The past two days of the Tour of California have been so much cooler than the first two, and in Santa Barbara it was so pleasant it almost felt arctic compared with what we've been having.
Even though the temperatures are down, the racing is just as hot as ever, and we still haven't had any easy, cruisy, relaxing stages.
On stage 3 in Palmdale, a strong cross-tailwind at the start could have been decisive had the lead group that got away after the start been slightly different. We weren't ideally represented, but Mick and Jonas were in the early move with Tejay [van Garderen] and about 20 other guys. But a lot of GC contenders got caught out. Maybe if it had been composed a little differently it would have been gone and the race would be over. At the same time, it would have been a team time trial on both groups chasing each other the entire day.
The wind was just obnoxious all day. At the start it was a fast cross-tail, which helped form the split, and in the canyons all day it was just swirling: headwind, crosswind, tailwind. It was never comfortable, you always had to be aware of the wind, and having a tailwind up those climbs wasn't easy.
So even though it was a short stage, it was solid all day and then a field sprint, and a hectic one no less. We were strung out single file all day, and then we finished on these wide open, enormous 10-lane roads, and the peloton was curb to curb. No matter how hard or fast a team pulls on the front, you just can't string it out on a road like that, so it makes it a real washing machine effect. A bit of a chaotic sprint.
We were leading out the sprint for Michael Mørkøv, but we went a little too early. In a situation like that you have to leave it late, and hit it at just the right moment because it's so hard to string it out.
The next day from Santa Clarita headed out on those same enormous roads, and made for a little bit of a crazy start. There was so much debris on the road, with bits of tires and metal, and this line of cones separating us from the oncoming traffic. Some guys were doing some slalom attacking on the wrong side of the cones. You don't need to be slaloming through the oncoming semi trucks like that. I actually got a flat tire in the first 10km and had to get back in.
Later on as we were going through some orange groves, we had some more excitement when we got hit by a dust devil, which is a sort of miniature tornado. Apparently it took a few guys out. My teammates and I were at the front and got hit by it, and it just kind of sand blasted us, it wasn't too bad. But I guess if it hits you at the wrong moment it could knock you over. It was pretty entertaining, if you didn't crash, that is. I'll take mini-tornados over rain, snow or 120-degree heat any day.
Most of my day was spent keeping Mick out of trouble. I knew the finale from time spent scoping out the stages this spring, and that helped the team in the last 15km going into Santa Barbara. But I just couldn't go very hard on that last climb, I'm still feeling the effects of that crash and lacking a little power.
Mick, however, is feeling good. He and the other GC contenders had to show their cards early in the race, but until the time trial it's all about conserving. He's climbing well, and he's got an amazing TT pedigree, so if he's climbing well, that bodes really well for the TT, which also includes a climb.
We're certainly rallying around him for the overall.
Mick and I are actually roommates this tour, and we get along pretty well. We don't watch TV which is perfect, we go to bed early and get up at the same time. Although of the two of us, I think I'm the snorer. With my crash the other day I've been having to sleep on my back and I think that makes me snore. I have to give him some earplugs and tell him to throw a pillow at me when I snore.
Today's stage has another tricky beginning. Anytime the start is windy or it starts on a climb, it can form a more dangerous break, because the guys in it are strong, rather than like yesterday when it was 20km on the highway, and it was more of a tactical approach to forming the breakaway.
We'll just try and keep Mick safe and fresh for tomorrow.