And we're done!
The final stage of the Vuelta has finally come and gone! It was a pretty crazy day! Normally the last day is pretty anti-climactic, since there's a pretty strict protocol in the field as to what is allowed in the race, but everything kind of went to hell today.
Before the stage, I made an announcement at the breakfast table to all of the 'kids' on the team, that the next time they see a Starbucks, they are supposed to come directly to me and tell me where it is! No more waiting until I'm at the dinner table to let me know those kind of important details! They usually tell me when there's a McDonald's, but I can usual smell McDonald's, so Starbucks is a much more important thing to know about - and much harder to locate! So now it's their job to find all the Starbucks in every town we are in and tell me about it RIGHT AWAY!
Anyway, going into the stage today, everyone was predicting that the Relax team (the only continental team in the race) was going to be the one to break protocol and go against race etiquette and attack before the 100km mark. The unwritten rule is that, on the last day, the first 100km is an easy cruise, and then once the race hits the finishing circuits in Madrid, all hell breaks loose and we race to the line. But, surprisingly enough, it was Quick-Step and Liquigas that attacked.
Two riders kind of got away on the descent and then, when they saw they had a gap, started driving it. That was a HUGE no-no for our field and the rest of the teams were PISSED! But, the amazing thing was that the Relax team was the team that went to the front and brought it back! That really impressed me.
Honestly, the poor team has gotten ripped on for the entire Vuelta - sort of like the triathletes in a bike race or something - definitely the odd man out, but they really came through today! They've been racing hard for the entire three weeks, so they really deserve everyone's respect - especially because they really came through today and showed two ProTour teams the rules of the road. That was awesome!
When we hit the circuits, I attacked and got in a group for a bit. Once again, I got caught with one and a half laps to go - this is the third time in a row that I've been caught with one and a half laps to go on the final stage of a Grand Tour! Ugh! But the crowds were huge and it was a blast racing to the finish. It came down to a sprint again, and Freddy was up there, but it didn't work out for him, either, so we got shut out again! It wasn't so bad, though, as we made a strong effort and did our best - sometimes things just don't work out!
I felt great on the last day - I'm not sure if it was the Fast Freddy gels that I ate right before we got to Madrid or the Starbucks and burger that I had last night but, either way, I was flying on the circuits! Freddy's gels are great - I've got hand it to the guy on that one - there's some serious caffeine in there!
After the race things just got crazier since, unlike the Tour, no one wants to hang out and party - it was a beeline straight for the airport! Unfortunately for us, Fast Freddy couldn't get the job done peeing at the doping control, so we were stuck waiting for Not So Fast Freddy to pee! It took the guy an hour and a half, so we spent the time hanging out in the bus being bored and torturing each other.
Once I started getting bored, I started picking on 'Leuky' (Björn Leukemans). The guy had his girlfriend visiting, but they were sitting really far apart, so it was just too much of a temptation for me to resist! Since he's super homophobic, I went up to him and put my arm around him and gave him a great big kiss on the cheek. He started throwing a fit and yelling at me to get away, so then I turned to his girlfriend and said, "That's not what you were saying LAST week " Poor guy about had a stroke he was so worked up, but it was great for the rest of us.
It only got worse when we got the airport, though. The rest of the guys got dropped off at the terminal, but since I was taking a rental car back home, I was just getting a ride in the bus to the car rental place. Before the bus pulled out, I leaned out of the window to terrorize poor Leuky, yelling, "Leuky, CALL ME!" while making the sign for a phone with my thumb and pinky. Everyone at the terminal turned to look and Leukemans looked like he was going to pull me out the window and kill me! We've definitely spent way too much time together. Good thing he'll have a nice long winter to forgive me!
Anyway, the excitement didn't stop there - I'm definitely making up for the boring stages all in one day! On my drive back to Valencia the radio was cutting out, so I pulled off the highway to put in a CD that my girlfriend packed for me in my luggage. But when I went to get on again, there was no entrance to the highway in the southern direction, so I had to head back towards Madrid for a while until I could find an exit going south again. When I finally turned around, there were two accidents on the road back where I got off in the first place. So, I think that it was good that I stopped and turned around - firstly, because I might have been IN the accidents if I hadn't stopped (who knows about all that timing stuff) and secondly, I was really happy to have a CD to listen to when I was stuck in traffic forever!
So it all worked out. Plus, I just blamed the whole thing on Freddy, since I wouldn't have been late if he could have peed! It's all Freddy's fault!
Anyway, I'm very happy to be finished! Now I'm three for three so far with Grand Tours - I've started three and finished three, so that's not too bad. Honestly, with a race that's this hard, it's an accomplishment just to survive until the end! Three weeks is a long time to be racing a bike, and with the Worlds just around the corner, I'm happy to be done and moving on to getting as much rest and recovery as possible in the next few days to be ready for the next challenge!
I think that after going all the way through the Vuelta, my form could go either way for the Worlds. It's definitely a bit of a crap shoot, since it's all new territory for me, but I'm hoping for the best! Now I'm back at my Spanish place for a few days of unpacking, relaxing, working on my car and a little riding. It'll be great!
So, that's the end of my Vuelta experience! Thanks to everyone who followed the race and read my updates. I hope it was entertaining or interesting or something! Until next time - have a good one!
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