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It was a good old fashion four seasons in a day here in Colorado. As my good mate Timmy Duggan said at the start: in the rockies always pack a warm pair of gloves just in case! He wasn’t wrong and by the time we had covered the 170km between Aspen and Crested Butte we had most certainly experienced all the seasons. Unfortunately after the clouds cleared mid-stage I quickly forgot Timmy’s advice and I unloaded my rain coat into the team car!
Today was a strange day. Everything seemed to be in slow motion except that in the first two hours we covered 90km! That’s the point at which the breakaway was finally let loose as the sprinters teams decided they wanted to mop up the intermediate sprints which came during the first 60km. While it’s always nice to get a big chunk of the stage out of the way in the first couple of hours, it’s a double edged sword as it also means that it won’t be long before the race ramps up for the fight for stage honours, that’s exactly what happened today. Junior Mohoric craftily put himself inside the day’s breakaway and with a long fast descent coming inside the final 15km he had an excellent shot at victory should he still be clear of the chasing pelton! Sadly for junior, BMC and Garmin had plans of winning the stage and as we hit the slopes of the final climb.
To spice things up a little, the last climb of the day was on gravel roads. In fact the first 8km of the descent down the other side were also on gravel made for a few nerves in the group. We reached over 3000m of elevation which wasn’t overly steep, but it certainly through up enough challenges, like the flash thunderstorm.
I started the day in a very positive frame of mind. I had felt good yesterday and made a bit of a blunder so was keen to see if I could put in a good performance today. As I said yesterday, at altitude the ideal scenario is to ride at your own pace, and if your the strongest in the race everyone has to march to your drum beat. If you’re not, then ‘riding at your own pace’ simply means one thing for me: the front group is riding away from you! While I initially enjoyed my peace and quiet pedalling along by my lonesome self up the final kilometers of the gravel climb, Timmy’s advice was about to be become a humbling Colorado Rocky reality for the peloton!
Just as I had slowly floated out the back of the team cars following the front group, a flash thunderstorm hit! Now being alone wasn’t such a great feeling as it was raining cats and dogs without a raincoat and no team car anywhere to get me one! One car was just up ahead behind the front group which contained our team captain Ivan Basso, and the other was 15 minutes back down the mountain following the gruppetto!
Fortunately our first car realised where I was and stopped to wait for me. This however meant that now Ivan was alone up the front without a team car for support so they offloaded a couple more jackets to me and told me to wait 15 minutes in the pouring rain for the gruppetto to arrive! At this point I was only a few km’s from the top and almost hypothermic so I wasn’t about to pull over. I also knew how cold I was without my coat so I had to get the jackets to the boys somehow. I figured I could find a friendly looking supporter on the side of the road to give our guys behind the jackets so they’d have them for the descent. Luckily I found this guy who was willing and able and he was more than happy to help out. I’m not sure of the man’s name except he was wearing a blue rain jacket and he delivered the jackets to our guys, so I needto thank him for being such a integral member of today’s Cannondale’s support staff!
Up ahead the race was full of drama. The lone survivor of the day’s breakaway held on for the narrowest of victories following a controversial late race neutralisation. Obviously when you mix rain with dirt you get mud! While riding up hill this isn’t much of an issue except you go a little slower, but going down hill in the mud on skinny tyres is slightly scary! The race organisers decided a cease fire for the muddy decent and restarted the race when the pavement resumed with the lone escapee setting off 45 seconds ahead of the pack of wolves chasing after him with only 8km to race, 5km of which was down hill!
[Robin] Carpenter must have descended like a stone to have increased his lead by over a minute by the time he hit the line. The peloton was breathing down his neck as he raised his arms in victory but he held though to add a suspense filled finale to a exciting stage that held true to Timmy’s prediction that “anything and everything can happen in the rockies!”
I am really pleased for the Hincapie Development Team winning such a huge win as it’s been one of the standout teams here and it Utah. They ride so well together for such a young group of guys and I am sure that today’s success will allow them to prosper in the future.
By the time I rolled across the finish line I was absolutely frozen (along with everyone else). I immediately walked to my hotel room which was conveniently located only 500m from the finish and straight into the shower completely dressed in my kit including helmet, sunnies and shoes! I cranked the hot water and sat down in the bottom of the bath to thawed myself out. It took me a few minutes to regain enough feeling in my fingers to take the sunnies of my face, five minutes before I had the strength in my fingers to unclip my helmet, and the shoes stayed on my feet for more than ten minutes before I pulled them off. After 15 minutes I finally removed my final piece of lycra and regained my body temperature! Just another amazing experience you seem to have time and time again in bike racing. To be brutally honest I’m looking forward to shutting my eyes and getting to sleep as I have no doubt that tomorrow will be another unpredictable Rockies adventure!
Until then, good night.