The first road stage of this years vuelta is now behind us and was a positive day for our captain Ivan Basso. The plan for the team today was pretty simple, ensure Ivan started the final climb of the day in the front of the peleton knowing so long as he was there at the start of the climb he would also be there at the top of the climb. By days end he would 8th on the stage in a small group containing all the GC contenders and following yesterdays disappointment there was a big smile back planted all over his dial.
Now taking the climb in the front is much easier said than done. Add to the fact you have a peleton full of fresh legs on day one and its always a absolute chaotic 20km before such an important corner to start a final climb. As always the cannondale boys were working perfectly all day keeping us up at the front. Infact until 5km before this all important turn I don't think I was ever further back than 20th wheel, perfect! Yeah almost! At this point I realised ivan was not at the front and started drifting back a little to find him. Sure enough I did, well momentarily as he came roaring passed me around the outside of the bunch with longo borgini, paolo is the out and out expert at positioning his team captain at these crucial moments. So seeing this I immediately moved out to follow only to boxed out of the the way by some other riders sensing the chance to follow our team captain to front. This would have been manageable but all of a sudden we only had half the road and I was forced to stand still with the front of the race travelling at 50kmph. So with only a couple of km's until the climb suffice to say I had to bite the bullet and hope that I would be able to ride my way back on the climb. While I eventually made my way to back of the split in half peleton there were riders getting dropped left right and centre so with Ivan safely in the front I put up the white flag realising I would not be any help to him on the final climb today.
Taking the climb in the front is one of the major lessons you learn at this level of racing. The reason is pretty simple as the rubber band effect of the peleton when you hit a climb means that you can often be doing double the power at the back of the peleton to that of the smooth pace at the front. Also from my physiological perspective I am always going to struggle with a surging rhythm as its simple not an ingrained rhythm instilled in my legs from a young age. I have a diesel engine so for it work at its optimal it needs to be a nice consistent pace.
For example at the front the pace can be high such as 500 watts + for a few minutes at the start of a climb like today. That's not so bad when you are right there and your wattage merely varies 30 watts either side. Today however being nearly 100 riders back you are constantly accelerating and decelerating going from 700 watts to 300 watts and I can only handle this for a short time. Sure you can train for it and by spending a bucket load of time at the back of the bunch or trying simulate these accelerations. Our last races we have spent all our time up front so was an extra shock to my system today to experience this difficulty and instantly found myself in the red zone. Anyways simplest way to fix the issue is start the climb at the front next time.
Whenever I have had my better days on the bike the pace has always been nice and constant and also I have always been in the first positions. Its simply how I role and its probably taken until this year where I have more consistently been at the head of the race to really understand this about myself. So there you go I should have know to be up front to do my job properly and I wasn't and ended where I did, out the back!
Having said that it always is a big shock how quickly you can be out of position in a world tour peleton full of riders wanting to be at the front. Anyways will ensure I don't make the same mistake later in the race when we next hit the mountains. Fortunately all the cannondale boys were at basso's aid and had him safely in the front so my mistake did not cause any damage today, still I could not just shrug my shoulders about it, I need to accept it and remember how responsible I feel for potentially letting Ivan down and its a feeling I don't want and will add a few % of concentration to my approach for the rest of the vuelta. Most important thing is to move on and avoid it happening in the future.
So a good first test for our captain and again was great to see all the boys doing such a brilliant job keeping him safe. The system we worked hard on the past couple of races was clearly evident and the moral of the group is nice and high at the dinner table this evening. Its been great having bouvin, a young canadian kid on the team for this years vuelta. He did an awesome job today for his first day in a grand tour peleton. He was completely un daunted by the task at hand. Also its funny seeing another culture that is not italian at the table. I always seem to eat in a little different way to other guys, just my order of things and what I mix and match. For example top avoid over eating I like just 1 plate of food. So I push my pasta around my plate until my steak or fish arrives, plont it down on top of my pasta and much away. The italians love there 3 course serving style and seperate everything. So with bouvin at the table its nice to not be the odd one out anymore as he does exactly the same thing. Little things that are making this vuelta experience, discounting todays balls up, a very pleasurable and enjoyable time with the cannondale pro cycling team. Its funny how such small things can make you feel that little bit more relaxed. The more relaxed you are off the bike the more energy you have to concentrate while you are on it. Alls things pointing towards an enjoyable 3 weeks ahead.
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