So that’s stage one of the Tour Down Under out of the way. A hectic final five kilometres and a huge crash marred the day’s racing. Unfortunately this is probably going to be a sign of things to come in 2012 and beyond. With no HTC team to lead the way this year, the world’s best sprinters are now spread out among various teams. This makes for a hectic finish, of course.
We started the day in scorching heat. Something I’ve never experienced before. My computer was reading 46 degrees! I drank four bottles in the first 15km, and that’s not an exaggeration. My heart rate was around 20 beats higher than normal; just cruising along at 200w I was at 160bpm!
The first 15km was into a block headwind. Our average speed was less than 20kph for the first half hour! After a short split in the peloton in some Qatar-like crosswinds, the day’s racing looked pretty much mapped out. Four riders had escaped and had an advantage of over 10 minutes. A big gap but, in this wind and with so many teams interested in a sprint finish, it was never going to succeed.
Our goal today was again to set Gerald up for the finishing sprint as best we could. We did as little work as possible until the final 15kms, where we started to get towards the business end of the race. After last year I have a fair bit of experience of setting up a finish and holding things together. My tactic was simple. Stay together as a team for as long as possible, waiting as long as we could before making our move.
For our first leadout effort as a team, we did pretty well I think and we can be proud of our first go at a proper leadout. We managed to avoid all of the chaos and keep our sprinter out of the wind until the final kilometre. With just over 1km to go, I did my last pull and got out of there. The plan was to have three guys left at this point but we only had two. So it was left to Gert and Gerald to make their way to the finish. Not an ideal situation but not bad for a first try with such a young team.
Unlucky for us, with 800m to go there was a huge crash right at the front of the race. Both of our guys went down and we were out of the finale.
Andre Griepel went on to win again and in turn took the race lead going into stage two. I genuinely believe that if it wasn’t for the crashes we could have had a great result today, but that’s racing and all part of our job so, as the saying goes, tomorrow is another day!