The final week of the Vuelta for NetApp-Endura

Getting inside the 'constant mind game' of survival

We're into the final week of the Vuelta and the peloton has been drastically reduced in size on account of the cold, the mountains and the speed of the race.

I'm not going to lie, I found the Pyrenees to be one of the biggest challenges I've faced as a rider. When I was dropped it was with good size groups but you can see that the large majority of guys are right on their limit for a long time; fighting, hoping to come back, or hoping that their tenth attempt at getting away will work. When I was suffering I found myself repeating phrases in my head, most of them went along the lines of, 'don't drop the wheel', 'stay here', 'on the limit'. I've heard those three phases a lot!

I hope that I'm not over dramatizing this but I found the mountain stages to be pretty bloody emotional. You'll be hanging on at your limit for an hour, followed by an influx of unimaginable happiness to make it back, then you're hit by the realisation there's still 180km and 3 cat 1's to go. It's a constant mind game, I try to not get over excited and just focus on one day at a time, or even one mountain, and when it gets ridiculously hard I even try to find the humour in each situation; even though it's not really that funny at the time, (and will take another twelve months before it is.)

Leo's [Leopold Konig] continued his great form and currently sits in 8th overall and to be honest, he doesn't seem like a rider about to crack. You can normally see signs at breakfast or during neutral zones of riders who are uncomfortable, but at the moment he seems confident and strong heading into three really important days from Thursday - Saturday.

Bartosz [Bartosz Huzarski] bombed the last 3km of stage 16 into a 3rd place, if you watch the replay, he's nowhere to be seen and then all of a sudden he's tagging onto Uran and Barguil's wheel for his second top three in a grand tour stage, after getting second on a Giro stage last year. He's been really strong all race and I don't think we've seen the last of him in the mountain finishes.

Speaking of Barguil, it's pretty amazing to think that leading into the last rest day, he was struggling to hang onto gruppetto after a severe crash at the start of one of the toughest stages and now he has come back to win two stages. He could barely walk when we boarded the plane in Granada a week ago so his ability to fight is there for everyone to see.

Personally I've been assisting Leo as best I can, then surviving the mountain stages and looking forward to hopefully having another go tomorrow in the sprint. For the moment I'm trying not to get ahead of myself, I'm just concentrating day by day on the stage, without looking too far into the race book. But I know this race won't go on forever so I'll take whatever chances I can get!

Enjoy the battles of the last week.

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