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Spain's heat haze hampers the brain

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The Spanish sun scorches the peloton.

The Spanish sun scorches the peloton. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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USA's Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) races home to fifth place for the stage.

USA's Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) races home to fifth place for the stage. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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The HTC-Columbia riders celebrate on the podium

The HTC-Columbia riders celebrate on the podium (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

So we kicked ass in the team time trial, that was pretty rad! It was just nice to get the race started after three days in Spain riding two hours a day in 45-degree (Celsius) heat, then sitting all day in the hotel room bored with the aircon on full blast.

There were some pretty intense moments before and after the ttt. Before the race Cav was off his chops yelling at everyone, then two seconds later he would apologise, tell us he loved us, and tell us we were going to win as long as we didn't cock it up. Well, he was right, and we didn't cock it up.

After some serious nail biting listening to the split times of all the other teams comming in we knew we had done it once Cervélo crossed the line. I'm sure the screams from our bus woke a few people up in the next town. What a start to my first Grand Tour!

It was hard to get to sleep that night after all the excitment. The team gathered in Hayden's and my hotel room for a beer to celebrate. Nothing special, just pulled the Heinikens from the mini-bar. Then we popped a sleeping pill to take the edge off and fell asleep at around 2am. I think all ttt's should be at night. However, I don't want to start doing mass events in the dark. Please.

I was looking forward to the start of the stage two, the first road stage, but once out there it was so hot everyone was getting loopy. Normally in the routine of the race, the break goes, and there is a moment where all the riders relax, eat, drink, pee, and chat. Only today nobody was being social.

Anytime I would try to talk to someone all I would get was a grunt or a wheez. I went up to Dave Zabriskie to say hey and he stright up told me, "It's good to see you man, but I can't breathe right now so you're gonna have to shut up."

It was difficult to focus, and that was evident when two of our guys crashed on a descent while riding the front in defense of Cav's red jersey. The heat also takes a huge toll on the immune system. Lots of riders were falling ill, and sadly we had to say goodbye to Bernie (the Donkey) Eisel.

The peloton seemed to be in a bit of disarray with Bernie missing. Anyone who knows Bernie knows that the peloton belongs to him; he keeps people in line. When you saw the team that was pulling early in the stage today you could tell Bernie wasn't there. Things just started making less sense.

Luckily it's cooled down a bit in the last couple days, meaning its gone from 45 degrees Celsius to 39 degrees, but it still has been anything but easy. Stage four saw a bunch of the GC guys feeling each other out and stretching their legs. Even heavy hitters like Sastre lost some big time.

The major GC days are still to come but I'm sure a lot of guys are still going to be feeling a bit of a sting from this first week. Tomorrow is a good chance for a bunch sprint, so we will try to do a better job delivering Cav to the final 200 metres. As for the GC, Peter and I are sitting in a good position and are both motivated. We'll try to stay up there as long as we can.

By the way, Hayden and I were just saying how much we love this time of night. After dinner when everything is over and you can just sit with the TV, computer, book, cell, ipod or whatever and have no stress for an hour. The simple pleasures.

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Follow American Tejay van Garderen's (HTC-Highroad) exclusive Cyclingnews blog

22-year-old van Garderen, had a stellar 2010 debut season in the ProTour ranks and finished third at the Dauhpine in June and coming in 35th place overall in his debut Grand Tour at the Vuelta a Espana.

In 2009 he finished second overall at the Tour de l'Avenir.

Van Garderen spent the 2008-2009 seasons racing for the Dutch Rabobank Continental team. Winner in 2009 of France's Tour du Haut Anjou and the final stage of the Netherlands' Olympia's Tour (plus second overall).