Clasica Miguel Indurain: 190 km
With a smattering of top level teams in the pack of mostly continental riders, the disparity showed itself in various ways. Sporting ethics 101. You have to show respect to get it. At the risk of sounding pompous, one arrogant amateur team showed us no respect. It caused some mid race drama and in a way provoked my competitive spirit.
Nathan Haas and Janier Acevedo escaped in a fifteen man breakaway. Team Movistar led the chase. The repetitive climbs and winding roads caused an elastic effect and there were moments when I felt like the only one suffering. Haas disintegrated the breakaway and won the KOM and intermediate sprint competitions in the process.
With 50 km remaining we hit a long climb. Movistar and Caja Rural sent riders up the road and I followed. The acceleration whittled the peloton down to twenty riders. Cardoso (teammate) counterattacked and bridged to Haas with six riders. Haas took a suicide pull to increase their advantage. Again Movistar led the pursuit. With 25 km to go, we hit a 2km steep climb. Race favorite, Alejandro Valverde attacked. I found my legs and followed with Tom Slagter (teammate). On the decent my wheels slipped in a corner. I let off the brakes, straightened out, tried again, lost traction, and had to hop the curb, miss nailing a spectator, unclip, and start again. Meanwhile the chase group passed me with three from Garmin. As I closed in on them, Luis Leon Sanchez dropped his chain. I jumped on his wheel, but with five teammates ahead couldn’t work together with a winner like Sanchez.
On the next climb I dropped him and went into time trial mode, picking off riders one by one and climbing back into the top ten. Slagter finished second behind Valverde, Cardoso 4th, Hesjedal 6th, and me 8th.
After the race I packed my bags and prepared to depart the next morning for a training camp in Girona. Then the director entered my room. Apparently, I showed good form and the team wants me to race again soon. Like tomorrow soon! Pais Vasco is the hardest week of racing in the season. It’s a World Tour race and the only one that attracts all of the climbers and GC favorites for every Grand Tour. My last experience there left me with psychological scars. “Paris-Roubaix and Pais Vasco” are words that provoke an emotional response. The positive side is that for the rest of the season, nothing feels hard again. It changes your perspective on suffering.
Another plus is that afterwards I expect to fly back to Virginia and prep for California, Dauphine, and if everything falls into place, the Tour de France.
Updates from the Basque Country to follow.