I’ve gotten through the first week of the Vuelta and actually surprised to be feeling so good after eight stages of racing. Don’t get me wrong, everyone gets tired but it’s a different kind of fatigue compared to how you would feel at the end of another eight-stage race.
I’m mentally prepared for another two weeks and have taken a different approach to the racing itself. Now that the rest day is only one day away, I’m really looking forward to it.
Plenty has happened over the last few days. It was awesome when Simon Clarke won stage 4. The amazing thing about his win was that the team planned it. We only wanted one guy to go in the break and it was Simon who the team wanted in there. He stepped up and immediately got it the break. It was a pretty special thing to do, winning on a mountain-top finish and ahead of a guy like Tony Martin.
I heard he’d won when a car passed me with about 10km to go. From then on it was a pretty easy ride to the finish knowing your teammate had just won the day. The whole team really enjoyed that moment.
We had another close call for Allan and while it’s not the most ideal lead-out team, we’re learning everyday about what we should be doing. It’s been disappointing that Allan hasn’t been able to get the win but there are a few more chances to come. He’s in great shape and it’s been a real learning experience taking on this role with him. The lead-out is getting better and better and I think we are so close to seeing Allan throw his hands in the air.
The thing with trying to control the sprints is that you’re always short on numbers but having someone like Daniel Teklehaymanot in the team is a big help. He’s one of the few guys who, when everyone is pulling their final turn, can somehow swing back in and pull another ‘final’ turn. It’s bloody handy to have a guy like that. I really hope he’s given his own opportunity later in the race to show his strength and go for a stage win or cause some grief in the mountains - which he really could do.
I haven’t been thinking about any personal opportunities because I know that if it’s a sprint day then I’ve got to be on. I’m the last guy in the lead-out so I need to be basically feeling as good as the actual sprinter. On the days which don’t suit a sprint, I’ve got to take it as easy as possible in the peloton to make sure I’m ready for the next day. At the moment I really want to perfect the lead-out for Allan and get as much experience for the coming races in this position. I’m not going to waste any energy going in breakaways yet.
We just had our team meeting for today - stage 9 - and it’s going to be a really tough finish. Allan gets over those small hills very well - for a sprinter but it’s going to be a matter of having some support there for him at the finish. It depends on how some of the real punchy riders like Gilbert decide to ride the final climb. If he launches an attack, I’m not sure anyone can really go with those kinds of riders.
Mitchell Docker is riding his first grand tour at the Vuelta a España for Orica-GreenEdge after spending the past three seasons with Skil-Shimano. The 25-year-old Australian had a rough start to the year after crashing during a training camp and while he began his season later than normal, he's motivated for the challenge that awaits over the coming weeks.
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