Thursday, March 24, 2011

Catalyuna stage 3 and 4, Stress in the bunch

Yesterdays stage did not quite go off like the firecracker i had for for our liquigas cannondale team. Ivan was very strong and arrived 7th, a handfull of seconds behind a talented spaniard in alberto contador. My role for the day was to simply ensure ivan was in a good position when we hit the final climb and then save my energy for the coming days. The stage started out well enough and i was feeling good and optimistic about contriuting to the day. 2km from the top of the long climb mid race i had to change a broken wheel which turned a very cruisy climb into a very difficult one as all of a sudden i was chasing full gas back to the front armed with everybodies rain jackets for the freezing decent to follow. At these time getting the jackets to your team mates is the only thing on your mind, you can worry about how much energy it takes after the stage. You almost develope an ability to have one eye contcentrating on picking gaps through the 200 riders traveling 60kmph and one eye looking for the sensationally stylish liguigas cannondale jerseys to hand my teammates there warm jackets. I completed this task just in time for the steep techniqual section to begin so while the boy were nicely ruuged up i did not have time to put on my own jacket so was a pretty chilly plunge to the valley below for me. Following this we hit the valley and from then on it was just keeping ivan to the front. Now again having two comes in very handy as while i use one to pick my way through the bunch, i need the otherone to keep an on Ivan and ensure he is on my wheel, if he loses it i have the slow down and find him then start moving forward again. This is a task i am not super great at so am using this race to practice this skill, it is a crucial skill to learn as a domestic specially for the bigger more prestigious nervous races. Anyway by the time we hit the climb and ivan in the front all be it not as far forward as i would have liked as i lost him of my wheel a few hundred meters before we turned onto the climb, i did as i was told and sat up and cruized home. I was a little dirty at myself as i knew with better skills in this area i could have had him in a better position but i am confident i identified where i wanr wrong and today worked hard on getting it right and today our positioning was a huge amount better. I guess it is a learning curve and i also need to develope the trust of ivan that he can follow me in pressure nervous situations in the bunch which in time we will get it right. First i need to show him i can keep the space behind me safe then he will be more comfortable to follow me. Pretty simple stuff i guess but as i have said many times i am a very slow learner. Today was simply about saving energy and recharging from yesterday and ensure that should any important work need to be done later in the race i have the fuel in the tank to do it. This race has certainly been a nasty reminder to the old leg muscles just how hard pro tour racing in europe is but with each day i am becoming more comfortable with the tempo so am looking forward to the final few days here and pais basque in 10days time. After identifying my techniqueal deficiencies yesterday today was much better and our team kept ivan nice and safely protected all day so i certainly feel like i have burnt about half as many calories as the day before, not so much from the efforts of the race but the stress of holding position in the bunch. Practice makes perfect and while i will never ever get anywhere close to perfectly holding position in the bunch, i am atleast for now happy to be improving and contributiing along with my team mates to protecting our leader, Mr Basso.