area this is a very good example of our captain leading by example.
So with 10km to go all seemed perfect, basso, jean marc, ratto and I were all poised at the front and ready for the sprint work. Koch was about to be swept up and it was time to start ensuring ratto was exactly where he needed to be. All of a sudden a left hand sweeping corner, nothing technical mind you appeared seemingly from nowhere and some nerves hit the front of the peleton. An astana rider just ahead of me decided he would approach the corner casey stoner moto gp style and unclip he left foot to stick out for stability. Unfortunately this distracted me for a split second and I started drifting toward him tapped my front break and before I knew it I was spinning along the road like a merry go round! Amazingly although it happened right at the front I managed not to bring anyone else down with me so when I finally came to stand still the only thing damaged was my ego and pride thanks to the wet slippery surface. So my as cruisy perfect day as was possible under the rainy circumstances just became a whole lot harder. I had to pick myself back up of the deck and chase like a madman to regain contact with the field to avoid losing anytime. The positives were my bike wasn't broken and neither was I so I was up and moving quickly. I could still see the peleton which was another positive as all I had to do was ride hard enough to keep closing the gap between me and it. I stayed remarkably calm which I hope is a good sign of my condition and although at full noise a couple of km's later I was back in the field as we went under 5km to go, big relief.
Ratto meanwhile was taking the staying forward and out of trouble technique to the next level. At 4km to go and the final tricky corner he sat 3rd in line in the peleton. He knew with the crazy conditions in the final few kms people would not be charging up from behind and he was on the ball today that's for sure. At around 1km to he was now in second wheel and by the line he would be passed by the eventual winner, luka mezgek, a very polite Slovenian and would wind up 3rd. By his own admission daniele is far from in his best condition but simply by using his incredible bike knowledge and skills he was able to match it with the worlds best and inturn show that improvement is coming thick and fast. We as a team are as excited about the next opportunity he gets for a crack at glory during this week in catalunya.
Tomorrow we hit the mountains. I have really enjoyed racing in the mountains here the past couple of times I have done this race so I am very excited to role the sleeves tomorrow and get stuck into it. The cannondale boys have had a great start to the race so may it continue as the road heads skywards!
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