The Vuelta hotels and transfers haven't been conducive to timely reports, but I will be caught up on the rest day tomorrow! Thanks for reading.
Stage 4: 210 km
Few volunteers wanted to melt off the front all day before the short steep finishing climb, so the breakaway escaped easily. The race turned in their favour, however, when no teams wanted to melt on the front chasing them. As we twiddled along, their gap went to 15 minutes. Finally, some teams manned up and threw guys into the chase. It’s way harder to pull back 15 minutes than 4.
Cross-tail winds and slick roundabouts made the final fifty km nervous. Moser said, “I could see my reflection in the roads. The roundabouts are like glass.” Forty km from the finish I worked my way into the top twenty with a jersey full of bottles for delivery. I took the outside line through a roundabout and a crash on the inside hit me like a breaking wave. As I did a quick body check and searched for my Garmin which had disappeared into the mob of spectators, a shirtless man in flip-flops and smoking a cigarette took my bike and jumped on. Unfazed by the stunt and focused on getting myself back in the race, I grabbed my bike before he could pedal off.
Later it was reported that the locally infamous jokester had told me in Spanish, “I’m going to Vejer (the finish). You stay here because you’re injured.” The event blew up on social media, and allowed me to accomplish on of my Vuelta goals by giving two interviews in Spanish for national TV in Spain and Colombia.
It took a while to regain the peloton. The jury is being extremely unforgiving since they kicked out race favourite, Nibali, over the “sticky bottle scandal.” For that reason, as soon as we caught up, I stopped again with Talansky when he flatted. Another difficult chase brought us into fifteen km to go. I moved my teammates to the front and got out of the way. Dan is still 4th on GC.
Stage 5: 180 km
Nervous hot, and fast, but we enjoyed as much of an off day as possible for a 180 km grand tour stage. Water has never tasted as good as it does in the Vuelta. We drank an average of eight bottles each during the 4 hours of racing.
Stage 6: 195 km
Make the break. We started trying at km 0 and were still trying 60 km into the stage. The speed stayed so high that nobody could get anywhere even on the climbs. But we tried. And it hurt. Finally six riders went away. The chasers continued drilling it to keep them on a short leash. Late into the stage we could feel the sun and heat cooking us. Riders were crusty and white with salt. We rode past a field on fire.
My roommate, Matej Mohoric, had been awake all night making trips to the bathroom. It could have been a response to the heat. Whatever the cause, it forced him to abandon the race.
I wondered if I would ever recover from the effort to make the break, but when we started grinding uphill toward the steep final 3 km, I clicked into race mode again. We moved toward the front as a team. Then Dan decided to freestyle inside the pointy end of the peloton to stay out of the wind. I said, “Ok, I’ll just stay behind you. Say when you want to move.” We did hit the wind and I went as far as I could. Dan stomped his way to second on the stage and 3rd overall.