Vuelta a Burgos: 5 Stages
Stage 1: 153 km
The night before I asked Bingen (sports director) how he felt about me going after the intermediate sprint competition. It was a secondary goal to our GC ambitions and possible stage victories, but would be good training for the Vuelta and a fun objective. I followed the first few moves uphill and ended up in a dangerous fourteen rider breakaway with all of the biggest teams represented.
At the first intermediate sprint I jumped away early to see who else was interested in the sprints. I held the gap over the line and in the next two sprints played a tactical game with the other riders vying for that jersey. I out-sprinted them in both. When the breakaway became disorganised and started attacking itself, we lost our advantage over the peloton. They swallowed us up, but I stayed at the pointy end to help position our GC guys for the first of two laps up a very steep one km climb. I was the last rider to survive the climb in the reduced peloton. Inside 5 km to go I was back on the front to trying desperately to pull back an attack for Igor. Igor and Merhawi finished just behind the first group.
Stage 2: 150 km
In order to defend the sprint jersey, I had to get in the breakaway again. It took longer this time, but the team helped me a lot by shutting down the moves I missed. Eventually, I escaped with eight riders and won all three sprints again. With 8 km to go we were caught and the stage ended in a sprint.
Stage 3: 173 km
With six categorised climbs, the stage offered no chance for me to take it easy after the previous days. Jaques made it into a ten man breakaway. In an effort to bruise their competition and create attrition before the summit finish, Team Sky rode the climbs very hard. I survived to the base of the final mountain and pulled our climbers to the front. Igor and Merhawi placed 6th and 7th respectively.
Stage 4: 150 km
Another day in the breakaway would put the sprint jersey out of reach for anyone else. In the neutral section I could see that the teams who were interested in controlling wanted to block the road which meant that I had to start first row. I made the first attack and it stuck. Three riders followed and we settled in for the day. I took the intermediate sprint points, but we were never granted much of an advantage. With twenty km to go the peloton scooped us up. It felt great in the draft and would have been an easy day in the peloton. After a few deep breaths I dragged the boys to the front and did a lead out from 5 to 4 km to go. Then Jaques took over and Merhawi sprinted up the final hill to 5th.
Stage 5: 136 km
All I had to do was finish. At least that was the plan in the meeting, but after an hour of furious racing there was still no breakaway. The riders who had been jumping around started to show fatigue. Then at the crest of a hill when the peloton was stretched into a long line, Alaphillipe attacked and I was in the right place to follow. We made it into a fourteen rider breakaway. Our group began to split up heading into the final climb but the chasing peloton soon overcame us anyways. I gave Igor a big push as he passed by me and then weaved to the finish. Igor placed 6th on the stage. He and Merhawi finished 6th and 9th overall. I headed to the podium one last time.
A Spanish reporter approached me and began asking questions. I chatted away in Spanish, guessing, and stumbling over phrases. I told him that I wanted to dedicate the jersey to my little brother, Jake who’s wedding was that day. I felt terrible for missing it, but tried to make the most of it. Then the reporter closed out and I realised that we had been live on the radio!
Now I’m with my teammate Lachlan at 7000 ft elevation in Andorra recovering for the Vuelta a Espana. Until then. Thanks for reading!