Alumni Update: Ben King, Stages 13-15

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Hey,

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.

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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,

BK

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Tour of Ireland, Stage 4

Hello everyone,

All these stages are around one hundred twenty kilometers, or about three hours, and they take a toll on everyone. We had a good but brief race discussion this morning. I told them what I wanted to see and cut them loose. They know the job, have been here before and I can see that Phil and Mike are coming around. Ian has been good every day and Jack and Jonny, just solid.

This stage last year was decisive, I’m told. We didn’t race here last year since it conflicted with our nationals so I was relying on my driver Rory for intel.

The stage started and instantly I hear on the race radio, “Hot Tubes, rider number six, Maddux back wheel.” My first thought was “shite,” note the Irish accent. Jack got a wheel change fairly slowly since it was neutral service that did the change. Usually it’s left to the team but they were out the door and doing it before we even got to a stop. Jack flew back to the bunch and I knew from then on, he was good. There is nothing like going from zero to one hundred percent in one minute to get you focused.

Not too long after Jonny got a front flat, handled again by neutral, and quickly back in the bunch, and we were off. These courses are fantastic. The country side is spectacular, the roads narrow and with a good surface and the relentless little hills draining to those at the back.

Over the KOM’s the field got thinner and thinner but not once did I see any of our guys at all. They were at the sharp end doing what I had asked. On the last KOM it hit the fan. The field discarded two thirds of the field and a lead group of thirty two emerged from the shuffling with all of our guys still in it. With ten kilometers to go I thought it would be a field sprint which was OK. We wouldn’t gain time but today cost the boys in green a lot of physical and mental energy. With one kilometer to go I thought we would win. I have fast guys. They are good, understand how to finish and feel like they had some respect to earn back. We went one, two, three, seven with Jack winning, Phil in second, Jonny third and Ian seventh.

After the race I asked how the Irish national team looked. The boys looked like wolves who just heard a lambs mew in the distance when I asked. “They are starting to crack, we can see it. They were getting so mad when we kept attacking.”

Tomorrow will be a big day for us, win or lose.

Thanks for reading,

Toby

Alumni Update: Ben King, Tour de France Stages 11 and 12

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Hey Ya’ll,

Stage 11: 195 km

If anything, we surprised a lot of people by attacking the first of four climbs with 60 km to go. Without Talansky in the overall, the plan was to thin the group out and drop some sprinters for Tom Jelte Slagter. After the rest day, my body was confused and reluctant. Acid filled my veins. However, we followed instructions. We blew up our team one by one, and Slagter was left alone. He attacked, but it was a long shot. Slagter’s breakaway was short-lived, and he soon feel behind as well. The rest of us, caught our breath and rode in with all the riders we’d previously dropped. We didn’t make a lot of friends.

A big story from the day was Andrew Talansky who dropped alone very early and fought his way to the finish within the time cut.

Stage 12: 190 km

Along with the directors and team’s medical staff, Talansky decided not to start the stage.

http://www.steephill.tv/players/720/nbcsports3/?title=Ben+King+on+Andrew+Talansky:+’He+didn’t+quit,+his+body+did’&dashboard=tour-de-france&id=xqBEW1vwiVkc&yr=2014

Now we have new goals. Langevelde escaped in the breakaway. The narrow up and down roads were paved with heavy chip seal. Two climbs before the finish thinned the peloton to one hundred riders. We caught Langevelde’s break on the final climb, then plunged down to the finish. A crash mid-pack blocked the road, but Ramanus Navardauskus placed 5th in the sprint.

Thanks for your support and the prayers that have kept me upright and healthy,

BK

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