I’m writing to you on the rest day. This morning, I slept late until 10.30 – wonderful. Then, we went for a ride at midday, and I did an hour and a half. Unfortunately, our hotel is surrounded by mountains, so there was no other way than to climb... Let's say it didn't break our habits here at the Vuelta a España!
As you know, I lost the red jersey last Saturday on a wall of 28 percent gradient, when [Joaquim] Rodriguez attacked and took the stage win. It was just too hard for me. The next day, there was another difficult summit finish, averaging eight percent over the last ten kilometres, and I held on until there but then I exploded. I finished the stage tranquillo... I lost nine minutes on the stage winner, and I hope this will make them leave me alone a bit in the next few days!
I did the time trial à bloc; I liked the difficult course but you had to have a lot of power for it. On GC, I'm ten minutes down now, and I think that's just perfect. I'll try to go for that stage victory, create the right opportunity. Of course, I won't reveal my exact plans!
The competition is tough here at the Vuelta, and there are a lot of guys like me, who would like to win a stage. The level is high, and the course is difficult. We do an average of 3000 vertical metres every day... Tomorrow, it's 3700, on Thursday 2100, Friday 4500, Saturday 4600... Not bad, is it?
Fortunately, the heat has eased off these last few days as we moved north. From around 40° during the first week, it came down to 28°, then 22° for today. They’re even expecting some rain in the next few days, which suits me. I never disliked the rain! I'm not finished, I tell you... and I hope the best is still to come. I want to raise my arms wearing the blue-white-red jersey and finish off a beautiful Vuelta.
For the GC and our overall man Kevin Seeldrayers, this second week will also be all-decisive. There are three summit finishes yet to come. And I'm sure there will be some fireworks and some guys will try to move back up the classification – the Vuelta is still very open and the fighting will be intense. For the team that has to defend the jersey, it's not going to be very pleasant. Attacks will come from all sides. At the same time, Sky is a solid team.
For the overall victory, my bet is Vincenzo Nibali, who is only 30 seconds down. But everything will depend on the Angliru climb; this stage will be the key to this year's Vuelta. Last week, we saw some of the overall favourites having bad moments like Scarponi and then Rodriguez, who both lost two minutes. Other riders can suffer the same fate, especially on the Angliru with its steep percentages. The GC situation can still change quite a bit.
Bradley Wiggins is also very impressive, his climbing the other day was very strong. In the time trial, he started out very fast as I saw on TV, but then he lost some time again in the finale. But he is going really well.
Next time I'll update this blog will be after my stage win... haha! Hopefully. Let's not get carried away...
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French national champion Sylvain Chavanel (Quickstep), a veteran of 13 Grand Tours will be sharing his experiences and insights as he rides the 2011 Vuelta a Espana. Chavanel has won 38 races in his career, including multiple stages of the Tour de France. A noted time trialist, Chavanel has shown his versatility in recent years, and has developed into one of the strongest cobbled Classics riders in the peloton.
The 32-year-old has had a lean 2011 season by his own lofty standards and will be looking to have a successful Vuelta as he prepares for the UCI Road World Championships in Copenhagen.