July 25, 2005
I am closing another chapter in my book of bike racing. It didn't have the ending I thought it would but this is just one chapter, not the end of the book - I'm already looking forward to next year's tour.
I'm sorry I've been out of touch for the past two days. My schedule has left time for nothing other than the tour and team events. I'll tell you about it, but first I'll tell you about the time trial. The thing is, I had a bad day. I felt like crap, I didn't feel strong and I had a bad race. On the flip side of things Mancebo had the best time trial of his life - he was the guy ahead of me in the GC going into the time trial. In the last time trial I beat him by over two minutes and this time he beat me. Even if I had a great race I probably would not have taken back all the time I needed to move into fifth since he rode so incredibly well. I did end up moving into fifth because of another rider's misfortune. Rasmussen had a terrible day. He crashed twice and had a few bike changes - it was a tragic day for him. He moved from third to seventh in the GC. It's really sad considering how well he rode throughout the Tour. That's all I can say about the time tiral; that's bike racing.
The next day in Paris is normally more of a parade race than anything. Usually things are decided in the GC and we can roll into Paris comfortably. This was not the case for me. Vino was just two seconds behind me in the GC so I had to follow him because of the time bonus sprints. At the first sprint he attacked 1500 metres before the line, so me and three of my teammates followed. I would have had four teammates but Vino's teammate Danielle Nardello moved Peter 'Paco' Wrolich into the barriers off Vino's wheel. He thought it was me but I went around the other way. Unfortunately the 1500 metres before the sprint were all uphill, and Vino ended up dropping everyone but me. He saved just a bit for the last 100 metres and I just didn't have the power to come around him. So we were on the same time since he got six seconds bonus and I got four seconds. I still had fifth since my fractions of a second were lower. Can you believe that? After 4000 kilometers and three weeks we were seperated by fractions of a second!
After the sprint there were a couple of attacks, which is unethical since we had not arrived on the Champs Elysees yet, and the yellow jersey and his team traditionally lead the peloton home. It had started to rain and there were two crashes, including a couple of Discovery riders. Because of the dangerous conditions the jury announced that there would be no time bonuses in Paris. Still, I stayed on his wheel for the final time bonus before we came into Paris just in case. I figured the sprinters would be up there for the final sprint so I didn't worry about that. As you probably already know, Vino won the stage and I was bumped back to sixth place at the very end of the race. The jury did take away the second bonus sprint but not the bonus at the finish. All I can do at this point is look ahead to next year's tour.
I didn't have much time to sit around and be disappointed thankfully. We rushed back to the hotel to shower and change for a formal Gerolsteiner event. The company brought many of their employees to see the race and celebrate with the riders. We were at the dinner until 1am basically, and although it was really cool, we were tired. After getting to bed late we were up early the next morning and on a bus to Gerolstein, Germany. We drove five and a half hours to sign autographs and get up on stage and meet people. Then I headed to the airport to go home. My wife and the dogs flew home straight from Paris so she was able to pick me up at the airport when I got in. She picked me up just after she picked up a pizza. This is a clear sign that the tour is over, bcause normally it's apples, bananas and rice. It was a very long day and it's so nice to be home!
Going home happens in two stages. Coming back to our house in Spain is the first step. The second step is going to our real home in California. Home in Spain is just a building but home in California is home. I can't wait. It's been a long season, and although it's not over yet I'm beginning to think about mountain biking, Sierra Nevada beer and sleeping in.
I'd like to say thank you now to Cyclingnews, the Mercury News and all my sponsors. Thanks to the above mentioned publications we were able to raise some money for the non profit we're building to raise money for animal charities. Thanks to my sponsors I can race my bike in races like the Tour de France. Thanks to Specialized I can race my super light, high performance all round kick ass bike in races like the Tour de France. That would be my Tarmac SL. Finally I would like to thank you all for reading. The fans are the most important part of what I do.
I'll see you back here next year!