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Today our team manager had one simple demand of us: don’t miss the breakaway! Miss it and your chasing it!! So with that, we all knew it was easier for us to be in everything that went up the road than have to chase it all back.
The team shared the load of following all the early attacks; first Heado, Longo, Ratto, me, and when Dalla jumped next into a group of 15, that was the move that stuck! Movistar chased for 20km but never looked liked it would close it down, and when all their seven riders (excluding Valverde) blew a proverbial popper valve on a sharp rise, Dalla’s group quickly went from 1 minute to 3 minutes in the space of a few kilometers. We then knew the winner was going to come from these 15 men.
When we heard over the radio the Kiryienka had attacked with 50km to go, everybody knew the stage would be run and won by the Team Sky Bell Russian! For him to attack that far out means he knew he had the confidence to hold his pace to the finish. Kiri is one of the best in the world and when he pulls a move like that, 10 out 10 times he will take the victory. Certainly a victory that all of the riders in the peloton were happy to see happen, except perhaps a few in the break who felt they missed a great chance at a grand tour stage win.
I was super impressed with Dalla making the move. The pressure is always on when the director says we “HAVE” to have someone in the break. Of course having a rider in the breakaway always brings Dario to life as he always follows the escape in the team car when we have one of our men in it. His enthusiastic voice is always certain to brighten up our day back in the main field; he is a character!
Again, my day was pretty quiet with Dalla up the road and the pressure off. I didn’t contribute in any way, shape, or form to the outcome of the race today so consequently I had a bit of time to chat with a few dudes in the bunch. With Fabian pulling out yesterday to concentrate on his preparations for worlds, I needed to find a bloke to have a yarn with. Chris Horner ended up being my buddy today and it was great hearing a few stories of his. I really enjoy chatting with Chris because he is such an honest dude. What you see is what you get and he certainly does things his way. He is famous for his love of fast food and consequently his pockets are filled with cakes, Mars bars, and cans of Coke. He is the best guy to be close to in the feed zone and you can always pick up a delicious treat from him.
He lives in America pretty much all year round. In fact, straight after the Vuelta he is going home to the USA for ten days before flying back for the World Championships and Lombardia. These are two distinctive characteristics of Chris that would normally be perceived as “not the done thing” in cycling! Well it seems to work out for him pretty well. He simply does what he wants and does what he KNOWS what lets him perform best. He doesn’t adhere to any notions of how things should be done, there is certainly a lot to be said for that. At the end of the day we should know ourselves better than anyone shouldn’t we?
Today’s conversation was an interesting one. We were chatting about how different the peloton felt without Fabian in the bunch. It was really strange up at the head of the field. First we had to get use to the fact the familiar green Cannondale man Ivan Basso was no longer perched at the pointy end and now with Cancellara gone it just looked odd up there. We got chatting about how hard the 20km usually is and how tired everyone’s getting! This stuff that always makes you feel better to know your not the only one suffering in the group! We then got talking about how back in the late 1990’s he never even saw this part of the field. He said he would be riding full gas just to stay at the back of the bunch, never mind riding comfortably in the first 20 positions of the bunch like now days. He said the pace was often that extremely fast that he was riding at his limit just to make it to the feed zone in time before all the masseurs had packed up and headed to the finish. The main field would have long since past with their feed bags dispatched while Chris and many others were still on their way there. He told me their would be fights within teams about who got to pull out of the race early as there was only limited seats in the car to take them back to the hotel! Such was the era and for guys like Chris it was just a case of being battered from pillar to post on a daily basis.
The best part about his story as he does not regret or resent having to race through these times. He certainly suffered and at times all seemed hopeless but he persevered. Now north of 40 years old we are seeing where his true ability has him on the world stage of cycling. He truly has an interesting story.
He spoke about how people are questioning him on his perceived sudden rise to the top of the sport. Perhaps people should look a little more closely at what’s gone on over the past few years and the type of riders who are now at the head of the biggest races. They are the guys with pure class, talent and great work ethic; the best part both young an old. Rising phenomenons like Sagan, and now the old dogs with plenty of tricks like Horner. It really was great for me to have this little impromptu chat with Chris as we scaled the first cat 3 climb of the day. I certainly was pleased to hear that he lit up the race on the final climb and has set up an absolutely mouth watering duel with another of the pure class, Vincenso Nibali.
The other thing I quickly realised is that Chris is not even contemplating hanging up the bike anytime soon. He sees this as his chance to finally show his true class and appears to be still improving. Could we see Chris Horner challenging for a grand tour in another 8 years time when he reaches 50? I would not be against it. What an amazing guy and it’ll be exciting to see what he achieves before that day comes when he finally calls it quits. It will most certainly be one of the most colorful and long-standing professional careers out of any rider in the pro peloton.
Three more stages to go and more importantly perhaps just two more stages until we reach Madrid for the final day. Team Cannondale has two more chances to show off our bright green jerseys. I am finally feeling like I am not digging a hole and feeling a little better each morning so I’m going to do what I do every night: read a few pages of Sean Kelly’s book and have a good sleep.
Speak to you tomorrow,