Thanks for the support. I’m finding my legs again in the second half of the race.
Stage 4: 200 km
As expected, about half of us fought for the early breakaway. Alex jumped in a group of five, but inside info alert: The owner of Saxobank owns a castle in the finishing town, so Tinkov-Saxo was on a mission to drop the other sprinters for Sagan. Three finishing circuits with steep hills was the arena. It’s hard to drop a sprinter on a two km climb, so… ouch. That absurd intensity is the sort that makes power lifters grit their teeth and roar. Clumps of riders surrendered on each uphill. I helped position Moreno Moser on the final lap, and squinted through tunnel vision over the top. With ten km to go, someone hit a tree limb as thick as a half dollar. They loaded it and it whipped back and karate chopped Moreno straight to the ground at 55 kph. Matthews out-sprinted Sagan for the win. I’m starting to feel closer to the action.
Stage 5: 240 km
It was masochistic to go in the break, but it made a statement. After a flurry of attacks I jumped to a group of seven. With two HC (beyond category) climbs on the menu, I settled in for the death march. The eight of us worked as a team to build a ten minute advantage by the top of the first mountain. After four hours I could see fatigue flirting with the cadence of my companions. I felt it too and identified the four strongest climbers. The peloton began chasing in ernest with 80 km to go. They brought our lead down to 5 minutes at the base of the final 20 km climb. Stefan Denifl put in a big dig. I pulled through, and looked back. Stefan looked under pressure, but it was only the two of us. Apparently my poker face fooled Stefan because he kept flicking his elbow for me to take a pull. I refused. He attacked me, and we rode the next ten km 40 seconds apart. I found a solid rhythm, and held him there, but at 8,500 ft elevation I fell apart. I choked on the thin air and fought with my bike as one by one, the GC climbers from the peloton picked me off four km from the finish.
In numbers: 150 miles, 6.5 hrs, 6200 kjs (calories), 14,200 ft climbing
Stage 6: 200 km
The stage started relatively tranquil. The sprinter’s teams allowed a four rider break with our Matej Mohoric to go free, but kept them on a short leash. When the rain started peppering us and buttered the corners, the pace ramped creating a painful elastic effect for those at the back. Crashes and cautious cornering leant a hand to the breakaway, and we all shouted encouragement to Matej over the radio. The sprinters reeled him in with two km to go.