The logistics to get to and from this race were way too complicated, so I wanted to help. I asked the team to rent me a van and I would drive myself, Kreder, Talansky, and Howes to the race. We needed a van for the bikes and we had to bring back a bunch of bikes so they could be moved to the next race. After our plan was firmed up we all met, loaded the van, and I started driving. We had a Garmin plugged in the Cigarette lighter and an easy pass for the pay tolls. It would be about a 5 hour drive from Girona. 20 minutes into the drive the Garmin said ‘low battery.’ The unit wasn’t getting any power. The outlet in the van was broke, so let the ‘Spaining’ begin.
I had a spare battery charger I hooked up and that gave it some juice. Once we had a long stretch of highway we turned it off thinking the last hour would be the most important. Our easy pass for the tolls was not working either so we had to give it to the toll agent at every toll booth with the eloquent explanation of ‘mucho problemo’. That was always good for a few laughs in the van.
After 40 minutes of driving I wanted to find this elusive Starbucks I had heard about so I pulled off the highway and into some shopping outlets and lo and behold there it was. I instantly get that feeling like I’m back in America. The guys seemed quite pleased with this pit stop. All I wanted to drink was a simple black coffee. Now I’m not entirely sure but once inside I think the workers said they didn’t know how to use the drip machine or they were out of filters. OK, I’m flexible, so I switch to the aptly titled, big Americano. Pit stop complete, so we’re back in the van and on we go. We reached the hotel without incident but at check-in the receptionist did not want to sell me the WiFi code for the Internet. I went all ‘big Americano’ on her and she quickly realized it would be easier for her to just make the sale. As laid back as I am, there’s only so much ‘Spaining’ I can take.
At the race which honors Miguel Indurian it was pretty cool to see the 5-time Tour winner, the ‘Big Mig’ himself, cutting the ribbon for the start. That will get you motivated. I threw in a few early attacks and was feeling pretty good. A small group got away and the Euskatel team took control of the race. It seemed like we were going in circles all day as the 179 kilometer circuit criss-crossed itself quite a lot. Most of our team was there in the crucial selection and I was riding tempo up a climb for Christophe Le Mevel and Fabian Wegmann. I was going to take the last pull to bring back Karpets in the break. At the top I was pretty cooked so I pulled off to leave it to the guys we were working for. Wegmann yelled stay there so I jumped back in the line and recovered for a bit. Le Mevel was chasing now and I was recovered so I took over the chase again on the downhill. I caught Karpets and we came out onto a big road and it dropped down and then shot up. I decided to hit this stretch with a lot of speed and next thing I know I’m by myself. I think I’ll just keep drilling it and the guys can sit on whoever chases me. I got caught by a small group but unfortunately my guys didn’t make it. So now I had to stay with this group going into the finish for the win.
When I had looked at the profile it said the race finished with a Cat 3 climb. So I was racing with the expectation of this climb but with 2km to go I thought maybe there is no climb. Then ‘BAM’ there it is with 1km to go. We had done part of this road earlier in the day so I remembered some of what to expect, but my legs were pretty blown, so I just suffered as much as I could to the top. Nearing the finish I was passed by a rider and I suddenly thought of Jens Voight always going for the money spots. Strange what comes into your mind at different race moments. But I thought I can pass this guy, so I did, and I’ll take one of the money spots. I finished 9th. Satisfied but not entirely, as we could’ve done better. But this day was a big improvement over our recent racing at the Criterium International.
Shortly after the finish I’ve got that rental van pegged for Girona at 160 Kmh for quite a long while, just jamming out on the iPod. We make great time and I only have to avert one near crash because of some fake pay toll and my windshield is covered with dead bugs so I couldn’t see very well. We’re all back home by 11:00 pm Saturday night. Now how’s that for a crazy day?
I just had a relaxed Sunday at home but I’m off again tomorrow for the Circuit la Sarthe in France. I think the Team’s handling the logistics for that one a little differently though.