A tough day for me right from the start and the plan now is to save some energy and stay out of trouble
Although I felt pretty rough all day I was never in any danger of getting dropped
Katusha Team’s Daniel Moreno on his way to winning the fourth stage of the Tour of Spain yesterday from Lalin and Fisterra. Photograph: Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty Images
Stage four, Lain - Fisterra (186.4km): After feeling better than I had anticipated for the first three days of the race, yesterday’s stage was a rougher one for me. It has been a long year for me and with the way my preparation has been going into the race, deliberately holding back because I was getting over my illness for the Tour and because I want to be strong later in the race and for the world championships, I am going to be up and down early on.
I was happy enough to stay in the peloton. I felt pretty rough all day, although I was never in any danger of getting dropped or anything like that. It was the case that I was perhaps thinking too much about how I was feeling, noting that my legs were a bit off, and I didn’t actually eat or drink as much as I should have.
While Sunday and Monday’s stage were fairly steady until the end, when there were big efforts on the final climbs, stage four was hard from the start. It didn’t look too difficult on paper but there was hardly a metre of flat all day. It was up and down, hot as well, and also the speed was on.
There was a little bit of a lull when we let the breakaway get a big time gap, then obviously we had to ride hard to catch them. Having that pressure on the pedals all day is something that I haven’t been used to in the weeks since the Tour.
We had a tough third category climb just over 40 kilometres from the end. Placing was going to be crucial so there was a big fight between the teams on the approach to that. It was pretty hectic but I did a good job of positioning myself. I think I was in the top 10 around the bottom corner of the climb, ahead of all the general classification guys. As a result I was able to take it easy going up the really steep part of the climb. That section had gradients of 30 per cent, so it was very tough.
Needed small gear
It’s unusual to get climbs like that, although in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco we did have a couple as steep, if not even steeper. We are lucky that our director, Bingen Fernandez, is very well schooled in the Vuelta a España. Between the fact that he has that knowledge and the fact that the race actually finished on that climb last year, we knew that we needed a really small gear on the bikes.
We were using 34x28, so the gradient wasn’t a problem . . . it didn’t feel that steep to us. But some other teams weren’t so fortunate to have that knowledge, and were over-geared.
That led to a bit of chaos. If you have a 200 man peloton going up something as hard as that and the riders don’t have the right gearing, there are going to be stoppages and stalls. There was a big crash on the climb and it meant that some riders came to a complete halt.
It’s funny – and it shows how steep the gradient was – but one of my team-mates, Alex Howes, actually ran across to the front group! He got off his bike and starting running up the road . . . he was actually passing guys doing it that way.
The finish also occurred on a climb, although it was shorter and not so steep. Normally it would have been good for me but because I hadn’t been feeling great all day, I wasn’t close to the front. There was a gap in the bunch and my part of the group lost six seconds. It’s not that serious.
A bit bizarre
The finish location was a bit bizarre. It is called Fisterra, the End of the World in Galician, and I’ve heard that all the people who do the Camino de Santiago walk go and burn their clothes and their shoes near where we finished. It a symbolic thing at the end of that walk.
For us, it was nothing like that but we had to literally slam on the brakes as soon as we came across the finish as the crowds there were so big . . . there were hordes of people blocking the road after the line. Your heart rate is through the roof and you are full of lactic acid.
You have to slam on the brakes and just stop cold. I think we were lucky that it wasn’t the whole peloton finishing together, as otherwise I don’t think that everybody would have been able to fit across the finish line. It was a bit chaotic.
Lot of transfers
I’m having a bit of a moan, but there seems to be hell of a lot of transfers involved with this race. We spent three and a half hours in the bus; nearly two hours driving to the start, and an hour and a half after the finish. It’s also tiring for a rider, and not ideal when you are racing. Fortunately our team chef will have food for us at the finish and so it means we can eat something without having to wait until we get to the hotel. That’s very important for the nutritional needs and helping us to recover day after day.
Next up is what looks to be a tough stage. I think there is over 3,000 metres of climbing, and looking out the window from the hotel now, it seems like the wind is building up. It’s going to be a really hard day, and will likely also be very hot and on heavy roads.
My goal is to save energy and stay out of trouble. It’ll also be my approach to the next two stages, then there’s a big summit finish on Saturday.