It was hot, hard, and fast today. The break went away early so I didn't have to worry about the intermediate sprints, I just had to worry about getting through the stage without over cooking. It's a matter of not going too deep into the red zone.
These mountain stages are all about saving as much energy as possible, and picking opportunities to get some points. Hopefully, in the final week, there will be some stages where I can use my good climbing form (well good for me) to put a gap between myself, Thor and Robbie.
But it won't be easy. Thor is a tough nut but he doesn't like the heat too much, and although I would normally prefer it a bit cooler, I hope the mercury hits 100 tomorrow.
I will probably have to have a go in the first two sprints tomorrow, because they are before the climbs and I am feeling pretty good. It is time to start reducing the gap to Thor and it is a matter of just pecking away and taking every opportunity as it arises.
Of course Robbie is sprinting very fast but there doesn't look like there will be many bunch sprints for stage wins until Paris. It looks like it will be another close one and it will be won by however has the best form over the final week.
July 15, 2005: So close...
By Matt White
Boy, it was a hot day and they raced it hard. For a lot of guys, it was a last chance to win a stage. For us, we wanted break to go and take the intermediate sprints so we didn't have to contest them. It worked perfect for us and it meant it was left to the Lotto team to chase the break down. They did a good job too and as it turned out, Stuey gave Robbie a run for his money.
Stuey had an up and down sort of day. Sometimes he said he felt good, and other times not so good, but he took some points from Hushovd but lost a few to Robbie.
We were in a funny position nearing the finish when Sylvain Chavanel got clear and he was going strong. I was just setting up to chase for Stuey and then we had to sit on it. The team is riding really well and the spirits are high.
It was a mad dash for bottles today and it was a bit of a traffic jam at times. I reckon we drank more bottles today than any two days so far.
It is shaping up to be a real interesting battle for the green jersey. Hushovd is not a fan of the hot weather and Robbie and Stuey seem to be sprinting more consistently.
We have two big days now in the Pyrenees and it will be gruppetto again for me. But it is the days coming up in the Massif Central that have me worried. If you have a bad day through there you are likely to be isolated and it's not a nice place to be.
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