Final stage of the Tour of Slovenia today to wrap up what's been a full gas on the rivit few days of great racing! The Cannondale clan had one simple objective for the final stage, to give the Green Missile Elia Viviani the best possible chance to chalk up another bunch gallop victory. Along with that we wanted to ensure our super athlete koren maintained his 4th place on the GC and Damiano also consolidate his 6th place. By days end the results sheet stated that we met all these goals to cap of the perfect day for the green machine so here's a bit of a look at how it all transpired.
On paper the stage had bunch sprint written all over it. It was was the only such stage in the 2014 edition of the race so obviously the numerous teams that brought a sprinter had a big interest in ensuring this happened. As a result of this a fast fast 50kmph + first hour ensured thanks to a combination of riders keen for a head start and all the sprinting teams not willing to let to many go to make things easier to control. In the end the perfect group for us went clear as although it was small it included a rider who was a threat to the GC and as a result the team of the yellow jersey kept the escapees on a very tight leash ensuring a very fast 153km, very fast actually as elia would stop the clock at 3hrs 22minutes when he blasted through the finish tape ahead of the rest of the field. The stage was pretty straight forward, 120 km on nice roads followed by 4 laps of an 8km circuit to finish things of. So with the race well and truly we sat tight and kept the powder dry for the frantic positioning to begin in the final laps of the finish circuits.
I must admit I had a pretty good feeling about today. This morning at breakfast elia looked very calm relaxed and confident. This pleased me for a couple of reasons. Firstly it meant he felt good and believed he had the goods to win the stage, and secondly and most importantly for me he believed that the troops he had at his disposal were capable of helping deliver him to finish in a position to sprint for the victory. So day was off to good start and reminiscent of the feeling within the group we had at the tour of turkey. With the knowledge of this I too started the stage full of confidence in the fact I would be able to do whatever was asked of me and just waited with anxious anticipation to get the battle plan from elia in the closing stages of the race once he had scoped out the finish circuit and most importantly the final km's of the race.
Sure enough with around 10km elis rolled up beside me and laid down the law. The race would be won with perfect positioning in a tricky right hand corner 300m from the finish. Elia knew if he was in the first few positions there then the victory would be a formality. At around 2km to go there was a small rise which topped out at 1.5km to go and the 2km marker was to be our moment to pounce. The plan was pretty simply, damiano, 2nd last man, king Kong koren last man, and elia would line up behind me and at 2km I would hit the gas and keep the head of the peleton. Next damiano would get them inside the final km and koren would take over with one big powerfull pull to have elia in pole position for the all important right hand turn. Seemed like such a simple plan and with elia brimming in confidence I absolutely chomping at the bit to see that final 2km to go marker!
As we entered the last lap the boys lined up behind me. We waited patiently saving our bullets for the charge to the front at the right moment. Initially elia took my wheel and told me when to move. At the end of the day we had to move in a way that kept his legs as fresh as possible so as I was the one to take the wind and drag the train forward it was best he guided me. Again like Caruso on the climb yesterday was like have an excellent coxwain sitting behind. When elia said go I went, when he said nothing I know he was happy with where we were. All was going plan and then with 5km to go things got even better for us as Snr sagan and the austrian oxe krizek stormed to the front to take the wind responsibility away from me. This was crucial as all of a sudden I was able to save my legs for that all important 2km to marker. At 3km to krizek bulldozed his way to the front of the peleton and ripped out an almighty pull that immediately had the bunch in a long line. I sat patiently behind him and when the 2km sign came into view and his fearsome surge was done It was my time to take the baton! I took a quick look over my shoulder to make sure the boys were lined up and all was in order and hit the gas!
In the final few km's there is no messing around or holding back. You do an effort at that time and it's going to be your last effort for the race if you do it properly as you will have lactate acid up to your eyeballs when you unceremoniously blow yourself to pieces. The most important thing was to ensure our train had the momentum as we crest the top of the rise around 1.3km from the finish. I have to admit I had to dig very deep to keep the front of the bunch for this 1km small km! I was absolutely maxed out and simply fixated on the top of the rise. As I finally crested it I stood up and gave it one final dig before giving damiano the nod I was done and he dully ripped past with what seemed effortless ease. At this point I knew it was in the bag. Damino looked like he was capable of taking elia all the way to the finish line at 70kmph and he also still at koren at his disposal with not much more than 1minute of the race remaining, to me there seemed to be no other possible result. Sure enough as expected the boys delivered Elia to absolute perfection and he celebrated his 4th win of the season. My assumption of damiano's effortless ease in those final km's was also confirmed with him finishing 10th on the stage and climbing a spot to finish 6th on GC so a great way to finish the race for him. All in all it was an absolute awesome effort by all the boys from Snr sagan juraj, and krizek setting up the train and delivering me perfectly to the 2km to go marker. From there it was as simple as 45 seconds all out from us 3 and then for and explosive 15second sprint where elia produces the horsepower of a jumbo jet! Absolutely awesome way to finish of the tour of slovenia and thanks to all the boys and especially elia for having the goods to finish it all of in such fine style!!