Bienvenidos a La Vuelta!
We spent three days at the hotel putting bikes, baggage, and bodies in place for our three week all expense paid trip around Spain. The team looks good on the beach and feels good on the bike. The Tour de France last year was my first grand tour (three week race). I’m excited to bring that experience to the same physical and emotional roller coaster at the Spanish version. Grand Tours are next level races for the speed, size and strength of the peloton, distance, crowds, support, and in so many more ways.
I have a few goals for La Vuelta:
1. Give our leaders the best possible support
2. Finish strong as preparation for Worlds
3. Show my face in a breakaway, or two, or more depending on team tactics
4. Give an interview in Spanish
Matej Mohoric (my roommate)
Stage 1: 7.4 km TTT
The teams who previewed the course initiated an immediate debate on course safety. A team time trial is a very high speed, precise event in road cycling. So, the loose sandy paths, bumpy rubber matts, marble board walk, rough transitions, and wooden bridges, not to mention the distracting bikinis (or lack there of), were risky and dangerous. The organisers decided to neutralise the GC results. We played it safe and rode from point A to B and it was still a nice spectacle for the amazing crowds.
Stage 2: 160 km
We tested the final climb, and found it to be the perfect final for Dan Martin. Stage one jitters and and fresh legs turned the twisty, hilly course into a day long war. I helped cover breakaways in the first half an hour until Davide Villella slipped into a strong group. With 40 km to go, as we descended the first KOM, I turned over two thoughts in my mind. “As soon as you can take your hands off the bars, drink something,” and, “I wonder what Sean made for dinner.” Then a massive crash at the front brought down thirty riders. I shoulder checked a few guys to keep my balance and stopped. My stomach turned at the blood smeared and dribbled across the road. When a path finally cleared through the carnage, I jumped on the back of a high speed chase. It was such a desperate moment for some that there were two more crashes in my group. Days so extreme gradually desensitises me to the risks we face.
After 15 km and with 17 km to go we caught the first group. By then the finishing fight on twisty narrow roads had lined out the peloton, but I managed to pick my way to the front and helped Dan and Andrew with positioning just a little bit before I blew and started saving for the next days. Moreno brought Dan into the final climb and he fought his way to 4th on the stage. Cardoso was top 20.
Stage 3: 160 km
We expected a sprint, and it was, but the blistering pace in blistering heat surprised us. Despite two long climbs, a descent turned out to be the hardest part of the stage. The twisty narrow road broken by short steep pitches stretched us into one line. If the line broke anywhere it meant a massive sprint for somebody and elastic further back. Everyone appreciated the headwind in the last forty km.
In these stages, it’s impossible to recount every interesting story like the dog, the crash, the bottles, the crazy fans. But we passed all of these moments as a team and came to the front. I hit the front 12 km to go, rode in the wind as the sprinters jockeyed, then swung wide at 8 km to go before the road narrowed. Another day in the books.