Stage 13: 200 km
I woke up with a sore throat and headache but it changes nothing.
Again tasked with making the early break for the image of the team, we followed attacks on the first climb. Despite feeling broken and twisted, Janier bravely jumped off the front. The effort cost him, and he fell behind. Jack Bauer countered in a move of six. Halfway up the climb he said over the radio, “Ben, I can’t follow. Go now if you can.” I sprinted off the front three times, but exploded like a bottle rocket.
Crosswinds beat us into the gutter for the rest of the miserable day. Team Katusha kept the break close. On the first of two 17 km finishing climbs, the front group was down to forty. I felt comfortable in that group, but ran out of water. It was over ninety degrees. The car was too far behind to get water. Two km from the top, I quit sweating and shivered. Desperate for a drink I dropped back until I found our car. I rejoined the group in the valley between climbs, but the damage was done. I rode my own pace to the top in 35th place.
I lost my roommate, Janier. It was a psychological blow to hear that the toughest guy south of the border had climbed off his bike.
Stage 14: 180 km
Here’s the profile.
Seventeen riders escaped on that little kicker at the start. The rest of the day was fast. On the Col du Lautaret, a few riders were swinging at the back. Team NetApp lit it up on Col d’Izoard and there were bodies everywhere. I hung on to a group just 30 seconds behind the leaders. I had to switch off my fear sensors for the speeds they chased on the decent. I rode a comfortable pace to Risoul and finished 36th.
Stage 15: 225 km
We should have been in for an easy day when Jack Bauer got in a suicide two man breakaway for us. Instead a lightening storm caused crosswind chaos. A tornado nearby took down a few homes. Huge raindrops flooded the roads. Jack and his partner time trailed ahead of the panicked chasing sprint teams. Jack attacked with glory in sight, but as he lunged for the line after 222 km in front, the peloton swarmed past. Ramanus placed 7th in the sprint.
With three km to go, I slipped in a roundabout and slid 10 meters on my bum. The road was so slippery that it didn’t even tear my pants. I stopped at the feet of gasping fans, brushed my shoulders off, and continued. The doctor in our team car thought I had a concussion because I laughed when they passed.
The sickness, stress, and two weeks of racing had me on my knees even in a sprint stage, but next is the second rest day.
Thanks for the prayers and support,