Things have finally slowed down after a busy couple of weeks, and would you believe it I’ve found time to hammer out another blog!
Things started kicking into gear for the end of the season with the Tour of Britain. The Tour had been a big goal for me this year and I had my sights set on a stage win. I had slowly been building form after a downward spiral of sickness leading on from the Tour Series crits. We had also built up for the Tour as a team by pre-riding the majority of the stages and getting a look at the terrain and weather we’d be dealing with over the week of the Tour.
I felt pretty good going into the Tour as I had a solid couple of weeks training behind me spent in the middle of nowhere in Wales, just pounding the miles and getting the zip back into my legs.
I was really motivated from the get go of the Tour and was therefore in the early move on the first stage from windy rainy Rochdale over the Trough of Bowland. The stage continued out to the coast ending in Blackpool. I was in the break with Richie Porte and Wout Pauels who both had an awesome Tour, and I quickly worked out that these guys were really strong and also climbing way faster than me! The great thing about being in the first break of a stage race is that you’re in the position to grab a mountains or stage jersey by the end of day 1. While I had planned to contest the KOM jersey I quickly realised that the other two were climbing way faster than me and this wasn‘t going to happen! I was constantly getting distanced on the climbs and having to catch back up on the following downhills. Porte and Pauels weren’t waiting for me over the other sides either so anyone who has raced will know it takes that much more out of you to catch up a pair of riders who are working together to get rid of you. I wound up coming back to the bunch just over the other side of the final KOM, and the stage finished in a bunch gallop.
Day 2 started with all of us except Rob Partridge missing the decisive break of the Tour. Both Sky and Columbia had their key riders on the right side of the split which meant that they were going to drive it to the line, leaving us no chance of jumping across the gap coz they were fair hauling along! Rob had a real impressive ride that day and catapulted himself right up on GC. From that point on we did what we could to support him during the Tour as not only did he eventually hold top 10 GC, but was also the best placed Brit in the bunch. In a field as classy as this year’s TOB boasted, that was quite an achievement and one we were prepared to work to defend. His final 8th placing was a real impressive result.
During the Tour we were all let loose on given days to make the break, and ride for the stage. On day 4 I got my chance as Rob and I both made the front group and put 20+ mins into the ever-slowing bunch. This was an especially hard day as it was so wet and windy (as most of the Tour proved to be!) We started on a solid climb that had Garmin lighting it up off the front straight away. After the descent things calmed down a bit as the bunch formed and we settled into a long day through to Teignmouth. While there were 3 riders up the road for most of the day they were never given too much of a gap and with the yellow jersey on the shoulders of Columbia all we had to do was sit tight and wait for Columbia to turn the screw and take us up the break as the 3 leaders tired. This is what eventually happened as 1 by 1 the break came back to us. By the time we were in the front of the race there was only 7km to go and people were clearly tiring! I dug real deep to stay in the front move that split away from the bunch and with 2km to go was a position to try and jump away for the solo win. Unfortunately one of the riders from the break on day 1 who had put me into such trouble on the climbs beat me to it and got a small gap on us from the 2km mark. He held off for the win with me coming in for 4th. While this was a good result it wasn’t the stage win that both myself and Endura were so desperate for. Had 4 days to go still though!
The following days were mostly ended in bunch kicks which makes it hard if you don’t have a train of riders going into the finish. Blain and myself had a few stabs though. Oh yeah on day 5 our new boy Iker really lit it up which was awesome to see. The dude can climb! Must be some high peaks round Bilbao??
All in all a real cool week, and man we all gathered heaps of experience! Got wrung out to the max every day as well, which is always good! Now - bring on Commie Games.