I love racing in spain so was pretty chippa when I woke up this morning knowing it was the 1st stage of the vuelta burgos, our final tune up prior to the vuelta. In spain everything outside the race is so relaxed, you rarely have long transfers, always good hotels, awesome food, and just the general tranquillo nature of the paella kings seems to have a soothing effect on me!
So onto the race and it was stressed to us in the meeting that this is merely a tune up race and not the time to bust the old bolla prior to the big show beginning august 24. Having said that our team always wants to be present in every race and stage so our only objective was to set ratto up for the predicted sprinters that can climb sprint finish if that makes sense! My specific role was simply to stay with ivan all day and ensure he is as safe as possible and in the right position to avoid any trouble. This will be crucial in the vuelta that I stay concentrated on this exact task as thee moment I am a bit sleepy you can bet your bottom dollar that's when he will need me so important to continue the good work on this front we started in poland.
I was very motivated at the start and duly had myself perched on the front row. Sure enough a dangerous group jumped away and I had to close it. It was on a nasty incline which was not steep enough to slow the bunch down but also not easy enough to ride a tempo to close so I was full block! So after just 5min of racing I could taste blood in my mouth, somthing I have not experienced for a long long time and got the day off to the hardest possible start. Eventually the race settled down and movistar set about controlling the race. It only took 65km to remind me how important being with ivan and up front really is. A crash about 3 or 4 wheels behind us blocked the road and all of a sudden on 15 riders remained in the peleton. It was spitting rain and windy so important to be up front and out of trouble however this always requires extra effort. On these occasions you are reminded how important it is to use this bit of extra effort.
It took a long time for all the riders to rejoin our 15rider peleton and sure enough as is always the case on 1st stages ensured a stressfull final 50km. The stage was characterised by one thins and one thing only! A right hand corner about 800m from the finish. From there only a 200m rise followed by 200m of cobbles and followed by a final 400m kick up to the line separated us from the finish line. Its was pretty simple, take that corner in the 1st positions and it was very unlikely that many would pass you.
So my roles was simply to look after ivan. We knew with 6km to go there was a drag uphill exposed to the wind on a wide road that would enable us to charge to the front and take a safe position. Sure enough we were perched close to the back when the rise commenced and basso gave me the word to charge forward. So off we went up past the bunch and just as we approached the front I saw 3 riders up the road from movistar, sky and astana which was a very dangerous move and nobody committing to the chase. So instead of catching my breath once at the front I simple charged on and set about pulling back the 3 rider move to ensure ratto had a clear run for the sprint finish. I pulled full block for 4km in the knowledge that my team mates were happily perched on my wheel and when longoborgini sensed I was beginning to suffer kept the pace up inside the final 2km, after him ivan showed what a great team leader he is by continuing the pace setting to the right hand corner with danielle safely tucked onto his wheel. Once on the climb ivan was spent and from there ratto almost played his cards to perfection only being passed 20m from the finish! Non the less I was really pleased with how the stage went as every team wanted to be at that corner first and it was the green train from cannondale that was the first to arrive at the station. A good sign that we are working well as a team and instinctively doing the jobs we need to do to help our team mates. Sure ivan lost some time on the stage but in reality we did not want to chase GC here so its a good thing. Besides if he was to open the gas on the final days 9km mt top finish I am sure he will finish high on GC so that's all good.
So a great day to kick of our spanish program for the cannondale team. Tomorrow looks very similar on paper so look forward to doing all I can to help ratto finally climb the top step of the podium. He has been so consistent all season so in my opinion a big victory cannot be far away.
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