Rest days. Just like race days but with out the racing. Sounds weird, but they're really not that different from a normal Tour stage. Okay, we don't go eyeballs out through 230km of French countryside but we still go through the motions of any other day in the Tour.
We still get up early, we eat, we go out on the bikes, we finish (tired), we have a massage, the mechanics work on our bikes, we eat and then we sleep. The rhythm is the same but we don't need to switch on for the competition of racing. Unsurprisingly, I try and keep things simple on rest days to maximise recovery. I want as few complications as possible, especially after the last few stages.
I managed to get through the climbs on stage seven to Andorra Arcalis. My role was to make sure that Christian and Bradley were in the best possible positions and they were ready for the final climb. Job done, but with around 10km left I was shelled out the back.
The next stage to Saint-Girons was a totally different experience. We started with a Cat 1 climb of Port d'Envalira in the first 25km and immediately I knew I was in trouble. I was slipping back at an alarming rate, unable to help the team as I ran out of gears. In the end I had to accept that the previous day and the two crashes I'd had in the first week were beginning take their toll.
You just have to accept that these things happen: you can't be at the front all day, every day. I ended up spending the stage in the gruppeto and saving as much energy as I could. It paid off. The next day on stage nine was a lot better and I finished with the main bunch and at the side of Christian and Bradley.
What Bradley has done since the Tour began has been truly amazing but to me it's not a total surprise. Now that he's focussing entirely on the road he's had time to adapt and progress. After the Giro we all had an idea that he could be there with the best guys on the climbs, but to have him up there with Christian, who had such bad luck earlier in year, certainly means a lot to the team.
Last year we had Christian up there in the general classification flying the flag for us but now we have two guys in the top eight and both of them within striking distance of the yellow jersey. Other teams will look at the overall and think 'Wow! Garmin must be a factor in this race. Are they going to keep both guys as high as possible or use one as a weapon?', so we're really in a strong position in that sense.
Bring on the Alps!