September 20, 2008
Bringing it to you fresh like a Burrito from Mexico
Stage 5: Zamora-Morelia, 146.3Km
Well, the first of the two big climbing stages was upon us. Once again we let the attacks flow for the first 30-40km because we didn't want to have to ride the front for the whole stage. The less air time out on the pointy end of the peloton the better for the lads.
Unfortunately Matty woke up sick and struggled up the first climb... we lost him at about 50 kilometres in. A real shame as he was going well at the moment and it would have been good to have him with me, for sure. We eventually got a small break up the road with no real threats to us. The climbs weren't too difficult, either.
On the first two climbs the attacks flew but the lads got on the front to settle everything down. Just before the base of the second ascent there was a road closure in the form of tangled bikes and bodies. Luckily we were all in front of it but a few Scott guys went down. We tried to call it neutral for a few minutes to let guys get going again, but of course some riders didn't feel like that and kept attacking.
By the third KOM Scott had taken an interest in driving the peloton up the climb; either to bring the break back or see if I could climb. Well I proved the latter true and they also pulled the break back a fair bit, which also worked in my favour. Over the top and 25km to go I still had Moises and Ian in tow. Basically now we just had to sit in and stay out of trouble and let the sprinters do their thing. The race was cut a kilometre shorter than the scheduled finish nine people died there in a bomb explosion on Mexico's Independence day (September 15th). On that note, the roads were lined all day with military, packing some serious heat, and we had a couple of escort choppers as well.
But back to the finish. As usual the closing kilometres were a tad bumpy, and of course there were a couple of sketchy corners, but we were getting used to that now. The sprint was crash-free on this stage but maybe because the field was only about 50 strong... All three of us finished up front with no troubles. Another successful defence of the yellow jersey and another awesome ride by all the guys.
Stage 6 - Morelia-Zitacuaro, 150Km
Today was supposed to be the hardest of all the climbs; only one on the stage but it was over 20km long. We employed the same tactics as yesterday, but this time some guys within a minute of the lead managed to escape. Jonesy and Fabs once again proved they're worth their weight in gold by setting the early pace on the climb before the attacks began.
At one point Fabs was trying to move up to us but was jammed, so he tapped a guy to ask to move out and the Mexican went off his nut and tried to smash Fabs off his bike... similarly to what happened to Jonesy. Fabs might be a little guy but he wasn't backing down at all - the Mexican copped it big time! Nice work, mate.
The break had blown out to over two minutes but the flurry of attacks on the climb wore the gap down a fair bit by the top. Guys were hitting out all the way up. I followed some dangerous moves a couple of times on the steeper sections and hit over them on one occasion just to let them know I was doing ok, just in case they were wondering.
Kobza, Moises and I-Mac all rode brilliantly to keep the break in check on and after the climb. I think what really brought the time down was Kobza leading the descent. He's a really good descender and I had to punch it hard to stay with him. About 20 or more riders actually got dropped going down the descent, including a few Euros, which was surprising.
By the bottom of the descent the lads had reeled in all but three guys from the early move; one of them was Moises' bro so I'm sure it felt weird that he chased him all day but the end reward was satisfying. With 100km to go there was no help as yet, but Kobza and Moises rode the front all on their own until Tecos finally decided to put one rider up there to help. We knew if we kept the break close enough that a few sprinters' teams would move up and help towards the finish.
Luckily some Spaniards came up and helped out with 25km to go, which helped close the final time gap. Moises' brother still lingered out front with 5km remaining and we knew he was a strong rider but were happy to have him out there to take the 10-second time bonus away from some of the other guys. He held off the chase by the sprinters' teams by 12 seconds, I think.
It was an awesome ride and an emotional one for Moises. A long hard day on the front and his bro took a fine win. It was situation normal when a spill blocked half the road coming into the sprint. It happened on the right and luckily I was on the left, out of trouble. Ian and I still had to brake a little but still snuck in on the same time, no problems. Ivan Stevic actually had to jump a guy lying on the ground with his bike, although his back wheel came down on the dude's leg - ouch!
The squad is riding awesome - they are all hauling ass and now they all have new names:
Valeriy - "The Kobzanator"
Moises - "La Locomotora"
Ian - "50 Cal"
Chris - "Stock Car"
Fabio - "El Cohete"