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A hectic final week at the Vuelta

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Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)

Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Sylvain Chavanel flew the colours of the French champion in the breakaway

Sylvain Chavanel flew the colours of the French champion in the breakaway (Image credit: AFP Photo)

Hello everybody,

Imagine riding a Grand Tour and the first real flat stage for the sprinters comes after the second rest day, six days before the end of the race. Crazy, but this is the Vuelta.

I feel okay, tired of course, but it could be worse. On the rest day, I was able to recover well - we had an excellent hotel that included thalassotherapy, so I spent the day on a massage table. Afterwards there were hot and cold baths, things like that. The day went by really fast. I didn't touch the bike at all!

It was just what I needed after the Angliru. I knew this climb from 2008. It's 12 kilometres long, and at the bottom it's still a normal pass of 8 or 9 percent. After that it flattens out a bit and then there are four really difficult kilometres, all between 17 and 23 percent. I used a 34x29... It's really spectacular.

When you watch the TV images, you can see that even the best riders are in slow motion on this section. So imagine what it's like further back. I won't hide that the public pushed us a bit, you can't avoid it anyway. I had been dropped on the penultimate climb, so I just rode the Angliru at my own pace, tranquillo.

But you know, this is not the hardest climb of all. I've been told that the Zoncolan in Italy is worse: there, the hard bit that is as steep as the Angliru is not four kilometres long, but ten. Unbelievable.

We've come to the final week but the race is not over. On Wednesday, the final climb will probably see a last fight for GC, as it's six kilometres at an average of ten percent - including parts up to 19 percent. Another terrible climb, and it could see some bigger gaps. It's certainly not over for Cobo yet!

For me as an attacker, the last few stages until Saturday are all hilly and well-suited to breakaways, so the battle will be on. But it will be difficult to get away. Until now, there haven't been a lot of escapes that have gone to the finish, and moreover there haven't been many winning teams yet. There have been a number of double stage wins, for example Liquigas and Cofidis, while Katusha have even scored a triple! They say that everybody is tired, but the stage starts are just as fast as in the beginning of the race. And honestly, I don't know which team will control the race, so I reckon it will be hectic.

I like the Basque country, the climbs are not too steep – the sort of ascents where you have to use a big gear. I'll try to find the right moment to attack; I tried before, but of course they won't let me get away so easily... It's also not easy to remain focused mentally. What gives me motivation is my objective. So wish me luck...