The 2014 tour of turkey is turning out to be a real doozy for cannondale pro clan! Today on stage 7 elia picked where he left off in the last bunch gallop again blasting through the line for another emphatic victory. Today's stage was a little more run of the mill but none the less we had couple of tricks up our sleeve to give elia the best chance of victory. Here's how things unfolded.
The day got off to the perfect start not just for the riders but more so for Elia. In the start town we spotted a star bucks and while you would think Italians with all there coffee class would scoff at america's fast coffee chain, it not the case at all. The italian riders and particularly elia are big fans of Starbucks no matter where we are in the world outside italy so throwing down some caramal machiatos before the stage start instantly had the boys in a very buoyant mood. Elia had double reason to smile as the startbucks sold mugs which are apart of a series of mugs that elia happens to collect. He spotted a few he thought he didn't have and made a quick phone call home to confirm. Sure enough a few minutes later the cannondale clan exited Starbucks all smiles with caramel maciattos putting a perk in step and elia with the biggest grin thanks to the bag full of porsolen mugs he couldn't wait to get home and show his friends and family! At this point I knew it was definitely going to be his day again!!
Once the race began things immediately went as planned and a small 3 man break extremely easy to control was let free. They were given a small gap but not to much as none of us could be bothered making the chase any harder than it needed to be so it was always at the easily pegbackable 2-3min make for the first half of the race. The plan was for Snr sagan and I to take turns riding on the front to ensure I still had some energy left to help position the boys in the final km's and also to ensure Juraj didn't need to blow himself up unnecessarily as the race was easy to control. Juraj took the first shift while I sat back with the boys and enjoyed the view. One thing distracting me in the early part of the stage was cavs pedaling action which I felt didn't look as sharp as earlier in the week and perhaps he was tired. I didn't know for sure but i decided to go and ride on the front in the middle section of the stage and just turn the wick a fraction on the climbs as if he was a little fatigued it was our only chance to add to that before the inevitable bunch sprint. I knew the stage pretty well so knew when best to do this and after 30km of racing I went and switched spots with Juraj.
I love riding on the front, it's certainly one of the most enjoyable parts of this job for me. You always have a special feeling knowing the whole peloton is behind, you are the one that gets to decide how fast, how slow, and where on the road you want to ride, it's a really cool feeling. The break was well and truly in check so as far as unstressfull days riding on the front go this was perhaps one of the more relaxing chases I have done for a couple of reasons. Firstly the gap was small to a small group of riders and secondly we had 2 extremely strong and experienced teams to work along side in opqs and greenedge so there was no panick at the head of the peloton. Next came my little hunch that cav was stinging a little and the longer drags ahead. I didn't want to telegraph what I was doing but just ride at a pace that was a little above what's comfortable without anyone really noticing. On the longest of the drags I did however just give it a little more stick until I heard the first "slow down" from behind and to hear where it came from, sure enough it came from cav and his men so I knew I had hit the spot. We were not going super hard, certainly no harder than in the earlier stages so was the sign I was looking for. When your on the front and you ride a little harder than necessary which riders often do when on the front, you get quite a kick of adrenaline when your leading the bunch but it's important to acknowledge that you have over reved it and acknowledge with an apologetic hand "sorry I didn't realise and will back off". With the rollers now behind us Juraj came and tagged me off the front now with around 60km to the finish.
Back in the group I settled onto cavs wheel and again studied the way he moved on his bike. I was again convinced he was a little tired and relayed this to elia, if nothing else increase the belief in his mind that he was fresher than his sprint rival. It drew and approving nod and amile from the Green machine Missile and again I knew it was another day for him. Sprinters seem to fuel of confidence and while I will have no idea if my hunch's or ideas today were on the money or not I didn't really care, all I wanted to ensure was that elia was in the best shape mentally and physically for those final crucial crazy km's. Around 30km's from the line I swapped again with elia and was back on the front.
Another reason I was very excited to be riding the front today was I wanted the opportunity to get some subtle TT training in before the tour of california. The TT may not be decisive but will certainly be important so riding at 50kmph with the wind in your face is always great training so was a golden opportunity to finish of the good week of preparations here in turkey. Also during my second stint I rode in the most aerodynamic position possible to start activating the small muscles that you use for the TT. When you bent over in the TT posi it's a very different way of applying the power so was a good chance to switch some of these reactor muscles on. The final 30km again was extremely enjoyable. Again the race was well under control so we could comfortably knock out nice long turns at 50kmph+ to get some great training in the legs. With around 10km to go the break was finally brought to heal so now we just Waited for another team to decide we were not riding fast enough. It didn't happen as everyone seemed keen to follow Opqs and us so at 5km to go I swung off to go back and give motorbike marunga a hand back in the group.
The last 5km of course is always scrappy so you want to stay as safe as possible. Today after the work on the front I would have the same spark at the finish I did on stage 5 but I did still have a couple of km of energy left to shelter marunga as he guided Elia onto the prized wheel of Cav. Somewhere between 2-3km to go marunga left my wheel for the final time with elia spinning his legs effortlessly warming up the turbo. As usual I tacked onto the back of them ready for any last minute mishaps in position but in the end a crash around 1km would prevent me from contributing anymore. No stress marunga had again done his job perfectly and Elia still had his bodyguard GB for company. Infact the only annoyance was the fact that having to stop for the crash I didn't get to watch the big screen and see the final sprint and how amazing was Elia's victory!
In the final few hundred m's I have no idea what unfolded but Elia was no longer behind cav. 2 big gaps opened infront of him in the final few hundred m's which he had to close simply to get on cav's wheel. When he finally got there around 100m from the line he quickly realized he had the superior speed and didn't hesitate blasting straight by him and powering to his 2nd victory of the tour. That's surely was a an even more dominant display than stage 5's victory and one I am sure will give elia an incredible amount of confidence as he heads toward the giro d Italia.
So great stuff boys. The week is just going along so incredibly well. Everyday we continue to gell as a group and get to know each other better and the results are speaking for themselves. Cycling in my opinion is certainly the most teamly sport there is and being apart of the Cannondale pro cycling team this week here at the tour of turkey has been simply oarsome!!