Calm before a massive storm
It was a day of two very distinct parts. The initial 170km was gentleman’s ride toward Seville, and the final 35km circuit around the city was absolutely full throttle! Our objective today remained pretty similar; to look after Ivan and give our fast men an opportunity to open up there jets in the sprint. Today [Daniele] Ratto handed the reins over to our Canadian Cannonball [Guillaume] Bouvin as we were pretty excited to see what he could do in the expected sprint finish.
From the gun everything went as planned and a small group of three riders skipped away. The bunch was happy to let them go and it was interesting to see that these three men where given more breathing space the Motorbike Martin just 24hrs earlier. Another excellent example of the respect that the World TT Champion commands!
We did our usual thing and set up camp on the front. The chances of anything crazy happening were slim, but regardless of the circumstances we always have our system. As I’ve said before, you never know if the bunch is all of sudden going to spring to life so best to be prepared. So with this said all was very tranquilo today and gave us a chance to even have a little social chat with some of our peers as we rolled toward Seville.
Fabian Cancellara saddled up alongside me to ask if I was from the same region as former Aussie professional hardman Scott Sunderland. He said we had the same accent and said when he hears my voice he thinks it’s Scott speaking. Fabian is the second person to suggest this in the past few months. I explained we were not from the same region and that I was Tasmanian and his response was pretty normal: “I knew there was something different about, you Tasmanians ain’t like the rest of you Aussies”. He’s pretty spot on there; For some reason, Ritchie, Gossy, Wez, will, and myself seem to be a little different to the other guys.
Fabian was also quite interested in my rowing career and how I got here to be racing alongside him in the 2013 Vuelta. I told him about my first ITT World Championship on the bike in 2007 in Stuttgart. Cancellara won that race while I came in 31st (over 3 minutes behind). Still he was pretty intrigued by the fact I was even there so I told him a bit about my experience that day…
At the Stuttgart World Championships I started 10th from the back, so I would not have been surprised if Fabian had caught me from ten minutes back. I started one minute ahead of David Millar, so was crapping my dacks about that fact, not to mention the long list of my role models ahead of him: Zerbriski, Bodrogi, Wiggins, Karpets just to name a few. I began my TT and to my surprise after 20 kilometers Millar still hadn’t passed me. Then came that sinking feeling that I was getting closer to the ground: my front wheel was going flat. Just as I pulled over David Millar was approaching I had to wait for him and his car to pass before getting going again. I told Fabian that I went hell-bent for leather to catch Millar; it was my first ITT World Championships and for all knew I could have been my last as I was still considering returning to rowing for the 2008 Olympics. I caught back up to Millar and zipped past him. For the next 20 kilometers we traded places in what was now a match race! He must have been thinking, “who is this little Aussie pest!” I was watching Millar’s SRM box under his saddle and when I saw the numbers as I passed I thought, “I can do that!” I almost felt like I belonged there! That was a special day and it was nice to share with Fabian. He’s a great guy and I enjoy our little chats whenever we cross paths in the bunch.
So back to the nice cruisey stage at the Vuelta and suddenly at 170km – BOOM! With 35km remaining we entered a city circuit where the road was all of a sudden a third of the size we had been on all day and the pace was full gas! I immediately slipped into my bodyguard role on Ivan’s wheel while Dalla, Longo and Paterski guided Ivan to the front of the bunch. The boys did a huge effort today taking the wind for Ivan until the final 10km when they had spent all there cookies. At this point Ivan was able to position himself while I stayed behind to ensure he did not have any dramas. On a day like today, Dalla, Longo and Paterski literally had to do 30 minute all-out time trial to fight for this position as every rider in the peloton was fighting for the front. While they were at full gas Ivan and I were able to casually follow there wheels and save ourselves for when we have to fend for ourselves. It’s another example of where complete sacrifice from your teammates is crucial: a day like today which was meant to be a bunch sprint but the pace was so ferocious that half the field was spat out the back!
At this time our Canadian Cannonball Bouvin was benefiting from the sacrificial work by [Lucas Sebastian] Heado, who is a very crafty rider. He knows how to position his man and had Bouvin perfectly placed heading into the final ten kilometers. He never let him further back than tenth wheel and as we went under the 5km kite, Bouvin was perfectly poised at seventh wheel. Heado had done all he could and a shattered peloton were dead on their feet. I got excited when I saw the Canadian Cannonball looking so smooth I got on the radio to give him a little encouragement and reminded him everybody is suffering at the back!
Inside three kilometers I was on Ivan’s wheel. We were close enough to front that I was bouncing out of my skin in anxious anticipation of what The Canadian Cannonball could do when he opened up those monster calf muscles in the sprint. He was still sitting so pretty…then??!! He put the reverse lights on and before I even had a chance to ask him what was wrong he went straight to the back of the bunch with only 1.5km remaining. He had touched a rider and lost a few spokes and his wheel was destroyed! In my humble opinion he would have delivered a huge result today. No worries – it’s his first Grand Tour, and only the first week of it. If he is already putting himself in such good positions it won’t be long until he comes up with a massive result.
Ivan finished safe and sound in the main field and saved as much energy as possible for tomorrow when we hit the high mountains!! Best go and see our brilliant chef Alex and top up the tank with some of his perfect Italian pasta!!