Finally got to go race and the body was able to handle the load. My back is nearly right again and I’ve been feeling much better than I have in awhile. The Vuelta a Murcia is a good test for the body as it’s a shorter 3 day stage race. There would be sprint, mountain and time trial (TT) stages. The first day was a sprint stage…kind of. The last 30km of the race things went insane, there was a small wet downhill road into the finish and things split up all over the place. The riders came through the finish quite scattered.
The next day was the mountain day. My attitude from the start was to be aggressive. I tried for an hour to get in the break in the first part of the race but Saxo was pulling everything back even if it was just one guy like myself breaking away. At times I even watched Saxo put guys in the break and then pull it back. Interesting strategy. It was a head scratcher for sure.
But finally the break goes and Saxo is completely willing to ride the front and control the race until the climbs when Euskatel rolls up to the front and says ‘we got this’. Also around this point a motorcycle rolled past the field and said the stage was going to be 20km shorter than planned. Interesting. So things are rolling along quite normally with the Euskatel guys bringing the gap down to around 2 minutes. But then another motorcycle rolls past the field with a marker board that reads the kilometers in the stage are now back to normal. Interesting strategy.
The stage was going along pretty easily but I wanted to suffer as much as possible to get the body into racing shape. So I went to the back of the field and slid next to a Rabobank rider named Dennis and told him, ‘you and me, let’s go’. Without hesitation he says, ‘OK’ and suddenly starts sprinting past the whole damn field with me now trying to grab his wheel. I honestly didn’t think he would take it THAT seriously. How about thinking about it for a couple of seconds? Anyway, it was an interesting strategy on my part.
So now we’re bridging to the break, which is coming up quickly, and the field starts to freak and chase like crazy. Well I’m suffering for sure, which is what I wanted, so I’m not going to complain now. We make it to the break but then the field catches us and they are moving fast. I hurry and take some caffeine Clif Shots and pray that it makes it into my blood stream quickly. I suffer as long as I can until we’re almost at the base of the last climb and then the legs just shut down. I rode to the finish with Carlos Sastre, my old CSC teammate. I always liked Carlos. We see bodies all over the road on the downhill with ambulances and medical staff equally scattered about tending to the fallen cyclists. It was a pretty dangerous downhill, but the sight of it all was not pretty. I think one rider even broke his leg.
Today was the final stage. A short, very intense time trail. The course was quite nice though and I wanted to give it everything my body had to offer for the last day. My legs felt a little heavy while I was previewing the course in the morning. I went back to the team area and jumped on the trainer and just started sprinting and riding hard to ‘open up’. At the prescribed time I rolled into the starting area warm and ready. I found the guy I was starting behind, he was a Russian on a road bike with no aero equipment at all. Interesting strategy. I was thinking to myself I will catch this guy for sure. Then I ready myself and before you know it I hear the familiar, ’3-2-1-GO’.
The 12 KM’s went by really fast and I almost caught the Russian rider in the last kilometer. It’s hard to say for sure, but I’m pretty sure that guy would’ve won with some good aero equipment. I took 10th on the stage and I felt pretty good about my ride, which was 30 seconds or so behind the winning time. So the body is indeed coming back.
Now back at home in Girona I’m wondering if my work in Murcia has earned me a team spot to race the Tour of Catalunya, which is in 2 weeks. We’ll see.