I was dreading Tuesday’s stage, but it was okay in the end. I got over the first climb, the Peyresourde, in a decent group, and felt I wasn’t on the back foot. Then we caught some guys, while some other guys got up to our group, and it ended up being 80-odd riders.
But no one really spoke in the gruppetto, and it’s been like that for a few days. Sometimes there is a bit of banter and conversation, but a lot of guys are a bit short; tempers are fraying. It’s not very nice, to be honest, but it’s because everyone is so tired.
I’m looking forward to getting to Paris, though the Tour’s not over till then, and we still have objectives as a team. For example, we’re looking forward to helping Edvald Boasson Hagen in the Bordeaux and Paris stages, by trying to put him in the best position with as little effort for him as possible.
Geraint Thomas and Brad Wiggins are both looking forward to the time trial on Saturday; one of the great positives of this Tour has been seeing Geraint develop as he has.
I’ve felt from the start, though, that I’ve been on the back foot, without the form I had at the Giro. Not being as good as you wanted to be, or as good as you know you can be, is frustrating and not much fun. But the number of Team Sky jerseys, and the British flags and general support from the public has been overwhelming, and I really want to say ‘thank you’ to all those people.
In hindsight, I think the Giro-Tour programme was too hard this year - but you couldn’t really have predicted that, because it worked well for some guys, including Brad, last year. The one guy it’s worked for this year, I think, is Thomas Voeckler, but he’s doing different things, going for stages.
I mentioned at the start that Tuesday’s stage wasn’t as bad as I expected - but last Friday’s, to Mende, was far worse. It was the toughest stage of the race, I think.
It was hard up the first climb, then the big group of 18 went away, with Ryder Hesjedal, Andreas Klöden and Alexandre Vinokourov. It never let up all day after that; the terrain was constantly up and down, and it was windy.
We had a nightmare. Geraint crashed early on, and then Brad went back because he had a sore leg, and Michael Barry went with him. But because it was so full on they ended up being out the back for quite a while, and it was touch and go for a little bit as to whether they’d get back on. It was a grim day!
As I said, there are a few days to go and we’ve still got ambitions as a team in this Tour, but there are already things we’ve been talking about - things we’ve learned for the future. That’s the thing about being in a new team - you find yourself on a massively steep learning curve.
As we get near the end you find consolation in small things - three nights in the same hotel in Pau, for example...I've also got my own room, and a kettle! It all helps.
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