Stage 3 - May 14: Port La Nouvelle – Port La Nouvelle ITT, 5.5 km
Today's stage consisted of a 5km time trial in the seaside town of Port la Nouvelle. I think they picked the worst road in town to hold the race on, but hey, at least it was short. But even just 5km against the clock really separated the times! If they had imposed the 20% time cut, almost 20 women would have been eliminated. I didn't think it was possible for me to lose that much time in just 5km, but unfortunately it was. Sometimes I wonder if I didn't warm up and just went out and rode the thing cold, if I wouldn't actually do better. I guess I will never know.
When I pulled up to the line for my start, Andrzej informed me that I had been chosen for drug testing. So I was to report to medical control straight after I finished. Why today? I always have to go to the bathroom after a long road stage, but after 5km? I knew I was going to be in there for a long time. I reported to med control after my most unimpressive time trial and started drinking the water. When I thought I was ready to fill the cup, I went with the French doctor into the little room. As I sat on the toilet, the doctor explained to me that she had no running water in the trailer and apologized for not being able to turn the faucet on for the "noise" that would make it easier to pee.
Whatever. I was already cranky and just wanted to get the whole process over with. But then she said she would make the sound of running water so that I could pee, and proceeded to hiss out of her teeth. Was this woman kidding me?? I looked up at her and said politely, "That is REALLY not necessary." Did she really think her hissing was going to suffice for a running faucet? Our team doctor thought she scared it right out of me, because then I only filled the cup 50ml instead of the required 100ml. So it was back to the chair and continue drinking for another 30 minutes. Poor Judith and Andrzej were outside in the team car waiting for me. I felt horrible for making them wait so long! I finally felt I had another 50ml in me, so spoke with the French doctor and back into the bathroom I went. She immediately started hissing again. I just started laughing.
Stage 4 - May 15: Lezignan Corbières – Lezignan Corbières, 120 km
This year's edition of the Tour de L'Aude has a significant amount of climbing in it…even more than usual. So today was one of those days where Ina thought she would actually make it to the finish line and could go for the win. There was a cat 1 and a cat 2 climb, but neither looked too difficult.
True enough, most of the field made it over the cat 1 climb together and then the attacks started. Ina got in a great break that really looked like it would stick. But shortly after they started to roll away, other teams started attacking and one of the big GC threats, Susanne Ljungskog, made it into a second break. Although we had Lyne in there for us, Susanne was still a big threat. After a bit of hesitation, we put 3 riders at the front along with 3 Nurnberger girls to pull the break back.
Ina actually dropped out of her break to come back and help us. Once she reached the field, Kim and I were able to drop out of the rotation, since she's the strength of 3 of us! The break had over a minute gap on the field, but the girls did a great job of bringing it back. Again, the field made it over the cat 2 climb pretty well intact. It was looking like a good day for a field sprint! Then with about 30km to go, a few attacks started going and Kim and I were at the front covering. All of a sudden we heard Ina in the radio saying, "Go, go, go!" Us? We turned around to look and it certainly didn't look like there was any separation in the field. The motorcycle drove by holding up the chalkboard and it said, "25 seconds." Jo Kiesanowski rode up next to me and asked, "Kimberly, is there somebody off the front?" "Yes," I told her. "I actually think it's us!"
Somehow a gap had formed in the field and there was a "break" of about 23 women. And the gap kept growing! Kim asked if the field was camping back there, because it just seemed odd to see the time gap keep growing when not that many girls were actually working in the break. But it was great for us! With 10km to go, the break started attacking each other which really kept the speeds up, and by the finish, we had over a minute gap on the rest of the field. Jo Kiesanowski won the sprint to take the stage win. Kim and I managed to gain back all the time we lost in the time trial yesterday, and now Kim sits in 3rd place overall.
As we rolled back to our team cars after the stage, Marion Clignet came to surprise us, and she brought gifts. She had read my last diary entry regarding Judith and the riz au lait, and had brought us individual size servings of the tasty treat. A very nice ending to a good day!
Stage 5 - May 16: Castelnaudary – Castelnaudary, 119 km
Another chance for a possible stage win. With the individual time trial tomorrow, it's a good guess that most of the GC contenders would try to conserve today as much as possible, follow wheels, and save their legs. With 3 cat 2 climbs, the race profile didn't look extremely hard. But today wind could play a factor. It was VERY windy when we got to the start. Reminded me a little of racing in Holland.
The race course would have been an awesome route just to ride. It really looked beautiful with lots of small roads, constantly rolling, turning through quaint little French villages. Should I just become a cycling tourist? Ina and Lyne were patrolling the front of the field well and with such small roads, it was easy to control the pace and the field. About 50km into the race, a French girl attacked and Ina followed her wheel. No one else moved. Before we knew it, the two had almost 3 minutes on the field.
The French girl was only 4:10 down in GC, which normally would seem like a lot. But with their gap growing as fast as it was, all of a sudden 4:10 didn't seem like that much time. We waited for Buitenpoort to chase since they had the yellow jersey, but they just didn't seem that interested. The gap got up to over 7 minutes as we plugged along. With about 40km to go, we rode through a town and were stopped for a train. Actually, we were stopped for a couple of trains as we sat there for over 5 minutes. Now we knew the gap would be ridiculously high. The French girl was now the leader on the road, the virtual yellow jersey.
With 2 cat 2 climbs remaining, Mirjam Melchers of Buitenpoort went to the front of the field and started chasing for her team. Due to the train situation, the officials did neutralize the break for 3 minutes. Ina told us later that luckily they neutralized the two of them at the top of a climb, and not at the bottom. She figured this was only because there was a French girl in the break! Otherwise they would have made them wait at the bottom of the climb! Ina won the sprint after a 70km breakaway to take the win, and the yellow jersey finally passed from the Buitenpoort team to the French National team. The main field of about 58 riders came in over 7 minutes later.
We got back to the car to congratulate Ina and she looked absolutely cooked. Happy but cooked. Way to go Ina!
Till next time,