It was a good old fashion 4 seasons in one day here in colorado today. As my good mate timmy Duggan said at the start when I ask what to expect weather wise?? He simply said in the rockies always pack a warm pair of gloves just in case!! He wasn't wrong and by the time we had covered the 170km between aspen and crested butte we had most certainly experienced all the seasons. Unfortunately for me I momentarily forgot timmy's advice as after the clouds cleared mid stage I decided I wouldn't need my rain coat that I had carried just incase of a rockies thunderstorm and of loaded it to the team car! That proved to be a mistake! Before I found that out the hard way there was plenty of pedal strokes done by the peleton and here's how things looked from aboard my cannondale evo!
Today was a strange day. Everything seemed to be in slow motion except in the first 2hrs we covered 90km! That's the point at which the breakaway finally was let loose as the teams of the sprinters decided they wanted to mop up the intermediate sprints which came during the first 60km. While it's always nice to get a big chunk of the stage out of the way in the first couple of hours, it's a double edged sword as it also means that it won't be long before the race ramps up for the fight for stage honors, that's exactly what happened today. Junior mohoric craftily put himself inside the days breakaway and with a long fast decent coming inside the final 15km he had an excellent shot at victory should he still be clear of the clutches of the chasing peleton! Sadly for junior, BMC and Garmin had plans of winning the stage and as we hit the slopes of the final climb there advantage started to plumet!
To spice things up a little the final climb of the day was all on gravel roads. Infact the first 8km of the decent down the other side would also be without bichimum which made for a few nerves in the group. Through in the fact that we topped out at over 3000m elevation and while it wasn't a steep climb it certainly through up enough challenges for the group. Through in the flash thunderstorm that would save itself for the final steepest km's and treacherous decent and it safe to say the climb was made as difficult as possible.
I started the day in a very positive frame of mind. I had felt good yesterday and made a bit of a blunder so was keen to see if I could put up a good performance today. As has often happened for me this season my best laid plans didn't quite go to plan and I for some reason was really struggling with keeping my airways filled with air today. I suffer a little from asthma and for some reason today I found myself quite short of breathe uncharacteristically. There is always a couple of reasons for this, firstly the lack of oxygen at altitude seems to trigger my attacks and secondly if I am not in super super shape which it appears I am not at this moment then I have to work a little harder to stay with the front of the race than I would like to. So with these couple of things not on my side today I decided to put up the white flag and save my pins to have a crack at some breakaways in the remaining stages. At this point we were around 10km from the top of the climb and the front group was no more than 40 riders so I had plenty of time to comfortably pedal my way to the finish. Like I said yesterday at altitude the ideal scenario is to ride at your own pace, if your the strongest in the race which is the preferred position to be in everyone has to march to your drum beat. If your not then when you choose to ride your own pace it means simply one thing like it did for me today, the front group is riding away from you! Anyways while initially I enjoyed my peace and quiet pedaling along on my lonesome up the final km's of the gravel climb timmy's advice was about to be become a humbling colorado rocky reality for the peleton!
Just as I had slowly but surely floated out the back of the team cars following the front group, a flash thunderstorm hit! Now being alone wasn't such a great feeling as it was raining cats and dogs and I had no raincoat and no team car close by to give me one! One car was just up ahead behind the front group which still contained our team captain Ivan basso and the other was 15minutes back down the mountain following the gruppetto! Fortunately the first car realized I was close by and stop and waited a minute for me to catch them to give me my jacket. This however meant that now ivan was alone up the front without a team car for support so they offloaded a couple more jackets to me and told me to wait 15minutes in the pouring rain for the gruppetto to arrive! At this point I was only a few km's from the top and boarderlining on hypothermia so I wasn't about to pull over and wait in the pouring rain as I would have most probably snap froze. I also knew how cold I was without my coat so I knew I had to get the jackets to the boys somehow. I slowed down as much as possible to see if there was a group remotely close to me as I figured ted and junior were probably halfway between me and the back group. I could see them in the distance so backed it off enough so as I kept myself warm enough to function but so they could catch up as quickly as possible. Fortunately when they finally came into clear view I could see they had raincoats already so now I switched to plan b. I figured I would find a friendly looking supporter on the side of the road and give them to them to give to the boys down the mountain so they would atleast have them for the decent! I found just the type of dude I was looking for and explained my predicament and he was more than happy to help out. I'm not sure of the man's name except he had a blue rain coat on but he delivered the jackets to the boys so need to thank him for being such a integral member of today's cannondale pro support staff!! I was now close to the top of the hill so backed things of a little more and waited for ted and junior so I could enjoy the final plunge down to the finish with some company.
Up ahead and obviously un beknowns to me the race was full of drama. The lone survivor of the days breakaway held on for the narrowest of victories following a controversial late race nueatralisation. Obviously when you mix rain with dirt you get mud! While going up hill this is not so much of an issue except you go a little slower, going down hill in the mud on skinny road bike tyres is a little scary! The race organisers decided the same so called a cease fire for the muddy decent and restarted the race when the ash felt resumed with the lone escapee setting of 45seconds ahead of the pack of wolves chasing after him with a mere 8km to race, 5km of which was down hill! The hincapi development dude by the name of carpenter must have descended like a stone in Search of victory and managed to increase his lead and at 1min 10 seconds up his sleeve for the final 2km kick up to the line. The peleton was breathing down his neck as he raised his arms in victory but he held tuff to add a super exciting suspense filled finale to a exciting stage that true to timmy's prediction at the start where anything and everything can happen in the rockies! I am really pleased for the hincapi team getting such a huge win as its been one of the standout teams in both here and utah over the past few weeks. They ride so well as a group for gang of such young guys and I am sure today's succes will ensure the team with big George at the helm will only prosper from here on in.
By the time I rolled across the finish line I was a little freezing to say the least, along with everyone else in the race! I walked immediately to my hotel room which was conveniently located only 500m from the finish and straight into the shower still completely dressed in my cycling outfit including helmet, sunnies and shoes! I cranked the hot water and sat down in the bottom of the bath to thor out. It took me a few minutes to regain enough feeling in my fingers to take the sunnies of my face, 5minutes before I had the strength in my fingers to unclip my helmet, and the shoes stayed on my feet for more than 10minutes before I pulled them off. After 15minutes I finally removed my final piece of lycra and regained a normal core body temperature! Just another amazing experience you seem to have time and time again in bike racing so to be brutally honest I am looking forward to shutting my eyes and getting to sleep as no doubt tomorrow will be another unpredictable rockies adventure, fingers crossed it's a more successful one for the green machine!