Stage 17 looked on paper to be a chance for the sprinters. A little speed hump in the last 20km of a few km's was not meant to dispatch the fast men from the peleton so with Elia fired up we were putting all our eggs in that basket. From the gun 4 riders took of and quickly they were let go for the day. I was a very tired and sore peleton this morning after yesterdays epic start to the stage and everyone was keen for as easy a day as possible. I was immediately a little worried about the break as it contained turbo durbo luke durbridge. I knew if he had a sniff of a victory it was going to take a big collective effort of horsepower to pull him in and I knew I would one called upon to do it!
Fortunately the team of Mark Cavenidish and argos shimano also wanted a sprint and immediately had men on the front keeping the break in check. It would never get more than 5min all day which I was relieved about as its much easier to reel in. Firstly by riding a solidish pace immediately the riders up front have to ride very hard to get away. Once they get there gap they are a little tired from this and then from behind you start to set the pace to keep them working. its a bit of a mind game controlling the breakaway and you are always trying to make them believe that your in control. The moment the break believes its got the bunch's measure it becomes a real battle to bring them.
After 120 so with 100km to I got the call up to go and ride the front. Like a kid in the candy store I quickly gobbled down an energy bar and charged up front ready to drive the bunch. My enthusiasm was quickly curved when I had done my first turn!! Hoping to easy into it I realized we were riding into a block headwind and the break had ballooned to over 5minutes. The pace was now on and to maintain the pace of the other 2 riders working on the front from argos and quickstep I was riding at 450-500 watts for 60-90 seconds. Normally this aint so bad but after a day rolling along in the bunch at 100-150watts and barely raising a sweat, it felt like an all out sprint! Welcome back to the world of lactic acid!
When riding on the front you tend to form a team with the guys your working with. Each of you having similar interests and off course there is a mutual respect for other riders will to sacrifice there own chances for the greater good of the team. There are a few protocols you need to follow such as taking even pulls, and also not slowing the pace down. There is nothing worse than having a rider up there working that everytime they take a pull it seems the gap increases, its so frustrating. Basically if you can't contribute to the chase at the pace being dictated by the other workers you are better of sitting back in the bunch out of the way with your team mates. I like to encourage my fellow pace setters, its nice to get a great work or "gee your pulling like a motor bike" anything to keep the enthusiasm and motivation in the legs and mind of your peers. Also a little push as they come past to drop back behind the last worker goes a long way as it allows you to save that little bit extra energy right where its hard as you jump on the gas to slot into the line. Also of course if you have extra food or drink its always nice to offer it around, you must never forget your all there for the greater good of your team so its crucial to work together as well as possible.
Back to today and I was really on the rivit from the get go. Firstly in part due to my failing health and physical condition and second because we had some serious motors up the road who had called our bluff and were increasing the margin. In light of this situation I dug a little deeper and pushed the pace up a bit as I wanted the gap back under 5min. My colleagues did the same and 5km later the gap was back to 4'40" with 70km to go. We were back in control. From there the gap continue to plummet and so did my energy and horsepower stocks! Not wanting to let the boys down and also my teammates, I went into survival mode to find ways of keeping the pace while putting out less power! Sounds good doesn't it in theory?? Its important to note that another major reason for having you team present on the front gives your team mates a chance to sit at the front out of trouble. Kind of a protocol like it is for the major GC contenders on the mountain stages.
So after ramping up the pace I did not want to let it off but in all honesty after 40km of 450-500 watts pulls I was really in the hurt locker. After a little thinking a figured out a great plan. If I could get a gear wound up to 100+ rpm initially to the pace I wanted to ride at then I would quickly drop it a couple of cogs and use this pedling nomentum to get ontop of a bigger gear and hold the speed. All of a sudden I was only need 420-470 watts to maintain the rhythm so I was pretty happy with myself for this little discovery. With the climb fast approaching and my energy just as rapidly fading I did my last pull a few km form the climb, about 25-30km to go and started to drift to the back. The break by this stage had continues to come back to us, we had fortunately got control of them before they got control of us and as the climb start they merely had a handfull of seconds on the bunch. It was now up to the rest of the boys to get elia over the climb and into the sprint.
Once on the climb it was not long before I was unceremoniously dumbed out the back of the peleton. Its always a harsh reality check when you look up the road to the riders on the front stringing out the bunch knowing that only minutes before that was you! Now your back in the cars wholly and solely focused on getting to the finish line and using a little energy as possible. As it turned out the climb was a bit much for both Elia and Cav. It was gianni Visconti who again showed his class and a clean pair of heels to field to pick up his second stage win.
So another stage in the books, another great learning experience as far as working and contributing even when your body is screeming at you not to. The giro of survival continues for me and always looking forward to whatever it is I might learn tomorrow!
220km 5hrs 10min
Average heart rate 120
Avergae power 200
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