Final instalment of George’s blogs from the Vuelta…
I’ve developed a few little daily rituals to help me through the grind: one of my favourites is finishing a stage and tearing the corresponding pages out of the road book. If I had a lighter I’d burn them but I normally just yell out “rain man!” and take a shot at the rubbish bin and miss. The old libro de corsa is getting pretty thin and the area around the rubbish bin is piling high. Some would say we are nearly there but although the road book may be thin with just two stages left, it still feels pretty heavy- tomorrow’s stage 20 promising to be a grande spectacle. If you read cycling news you will know what’s happening results wise more than I do but essentially the super close battle for the overall makes everything a lot harder for me and the chance to win a stage, I have been following my little recipe of throwing the kitchen sink at breakaway and hoping for a clean hit, more often than not it boomerangs and comes back and knocks me straight into the grupetto and I grind it out to the finish with the flatlanders, but a few times I’ve got some purchase off an early attack. But so far all it has brought me is a 4th place on a stage and some very sore legs. Before the race the team asked us to pick three stages that we really wanted to target, and because I weigh about the same as your laptop I chose the 3 most mountainous: 11, 16 and 20. Last time we spoke I was about to start the much-anticipated Andorra stage 11. Initially I missed the breakaway but I eventually got across to it emptying the fuel tank in the process and the lights went out on the last climb, which I crawled up feeling sorry for myself. I would have got up there faster if I threw the Asics on and straight-lined it. I’m not even sure I would have made it without my mate Ben King staying with me putting up with my talk of retirement and how I’d rather pay my taxes than live in Andorra.
Stage 16 was the one that got away. I made the move, the peloton gave us 20 minutes, I thought the stars had truly aligned for the illusive stage win, but Frank Schleck was on another level and killed us all.
On the stages I haven’t been up the road I have been saving my pennies in the grupetto. It’s a strange place to ride, sometimes its sucks, just a slog to the line but other times its bloody good. Largely the chat is just bullshit but sometimes its has some substance, yesterday I nearly solved the refugee crisis with Matt Hayman (we ran out of kms before we came to a conclusion) and today I had a good chuckle watching one guy mate rip out another of his team mates for riding too fast.
Tomorrow I’ll be drinking in the last chance saloon, I will double up another ritual of mine, the pre race coffee and have a crack the break and see what comes of it, hopefully I wont be coming home in the grupetto although it may give me a chance to cover global warming and save the planet. From there its on to Madrid where our sprint train will have its final hit out before my favourite ritual of a grand tour that involves a bottles of red wine.