With US sponsors, and the success we had last year, we have a lot of pressure to win this race. We have a diesel team and the defending champion. Personally, I’ve been training hard, trying to replicate the work I did to prepare so well last year, but my body has not responded as well to the training. I’ve seen glimmers of potential and hope the competitive energy kicks me into gear.
Stage 1: 185 km
Eight riders broke away easily in the beginning. I set tempo, but after half an hour the team called me back. We, the strongest teams, bluffed each other- no one willing to assume responsibility sacrifice riders. My team’s only goal is to keep our defending champion, Horner, even with the other GC favorites until the mountain finishes. However, when the breakaway grained twelve minutes on us, we risked throwing away our chances to prove a point. Finally, when three riders from other teams came to the front, our director told me to pull. Because the breakaway had so much advantage, we had to work hard. I pulled up three climbs in the middle of the stage and we brought the gap down five minutes. After plunging down to the coast, Chris told me, “good job. You’re done. Just make the time cut.”
I started the final climb in last position, and got in a group of fifty that brought me to the finish. Our climbers finished in the large first group. Sagan of Team Liquigas won the sprint from that bunch. One week to go.
Stage 2: 188 km
Now that Liquigas has the yellow jersey, they took responsibility of controlling the race. After 30 km a group of nine escaped, and Liquigas gave them six minutes. Halfway through the stage, however, we slowed to a crawl. I looked up and Liquigas had abandoned the front without explanation. Once again, the gap went up and we had to pull until the last two ten km climbs with Jens Voigt. The pace lifted over the climbs and technical descents. I went halfway up the second climb with the front group, then slipped back to save energy for the rest of the week. Busche crashed near the finish and sliced his back, but will continue.
Still in business.
Stage 3: 186 km
With another difficult climb 20 km from the finish, I made myself useful by carrying as many bottles as I could from the team car to my teammates at the front of the peloton. The heat and distance started to show in the continental team riders who aren’t used to racing these distances. Our climbers arrived in another large group sprint. Team Liquigas’ sprinter, Peter Sagan, has won three
stages in a row. Incredible.