Vuelta diary watch: Hard times and dreams of Madrid

"That was the hardest day of my career," writes T-Mobile's young Bernhard Kohl. "After 40 kilometres we had an average speed of 50 km per hour, and that despite one mountain. I had to fall back on the first climb and forced myself up with five others. In the descent we somehow caught up with the field, but I fell back again on the next climb. Somehow I managed to get to the top, alone in the middle of the team autos, and reached the gruppetto. I was dizzy, and could barely stay on the bike. But I forced myself and reached the finish with the gruppetto.

"On the first ascent, I thought that the Vuelta was over for me. For the first time I had doubts as to whether I would make it to Madrid. Tomorrow is another mountain stage, which I hope to somehow survive. The worst thing today was a sign along the road: Madrid, 80 km. Our goal is so close but we must still go through four stages before we get there. But I will give everything I have. I absolutely want to make it to Madrid." (

Gerolsteiner's Thomas Ziegler called it simply "a hellish day" and is amazed at how fast the race is. "The Spaniards ride like crazy: 20 men break away and they ride all like crazy to catch them , even when a member of their own team is up there! That's how it comes to this crazy speed. I have never before experienced 43 km per hour in a mountain stage. We're all amazed by the Spaniards, who are never so strong in races outside Spain but here can't be stopped.

"I want to make it to the end, no matter what. Still three more days. Madrid is definitely my goal. When you have managed to survive a three-week Tour, you feel like a winner at the end, because you've managed to overcome yourself." (

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

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