Monday, June 1, 2009

Tour des Vallee

I am knackered. Beyond spent. Race courses were generally not as hard as expected, but the field was decent. No one well above others. Teams came from Italy, Germany, France... and we were there to win. On the windy first stage we were told a break would go deciding the race, starting in little groups and eventually pulling away. Apparently it was just too windy. I rode aggressively with this in mind staying top 20 and rolling with almost any move off the front. Stay in the wheels and pull if a gap opened. Over the top of the climb, I was well placed on the descent until I got my wheel clipped by some German (a common theme on the weekend as apparently Germans are unable to hold straight lines) and nearly lost it into the ditch. Got going again chasing only to be way too far back on the finishing climb so rode myself cross eyed into the chase group. Went to the front with 3 others and rolled hard and generally swore and yelled at the idiots who refused to pull, but were fine with attacking us. Finished a little ways down but thanks to a commissar error, I was put in the front group time wise. No reason to bring that up. A meal then off to bed in the "hotel" aka hostel type place. Not that bad really. Unless you were my roommate Ed and were 6'6" tall.
Stage 2: 9am tt. 9.5km uphill (one descent). I had a follow car and pushed it. Didn't have much left at the end and finished around 20th, putting me top 30 on GC. We now had the top 3 on GC in the team and 3 jerseys to protect. Lunch. Nap.
Stage 3: Road race. Long climb at about 11-13km twice. Needless to say I wanted revenge for my poor stage one, so broke away at km 1. Group of 7 and one teamate. Took some Green jersey points and road my brains out. We got caught right at the top of the climb, which also happened to be just before the 4km finishing climb. Ouch. Attacks went flying from the dwindling peloton for GPM points and I found myself suffering to stay in contact. Chased back to 20m on the descent before wipping out hard in a switchback. Got up, checked everything out and got going. Painfully slow with a tender hip and arm. Rode in solo to the finish picking off riders on the final climbs. By the way, it was freezing. Oh, and apparently it was my own team who chased my break. They didn't know why. )@*$#$#*! Oh, and then my "chaser" lost the yellow jersey to the Germans after missing the split.
Stage 4: final road stage, with twice over Col de Bleine and one finishing climb. I did as any over tired, banged up bike racer would do. Jumped in the break at km 1 again. Stupid German had to attack. Crosseyed all the way to the Col de Bleine rolling hard with a 2 min and change gap. Attacks. Now the break has split and I'm caught in no mans land suffering like a dog. Less than 500m from the top (7km climb) I get caught by the lead group and turn myslef inside out (I have pictures to come showing me suffering like I have never seen) to get on. Nothing in the tank so I eat and then do as any good teamate 13 minutes down on GC would do - ride the front like a man possesed. I have never died so many deaths. Ever time I would crack and pull off, I would gather myself together enough to get back in line and then get back on the front. I continued this unti the base of the col de Bleine one final time launching my teamates to a well deserved 1 - 2 finish and a well deserved re-capture of the yellow jersey. Not to mention a painfully slow ride to the finish for me. Around top 30 or 40 still apparently. I was out of it and have never had to shake so many hands in my life. Apparently earning respect is hard. Got a ride home with Chels and her parents and treated to a amazing lunch and a cold beer to make it all worthwhile. Tomorrow = no bike.
In the end, I showed myself that injuries and lack of good legs doesn't have to slow you down. Good old fashioned suffering can overcome a lot. Try it sometime, you may second guess your decision for a while, but it pays off. That is one seriosuly long blog post. I'm getting some wine for that. And salt.

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