Stage 6 here in california was yet another barmey affair! I have decided to start using the usa measuring system as it sounds so much more impressive when you say it's 100 degrees! So that's what greeted us right out of the starting blocks today here in valencia. Not only that but we had some of those super enjoyable rollers which I just too long to be able to role over but short enough that whoever is at the front wants to launch attacks left right and centre. So this is what we faced in the first 20km and not surprisingly there were riders all over the place! I have maintained my consistent form here in california and was dully one of the first riders dropped but I didn't panic, I knew I am further back than fullback as far as my conditions goes at this race so played it safe and rolled myself back onto the group once the pace had settled down a little. Unfortunately we again missed the breakaway but not that I could I have really done anything to help that as I was more concerned about staying in the peleton let alone worrying about what was going on in front of it! Anyways with the break gone and the race under control I immediately got to work and began my bottle runs for the day!
We had one simply objective today which was to give George the best possible chance to do well on the mountain top finish. On stage 4 unfortunately George ran out of water in the final km's so my sole objective today was to ensure that the only concern he had with water was that he had to much of it and not on the contrary. Obviously I am far from my usual self here but that's no excuse not to try and help out where you can. Basically I feel that it's just as important how you can help when your at your worst as it is when your at your best. We all have great days, and we all have shockers but in a cycling regardless of how horrible your traveling or how bad you feel you need to do all you can to find a way to help out. So with that being said I knew that on a sweltering hot day in the Californian dessert I could contribute to the teams effort by ensuring everybody was as well hydrated as possible. It was not just important for today but we also have 2 more stages left. And with peter sagan in the team and the massive motors we have here to help him in saba, body, GB, ted and koren, it was important to try and get everybody through the day in the best shape possible.
So basically I did between 7-8 trips back to the car. Each time your carry 8 bottles for all the riders so that equals whatever it equals!! When you go back so many times, basically every 30min or so, it's important to pick the right moment. If you go at the wrong and load yourself up with 8 bottles which weighs around 5kg and all off a sudden the groups going full gas up a climb then there I a good chance you will be needing all those bottles for yourself as you could very quickly be further back than fullback behind the race! So with all the practice I have had in the past days I have been doing my very best to find the exact perfect moment to go back, load up, and get the bottles back to the boys as quickly as possible. Also I have realized I have. Developed a system that loads 8 bottles onto my body as quickly as possible and is also as easy to unload when I get to the boys.
The system is as follows. First I place a bottle in each rear side pocket. Then I load another 3 into back which stay high on the back due to the bottles in the pockets holding them up. Then I put the final 3 down the front of my shirt and off I go. I always try and anticipate when the group is bunched up as logically if the group is strung out in a long line you have a lot longer journey to get back to the front of the peleton. Generally going up a rise and charging back into the group just as you crest the top is one of the easiest ways to deploy beverages to the boys. Also anytime your going easily uphill is another good option but here you have to be confident that you know what your doing as if the you know what hits the fan and the pace goes on then you could find yourself 5kg heavier and in a big spot of bother! Anyways that's my system for getting bottles and I am in many ways greatfull for how horrible I have felt here in california as I have had plenty of practice now in sharpening up my skills in this area.
Back to the race and it was pretty straight forward. It was hot hot hot and a lot more up than down so in other words quite a challenging day for all. At one point wiggo pointed out to me how hot it was just incase I hadn't noticed! To which I quite wittingly replied in my opinion "my throats as dry as a pommy's towel" that got a laugh out of him and was a brief moment of amusement at the challenging environment we currently found ourselves racing our bikes! So George was looking chippa all day. On the bike, particularly when he is going uphill, George simply looks like he is floating. He is natural climber but as he showed yesterday with his work for peter there is a lot more to his 60kg frame than just going uphill fast. Anyways I would have loved to have assisted him today but knew simply getting to the finish would be a big enough challenge in my current state. Once inside the final 40km I just kept going back to the car for bottles for all the guys but mainly for George. I think I did 3 trips within a 20km period and when I did my final run George had that much water coming his way he gave himself I nice refreshing shower with a bottle and said he was all good. That was music to my ears as all the trips to and from the car had started to take a little bit of a tole on me and I was ready to join the laughing group and cruise up to the finish line. I watched geroge pedal off effortlessly with the best riders, he looked so light on his feet the a good breeze may have just blown him away! So was not a big surprise to find out he finished in a fine 9th place on the stage amongst all the big guns in the race which was a great result. Most importantly George was chirpy and happy with his ride and I am sure there is still a fair bit of smack down to come from his skinny pins in the final couple of stages.
I survived another round and while I certainly did nothing to create any excitement in the race I feel like I didn't quite suck as much as I have done in the previous days. I definitely wouldn't say I am improving but was nice to see some other guys getting tired and joining me in the hoop group today. Tomorrow is a new days and could be a great chance for peter to add to his tour of california stage wins so looking forward to that. Whatever my role may be, on the front, on the bottles, probably a combo of both, I am simply just happy to still be in the race and still in the swinging!