9th Vuelta Lider al sur Chile
Stage 8 - February 17: Chillán-Talca
Don't get the impression from yesterday's headline that everything is awry, actually we had a good "rest" day (flat 150K) today and I think that spirits are up again in the Health Net presented by Maxxis camp.
Injury report...Yesterday's German crash victim embarks on his 50 hour trip home today. Justin feels OK after his crash thanks to massage work and ibuprofen, and with minor discomfort completed today's stage. A couple more dropouts and we won't even need a second results page.
Today...flat, smooth, stiff headwind, 150 kilometres, on a four lane freeway for 145 of those K's. Team Lider and their surrogate paid helpers now comprise 9 men of only 57 remaining riders. Pretty good odds that they will be able to hold on to first through fourth place. It doesn't look so great for the race that one team dominates in this way, but having done the same to others on occasion in my career I really am not in a moral position to criticize. Besides, we are here for the experience of Chile and the excellent training that the race is providing.
Gustavo Carillo is doing a fantastic job of directing the team. The bus that took out the front of our rental Renault yesterday did not stop, so Gus had to make a quick detour to the police station in Chillan this morning as the stage was starting. After the accident I McGyvered the bumper and light back together so the car looks presentable.
We had fantastic luck that one of our rare flat tires came for Doug at the exact moment that Gus rejoined the caravan, if the flat had been two minutes sooner then Doug may have had a very long day by himself. Gus should get the directorship of the USA teams for all South American races, he knows everyone and if he had real resources could put together a program equal or superior to what Under 23 riders get in Europe. The quality of this race highlights the absolute void in USA stage racing. These guys down here get ten day races all the time, we have none.
Our helpers, Frick and Frack...really their names are Hector (mechanico) and Gabriele (massagista). They are competent and always ready with a laugh despite our language barriers. Gabriele massages in the European tradition, deep and fast strokes that really go into the muscles and flush out the soreness. His 40 to 60 minute massages target three areas - feet, legs, and back. Gabriele has an uncanny ability diagnose and correct systemic problems just by massaging the feet. The back is another place that if it's tight and sore, you don't get the stable platform you need to pedal hard.
Sunglasses Man from the Blue Man Group team was up to his usual errant tricks today in the strung out single file peloton. This despite his apology to Justin and by extension the whole team for his previous transgressions. We call the guy Sunglasses Man because he wears them everywhere, indoors and out. But with the peloton getting so small, it isn't much stress at all to ride en bloc as our six man Health Net unit even at the back.
The Hansen Twins are hilarious. Bobbed blonde hair and the looks of GQ models, these guys are never far apart. Their seat rails dangle identical tassles, they've got matching bracelets. They are an endless source of entertainment for us. "What if one guy crashed, would the other brother fall over too?" When the going is tough as on a steep climb, you'd swear that one brother actually waits for the other. Translation from Portuguese (the Hansens ride for team Scott of Brasil) - "Hey, you left me today, what the hell, bro?"
Mike Sayers is such a fierce competitor. He flicked across to a break at 35K to go, while I was chasing back on from taking a leak and getting bottles. It took me nearly ten minutes to get through a 55KPH caravan that had been going 38 just moments earlier, and the break was already at 45 seconds. Phew. The 9 man Lider combo feathered the gap at 1:30 until 20K to go, then sat up and looked for the missing teams (from the break, that is) to finish the job. Both Brazilian teams missed it, and the Hansen brothers were probably worried about their 8th and 10th place overall so they all got together and brought it back with about 7K to go.
The run in to the finish was safe if a bit bumpy but with Mike cooked from the breakaway attempt we didn't have many cards to play. The leadout train failed to materialize for us and our remaining sprinter Frank Pipp freelanced it. It was a curb to curb sprint and Frank was in there somewhere but we missed another chance to open the Health Net 2005 win account.
Still 3 days to go though!
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