I’m a few hours deep into a tedious transfer north to the small mountains country of Andorra. I thought it is a good opportunity to knock out a quick piece with my take on the first 10 days of la Vuelta so I can dedicate my time tomorrow to a highly anticipated poker game that I have every intention of winning. With nearly half the race already in the pocket there’s a lot to reflect on: today is freshly scarred into my head, legs and morale so I’ll start with that. When a stage is only 145 km long everyone thinks they can win (including yours truly) which resulted in what I would say was awesome racing if I wasn’t chewing my stem from km 0. After a big fight 41 of us rode clear- if 41 of us decided to roll through then it would have spelt big trouble for those behind but getting that to happen is another story, a lot likened to herding cats. So as it went we attacked the shit out of each other for another 50km until we were all so fisted we went back to the peloton and very quickly straight out the back of the pelo in the cross winds. I eventually crawled back and over the last climb to help our neo pro youngster Timo get up for a nice 12th place.
There has been no shortage of drama so far in the Vuelta, unfortunately the majority of the talking points involve people hitting the road very hard and leaving the race, (20 guys out injured already) quite a few big names in there but also a lot of other guys who ended up with some serious injuries- no one likes to see it but I wonder sometimes if those who control the TV ratings don’t think its the worst thing in the world. In stage 8 there was only one mass pile up so the camera man decided to give Sagan a nudge to raise the viewers’ satisfaction and the UCI didn’t waste any time making a few dineros out of it with a 200CHF fine to rub some metaphorical salt into his not so metaphorical 3rd degree road rash. I don’t know Kris Boekmans personally but moving around a pile of bodies and seeing him in a pool of blood is something that stays with me for a while and makes me feel pretty sick sometimes. He’s in a coma now and the outlook looks ok but how close was it to not being ok? The whole peloton wishes him the best of recoveries. Of course there was the Nibali saga, shit like that happens more than you would think – but most of the time happens 20 minutes behind the front of the race where there aren’t too many helicopters flying around with cameras.
Plenty of explosive racing though and some great winners. I’ve been super happy to see my Columbian friend Esteban having the race of his life and of course our very own Bert-Jan getting up for the stage win which was a display of some seriously crafty bike racing, I think he showed the cycling world its not just about pushing more watts per kilo than everyone else but moving at the right time and reading the race like an old hand.
Stage 11 is the one we have all been talking about, I’ve checked it out already and I can tell you its even harder than depicted in the book – (following the trend of every Vuelta stage so far, we like to think of every finale as a Little Kínder surprise) I have no doubt it will be very epic but maybe its too hard and we end up with either no one racing until the last climb out of fright or half the peloton going home and 100 of us seeing out the last half of the race.
Well its dinner time on the road to Andorra, we might not have a helicopter like sky or katusha but we do have Daily Fresh, a Dutch company that pre make some awesome meals for us: essentially the world’s freshest, tastiest heat and eat and our chef Jasper always whips some top notch soul food to go with it.
On a personally note I’m enjoying life so far, I’m a little bit sick today- nothing serious just a sore throat and a Little fevery but in general I’m feeling good, we made a decision to intentionally loose some time on stage 8 to get me out of that niggly top 20 position where essentially you know you wont be in the top 10 at the end of the race but your too close on GC to get any freedom for the breakaway and get that stage win I’m dreaming about. Its something that I found surprisingly hard to do, every part of me as a pro athlete was saying follow the group but I think it’s a choice that will pay off. The last thing I want to do is arrive in Madrid in 20th having never tried to truly chase some glory.
Ok, onwards and upwards and potentially side ways.
Words: George Bennett @georgenbennett
Photography: Laura Fletcher @cassette_media