Tour of California - 2.1 USA, February 19-26, 2006
The one that got away?
Stage 6 - February 25: Santa Barbara to Thousand Oaks, 144km
Right from the start, our team's strategy has been to always be aggressive and look for the stage win. Unfortunately, nothing has been able to get away; there's always been a team that doesn't have a rider in there and it [the break] has ended up being chased down, so it doesn't work. But we've always has someone in the breakaway - usually, it's one of our guys starting the breakaway - and they've really ridden exceptional this week.
Up Balcolm Canyon climb, we knew it was steep but it wasn't that long. I want to make it clear it wasn't exactly a big climb and it was a fourth category climb that was a long ways from the finish - it was really only steep for like one kilometre. The other riders [going for the mountain jersey] were sprinting against me and I kind of asked myself what they were doing, because it was over with.
It's tough to say if Sebastian [Lang] would have got there if he didn't puncture... he was going pretty fast for being on his own. A couple of teams started to chase but they weren't really taking much time out of him - then all of a sudden the gap was a lot less and I didn't know why at the time until I heard on the radio he had a problem. It's tough to say... the speed goes up on the [finishing] circuit, but he would have made it onto the circuit and made a great race out of it.
I thought CSC had gone a bit too early in the finale - only because that last kilometre and a half had a couple of undulations in it, and they had kind of spent their energy before that. They could of used a bit more speed there to keep their sprinter Stuart O'Grady in the front. So I think they went out too early, but it's hard to predict that and they were doing a great job before then.
Tomorrow, out of our team, I think [Rene] Haselbacher or David Kopp could definitely do a good sprint for sure. But anything can happen - I would have predicted a breakaway one of these last few days but that didn't happen, so tomorrow I predict a field sprint, so maybe a breakaway will happen! Most likely, I think it's going to be a field sprint.
A lot of the teams are taking this race very seriously and it's an important race for many teams, so anytime there's a break and one of those teams is left out, then they have to chase and they bring it back. So really, it hasn't been the right combination of all of the teams in the breakaway; today, Discovery missed it and they had to chase for 50 kilometres.
It's been a great week... the racing has been outstanding, the number of people along the route and the support that we've had, it's been incredible, so it's going to be a little bit sad to finish tomorrow because it has been such a wonderful event.
Unlike the Tour, I don't think we've had any long transfers... I mean, today, we had to drive an hour after the finish but that was mainly because of LA traffic! And the food's been great; all the hotels have really provided a spread for the race - typical bike racer food, but it's been great. Actually, when I was home in Santa Rosa, I had a friend who made me dinner and couple of times this week I've had another friend bring me some Indian food and some Thai food, so that's been really cool. Mind you, I wouldn't be eating any Thai food during the Tour :)
I'm most likely going to take a break now because Paris-Nice is not a race that suits me and there's no need to try to go to a race and try to win just because I have good form - it's not my kind of race. It's better to take a break and stick with the plan. I'm not a one day rider, so I'll be doing a couple of smaller stage races in March and April just for training, with the focus being the Tour.
Catch you same time tomorrow,
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