So it’s already my fifth day of racing this year and I’m already starting to feel a little tired! Maybe the suicide breakaway yesterday didn’t help, or the 8km climb starting at KM 0 today?
As you can imagine, we started pretty full gas today. There were attacks left, right and centre for the first 20kms (not me today). It was pretty tough and there were a few guys dropped but I was feeling ok. Just riding in the wheels and hiding out of the wind. After 25kms we had a “sprint benefaction” with points and time bonus. The points we weren’t interested in, but the seconds on offer are pretty valuable here on the TDU. So the troops were assembled and we hit it full gas for Gerald [Ciolek] about 2km before the sprint. He ended 4th with a grand old total of 0 seconds bonus! Great! Haha.
Soon after, a small breakaway was let away. Three riders went clear and, like yesterday, were only allowed a maximum of around five minutes. The mood in the peloton was pretty chilled out for a while but we never really slowed down so much. We had the Category 1 Mengles Hill to get over just 20kms before the finish line, so we are all feeling a little nervous.
Sure enough, the pace picked up slowly heading towards the climb. We made sure we looked at all of the stage finishes last week so we knew exactly what to expect. It was a pretty tough climb and one that I wasn’t looking forward to. It was 3km long, averaging at 8.5%, so a bit of a stinger after 100km of fast racing. Our plan again was to keep Gerald out of trouble, put him in a good position for the bottom of the climb and then try to survive over the top so we could help out at the finish. Today was a perfect stage for him; he’s climbing pretty strong and for sure can sprint pretty fast.
Today I didn’t do my job so well. In Flemish I would call myself a stomme ezel ! You can look it up if you want. [The translation is unsuitable for a family site –ed.] I actually had good legs but was just too far back. I knew the climb would be tough so I didn’t want to make any unnecessary efforts beforehand. I just sat back and thought I could make up my positions on the climb as it was such a wide road and I was feeling ok.
What I didn’t take into account were the riders around me who had either done their jobs and were getting out of the way or were at the back because they also are stomme ezels. Before I knew it and before the climb even began I was behind a gap. I had to go full gas to close it just before the foot of the climb. I hit the bottom in full oxygen debt and Lactic City and, in turn, my parachute came out.
I ended up crawling up the climb and finishing an embarrassing distance behind the rest. I really pride myself on the work I do for my team mates, so a day like today really makes me feel bad.
Even more painful was that Gerald had a super day, finishing just inches behind Oscar Friere in 2nd place and he now moves up to 4th place on GC. Maybe I could have helped?? Who knows?
Anyway, lesson learnt. Don’t ride at the back and don’t be lazy!
Tomorrow is the notorious Willunga Hill. Notorious for a reason, because its god-damn hard. We hit it for the first time after 129km and then finish at the top after 150km. I would like to be there at the foot of the final climb to do a job for Gerald. I think if I pull my finger out hopefully I can be a little more useful tomorrow!
Wish me luck!