Stage 1: 203 km
I was ashamed to face my roommate, Andreas Kloden (2nd in the TDF), but he said, “good job.” I said, “no, I was terrible.” He said, “Hey, you did your job. It’s normal. Anybody who races like you in the beginning is dropped.” I received the same encouragement from Gallopin, and during my massage I heard that other riders had said I rode well in support of the team. I didn’t feel like quitting the sport anymore. Corsica is mountainous- ups and downs.
Restarting my race season a month after the Giro Sardegna, I had all the same nervous jitters. I followed orders and raced for the break away.
Over the first 3 km climb at 40 km, I found myself in a small group containing 6 time race winner, Jens Voigt and Vinokurov. Our group gained about a minute. We ripped over another climb, and I thought we might last. After 75 km of attacking, however, I realized that other teams wanted to keep RadioShack out of the break. That way they secured our help in chasing any threats. And when a group of six got away just before the tallest mountains, I was the first to start pulling.
Eager to do my job, I lead the chase with three others. A pain in my back steadily worsened until it became an unbearable cramp that soaked up all my power. I remember only three times on the bike when I felt such misery, not physical but emotional. I felt like a wimp. I wanted to cry and punch myself at the same time for being such a girl. I couldn’t sustain normal training power.
Jens Voigt attacked a hill. I fell into the caravan. Gallopin drove the first car. I knew he could see me dropping. He pulled up beside me and I said, “I’m cramping.” He said, “it’s ok, just try to hold the wheel.” I sprinted back to the field and couldn’t stay. Gallopin drove by without a passing glance.
The rest of the day, 50 km further, I rode with ten guys. The company made it endurable. Struggling in the same group was Olympic gold medalist, David Millar, and TDF star, Jon Gadret. How hard is it just to finish these races?
P.S. Seeking explanation for the abnormal back pain, I had the mechanics recheck my position. It was my first time on this bike. The saddle and bars were significantly wrong.