Feeling fresh at the front with plenty of confidence

Vuelta Diary: It was really nice to finally be able to race properly on a climb

The pack in action during the ninth stage of the VVuelta Ciclista cycling race, of 185km between Carboneras de Guadazaon and Aramon Valdelinares. Photograph: Javier Lizon/EPA

The pack in action during the ninth stage of the VVuelta Ciclista cycling race, of 185km between Carboneras de Guadazaon and Aramon Valdelinares. Photograph: Javier Lizon/EPA

 

Saturday, stage 8: Baeza to Albacete, 207km:

Well, that stage was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done! It was completely flat out in the final part. It was a pretty relaxed stage until all hell broke loose and then it was warp speed. There were side winds and exposed roads and some teams were trying to break things up.

It was all about positioning and my team-mate David Millar put me right at the front just as it was about to break up. So I made the split. That should have been it, but one of the Sky riders then let a gap go with 10km left. I don’t think it was deliberate, I think he was just tired. But when someone lets the wheel go when you are in the gutter, it is really hard. You can’t really close it, it is almost impossible.

That created another gap and put a group of us off the back and chasing. It could have been bad in terms of time loss, particularly with the teams of the other general classification riders driving it, but I was pretty confident that it was going to come back.

The sprinter John Degenkolb and all his team-mates were in the group and as I knew the crosswinds stopped at six kilometres to go, we only had to do four kilometres with that wind.

Sure enough, things came back together and I didn’t lose any time.

Sunday, stage 9: Carboneras de Guadazaon - Aramon Valdelinares, 185km:

Yesterday’s stage was another big summit finish and there was plenty of climbing. I felt really good all day, which was very reassuring. We had a bit of a nightmare on Saturday night – most of the teams stayed where the finish was but we had to drive two hours to the hotel. Then we had no air conditioning in the rooms, and it must have been about 30 degrees. I didn’t really sleep very well as a result. Because of that, I was even more happy with how Sunday went.

The legs were a bit sore at the start, probably related in part to the fact that we had 50km/hr average for the first two hours. It was crazy, it was really, really fast. However, I felt really good.

On the second category climb towards the end, my team-mate Andrew Talansky came up to me and tried to give me words of advice. I was like, “dude, I feel really good, I don’t need it”. But I think that was a sign that the pace was really hard, the fact that he thought I was going to be in a rough spot.

That was reassuring, and so too how I felt on the final mountain up to the finish line.

It was really nice to finally be able to race properly on a climb again.

It has been a rough season as far as my climbing has gone and the fact that I was comfortable with the front guys was a nice little confidence boost for the rest of the race.

The break was well clear and the winner came out of that move, but I was climbing with the main general classification contenders. I was with the guys like Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana and the race leader Alejandro Valverde. I was feeling great and gave it a go with three kilometres left; it ended up being a bit of a bad time to attack because just after I went, the Katusha team of Joaquim Rodriguez were putting in an attack as well.

They brought me back and I wasted a bit of energy there. If I hadn’t have done that, I might have been able to at least try and follow the Contador-Rodriguez group rather than finish in the Froome group.

Anyway, in the end, it was a good result for the general classification, to just keep plugging away and getting some seconds on other riders. My only regret was that it wasn’t really a decisive climb.

The pace wasn’t fast enough until near the end and so the gaps weren’t as much as they might have been.

Now we have the first rest day of the race today and feeling so good on the climb means that my confidence is high. It’s also about my sensations. I feel remarkably fresh. I don’t think I ever felt this good at the first rest day.

Actually, I don’t even really feel like I need the rest day. But we’ll take it and hopefully that means I will go into the second part of the race feeling that bit fresher than the rest of the guys.

I’ll ride the time trial course and then be able to relax tomorrow morning before that test. I think it should suit me; hopefully I can take some time on the climbers on the flat and some time on the bigger riders on the climb. Fingers crossed it will be a good result for me.

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