It was the queens stage of the tour of colorado today and with a man whom goes by the name of King (ted) in the cannondale clan we figured it was a good omen for the green machine! We had a very simple objective today being to be in the days breakaway as it stood a good chance of arriving at the finish before anyone else and while at the end of the day that's exactly what happened, the make up of that breakaway was quite unexpected.
It seemed pretty much every team had the same idea when the flag dropped today as riders shot out of the peleton left right and centre!! With the altitude you need to do your best to just your attacks as you don't get many of them so it's a little more of a chess game than usual to enter the days escape! My tactic was to wait for something that looked threatening to form and then jump across which I did a few times and was convinced it was gone but as often happens on days like today someone wasn't happy with the moves make up and a lack of cooperation up front and a chase from behind would kill of and threatening moves. The stage was pretty simple in terrain, 1 single road! The first 50km was on the flat to the base of the the days major climb which we would ride up and over the other side, do a couple of laps of a town and ride back up the side we just descended to complete of 150km of racing. My biggest fear before the stage began was that I would shoot all my bullets trying to get into the breakaway before the first climb which rose to over 3500m in elevation and would then explode on the climb!! When I saw so many other going bazzerk for the break along with me I figured it was worth the risk as worse case scenario I would have quite a few guys for company if I failed and was spat out the back! I had no idea however just how massive that group of guys in that position would turn out to be!!
So as we flew along the valley at more than 50kmph I started to realize that the break not sticking before the climb was a real possibility. Still threatening moves were forming which you I had to be in and when one almost got away at 45km I thought beauty but then just as quickly oh oh oh!! Sure enough after less than an hour of racing on a false flat we hit the lower slopes of the climb and all the GC men whom had been saving there pins where drawn into action by attacks from the big GC boys of this year's race in ton danialson and t j van garderan. It was not the sight I wanted to see so early in the stage these boys countering the final failed attempt by us opportunists to jump clear but I had made my bed and now I had to lie in it and try and survive this 15km climb without any oxygen available that my body desperately needed! Immediately the strongest guys were clear and I was in the middle of the peleton and the break. I recovered as best I could and did my best to keep the lead group at a manageable distance while riding at a pace that I could form as many allies around me as possible. I quickly had a good sized group so just kept the pace solid enough to give us a chance to come back on the decent.
At this point I realized there was only 12 riders or so up ahead, another 20 in-between me and them and that meant more than 80 were behind me. I was instantly worried about elia as it was important today he saved as much energy as possible for the 3 upcoming potential sprint stages and what for the green machine has become the best chance of us having some success this week! I realized even if we got back on terms, like yesterday I wasn't at the level of the best guys this week so backed the chase of. I had been doing the pace setting as sadly we were the only team without a rider in the front group as our captain basso was having some difficulties with his breathing at the high altitudes. With the chase backed off elia was now able to plonk himself in the middle of the group and save some energy. You need to pick your battles in this sport and particularly as the green machine is hardly fireing this week we need to be even more precise with the how we deploy our lagging resources!
So that was the race there and there. Within the first 60km around 90 riders were out the back of the race and the strongest 15 were up front. The rest somewhere in the middle. Basically everyone was simply trying to get to the finish at there own pace, some to fight for victory, and most, to simply live to fight another day. As our whole team was in the 90 rider group we kept a nice moderate pace for all to enjoy for the stage and made sure elia was able to save as much energy both mental and physical for the coming days. Basically was a day of 2 parts, out and out aggression for the first 50 or so km, and then out and out defense and survival for the final 100 or so km. Really the big positive to take out of the day was that the green machine lived to fight another day! Will see what we can do tomorrow, hasn't been the greatest of weeks so will be working hard to see if we can turn things around quickly!!