Well its time again when your twitter feed is filled with “decreció malaga” tweets or some variation, as much of the cycling community is in southern Spain to start the 3 week sweat fest that is the la Vuelta Espana: many moons ago some people described the Vuelta as a relaxed race, I’ll tell you right now there’s no such thing, one look at the start list or the economic climate in cycling and you know it will be another shit fight all the way to Madrid.
I am one of them. I left Girona on a south bound and landed in Malaga, after the Giro debacle and not being able to keep the form running long enough to make the Tour squad I’m pretty excited about my first grandie of 2015, its always funny how excited we all get for grand tours. This year I’m going in with a far more long term approach, still very excited but feeling a lot wiser 3rd time around. It has taken me a few grand tours to figure out that the race really is 3 weeks long. Physically and mentally, I’ve only done a few GTs but I’ve seen many examples of boys succumbing to the following pattern:
Pre race. Openers, course recon, fretting over tri spoke or deep dish front wheel.
Day 1. Super excited. Lining up with new kit, a well arranged suitcase, clean shoes and ambitions as big as a house.
Day 7. You realise that you still have 14 days left and the sights lower slightly, you don’t stress as much about the road grime on the shoes.
Day 10. you start to question if that stage win really is possible.
Day 14. You stop your morning stretching routine, and the suitcase now resembles a gypsy’s trunk.
Day 16. The day you “accidentally” puncture out of the 3 man breakaway you didn’t mean to roll into because there are 3 mountain days ahead.
Day 18. You crash, hurt your thumb but don’t get up.
Day 19. You start looking for ways to crash.
Day 20. You rally because you know there a beer at the finish and only a easy exhibition race with a sprint the next day,
Day 21. You suffer more than any other stage, mentally you have switched off and took the beer at yesterdays finish line and turned it into plural. Also one team has an early flight so they pull like school boys to get to the finish in time.
Day 22. You tell your mate at 3am with a skin fill of red wine that you wont ever race your bike again,
3 days post race. You draw up a training plan for the next one and clean your shoes.
My lead in this year has been great, a slight hiccup with a small virus last week and 7 days of just easy riding but I think being fresh for the Vuelta is never a bad thing, the general plan was to do the basics well up at altitude and find the top end in Poland. The first few days of Poland I thought I would get dropped every time we went above 45kph but by the last hard day I was hitting my straps well and felt really good about it all. I’m coming into the race already looking quite far ahead to the stages with pointy bits in the profile. I think the mistakes I’ve made in the past is I’ve come in too hot (as in peaking for first week or the race before the grand tour and fading real bad so lets see if I’ve timed the peak right this time, i.e. mountain stages in 2nd and 3rd week) so this is going to be a test of timing.
There has been a lot of controversy about the TTT course, I personally don’t like the decision that the race is neutralised, but at the same time I’m not interested in ripping down a sand covered foot path at 60kph. Not a lot changes by neutralising the race, we are still sure as shit going full gas to the finish, Asking us not to race is like asking a dog not to chase a cat, and the end of the day we are left with the same dilemma: we want to try win the bike race but we don’t want to end our careers on a dirt covered walking bridge. Basically we still take all the risk but when we go arse over tit they say “don’t worry you wont loose that 2mins on GC.” I’m sure the most of the guys on my team clocking in at 80kg actually give 2 shits about that. By neutralising the opening TTT we will see some interesting tactics, on a course as short and technical as that a smaller train is faster than a bigger one so I’m curious how many teams will drop a few riders from the start to be a little more nimble on the sand. Personally I think best solution was to race on the alternative course they had to prepare, let the GC battle play out a bit and hopefully settle the next few days down- I assume money talks when it comes to bike races and Marbella council paid good money to show of the finest multi use footpath to the rest of the world.
Keep it deep,
Words: George Bennett @georgebennett
Photography: Laura Fletcher @cassette_media