Volta Catalunya hit the mountains today and I must admit was pretty excited about what would greet us in stage 3. After a couple of nervy argy bargy sprint stages the mountains were certain to take the sting out of the pins and make the fight for positions a little easier, well provided your in good shape that is! The objective of the cannondale boys today was to see where Ivan, George and I stood on the GC front and ideally have someone in the breakaway aswell to ensure we can take it easy back in the bunch. Like yesterday our german powerhouse took of as soon as the flag dropped and soon found the company of 5 others to enjoy another up the road consolidating his lead in the sprint classification. So another day and another podium appearance for micheal which is very exciting for him and great to see such a great worker for the team leaders enjoying the spotlight for a change. Sadly however for the boys in cannondale green that's about all we would have to crow about by days end as we crashed and burned on the final climb of the day.
With the break gone we settled into a nice day in the bunch. The final climb of the day did not look like it would explode the peleton to much being just 5km at around 6% but the 10 and 20km climb before hand certainly had the potential to do just that. First on the menu was the 10km and bunch trundled over that nice and gently much to everybodies delight. The second 20km which topped out just 60km from the finish was again done a gentle pace but with its length it seemed to take the snap out of the bunch. You know when this is happening as people stop talking and its much easier to hold a position at the front. I was feeling awesome, in all honesty I felt the most awesome, perhaps the best I have ever felt in a bike race and was confident of a good day. Specially as we crested the big climb I was champing at the bit for the final climb. Basso and george were also prominent at the front so it looked like it was going to be a good day.
One special mention I need to put in was seeing Nathan Earle setting tempo for his team leader chris froome of team sky. Nathan is in his first year in the world tour and a fellow hobart boy. When I first started cycling back in 2007 Nathan although some 5 years younger than me was one of the few guys that wanted to ride with me and wanted to share whatever knowledge he had with me. It was something I will always appreciate and as a result we have always been good friends. We have trained together for countless hours in hobart on Mt Wellington and these memories came flooding back seeing him tap out tempo on the front of the world tour peleton. It was actually comforting to see him doing it as I was pretty confident I knew the tempo he would be riding up so had a little upper hand the peleton knowing what to expect and am sure this was helping put me into a positive mood and frame of mind. But still the most exciting thing was simply to see nathan up there drumming out a tempo for what's been the number 1 team in stage racing over the past couple of years. Role into that that he is from the little old hobart town just like me, a town that did not even know what a pro cyclist really was when we started in the sport 6 years ago but to now have 2 of use riding in the top tear is pretty cool I reckon. Its a domino effect I think, once someone breaks the ice which for the modern protour world that was Matty goss when he signed for CSC back in 2007. From then on we all believed that it was possible to ride in the world tour even if you came from tassie. For so long the north of the state dominated the numbers of world tour riders but in 2014 nathan and I have squared the ledger finally!! Ritchie porte and gossy up north and nathan and I from the south, that's really really awesome to see and I just hope that the flow on effect to the younger generation of budding cyclists is the same as its been for us and many many more tasmanians will be riding in the world tour in years to come, preferably more from the south than north!! Again thanks nathan for giving me something to ponder and enjoy thinking about while climbing a 20km pyrenean pass topping out at 2000+m in 1 degree temperatures! Really did put a positive light on an otherwise painfull hour of power!!
Back to the race and down into the valley and the 20km before the final climb. Here Daniele Ratto was showing what an awesome team mate he really is using his crafty sprinting skills to position us perfectly at all time for the race to the finish. The last 2 days he has been our leader and delivered, today he was sacrificing himself so we had a shot at glory, that's a really great sign of a great rider and I have always appreciated daniele for this work. He will ride in the wind for you until he literally comes to a stand still and you can trust to always get you out of trouble. You simply stay on his wheel and you know when push comes to shove he will have you in the right place at the right time. As always that's exactly where he had me when we hit the final climb.
Into the final 5km climb and I was brimming with confidence. I was in the perfect position, safely nestled in behind rodrigues and contador and infront of froomie. Perfect I just had to sit here until everyone ran out of team mates to support them and then see what happens! Well this honeymoon period lasted sadly only a couple of km's and all of a sudden when the pace ramped up there was something missing. I was really suffering to stay in the group and knew I was in trouble. Not wanting to drop a wheel and lose the respect of the great riders that had given me such a great position in the bunch I moved aside and retreated back into the group for some shelter and in the hope of recovery. I briefly sprung back to life but when the attacks started going off like fire crackers around 1.5km from the finish I simply didn't have the power to respond. I all of a sudden felt really tired and didn't have the edge I have to honestly say I hoped I had. I had been very tired this past week and my last training session was not good. I still had the power but was suffering to produce it. Since then I had tried to rest and recover as much as possible but sadly when you are chasing freshness at this level its a ticking time bomb for when the best riders in the world will find you out. That happened to me today. Since Taiwan I haven't felt right so not sure why but I suspect the travel and race took more out of me than anticipated and I then trained to hard when I got to europe. Turned up to race the boys feeling very tired and knowing I was perhaps on the edge with fatigue and sure enough when I needed that spark, that 1minute of real suffering, it doesn't seem like much but at this level it makes the difference, I simply didn't have it. It wasn't I exploded I simply couldn't push. I simply didn't have the power and energy to dig deep like a did say in the tour down under or suntour. Simply put I am tired and not sharp and today got given a harsh reality in how things can go from good to bad very quickly! Anyways on the bright side I was closer to the front than the back and we still have 4 more stages and opportunities to come so who knows what might still happen. After this I have a great block of training in tenerife for 4 weeks which is one of my favourite places to train before I head to another of my favourite race the tour of turkey at the end of april. I was 5th there in 2011 so am going back to improve on that. After todays disappointment I will be very determined to do everything possible in the next 4 weeks to ensure I turn up there ready to go and no doubts, then you just have to wait and see if your strong enough or not!!
That's a wrap here in catalunya, shut eye time and another opportunity awaits tomorrow!
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