By Dede Demet Barry, T-Mobile professional cycling team
It’s been a long time since I competed in a 10-day tour. The approach is a little different from the shorter tours – in a race this long, it’s important to conserve one’s energy for the critical moments.
So at the start of the Tour de L’Aude, I took a good look at the race bible, which contains all of the stage distances and course profiles. With my team, we determined what we thought would be the most significant stages based on the difficulty of the mountain passes and the time trials.
We have broken the race up into segments. The first stage did not look too difficult, so we agreed that it would be important to conserve as much energy as possible. The second was a time trial, which was a opportunity to gain time, and we raced full-on. The following three days had some climbs, but were not particularly demanding, so once again, these were days when we wanted to keep our eye on the general-classification contenders, follow wheels and save our strength.
To our surprise, one of the real threats for GC, Trixi Worrack, attacked in the first part of stage 4 and rode away solo for 80km to win the stage, take the leader’s jersey, and gain a two-minute advantage. When she attacked, we were cresting the top of a hors categorie climb. Kimberly Bruckner and I thought she would sprint for the mountain points and sit up, but she kept motoring away and forced our team to chase.
Although losing time on GC is never really the perfect scenario, T-Mobile was a bit relieved to not have to defend the leader’s jersey so early in the race; having it on someone else’s shoulders allowed us to save ourselves for the time trial and the critical mountain stages.
Another surprise came yesterday, when Lyne Bessette attacked midway through the stage, going away with one other rider. Often the GC contenders try to take it easy the day before a time trial in a tour like this, but Lyne took a risk and tried to gain some time. With Trixi leading the race, Team Nürnberger let Lyne gain a minute and then rode tempo behind her, keeping her in check until the final kilometer, where they reeled her in. Lyne gave a good effort, but looked wasted from her efforts at the finish and had nothing to show for it.
Today we did the second time trial. I woke up with my legs feeling not so fresh, but that is normal after five days of racing, and I convinced myself that everyone in the peloton must be feeling the same way. Actually, our team was fortunate enough to have had a fairly tranquil stage yesterday – we followed wheels while Nürnberger chased and did not have to extend ourselves too much, so perhaps we had fresher legs than a few of the others.
The time-trial course was hilly and required concentration. Choosing the right gear on the undulating terrain would be the difference between winning and losing. We were going off at three-minute intervals, so I did not really have a rabbit in sight to chase. I just gave every ounce of energy from start to finish, crossed the line wasted from my efforts and found out that I won! I was ecstatic, and to make things even better, my teammates filled out the podium, as Kimberly came second and Kristin Armstrong third.
We now have the leader’s jersey back on our shoulders, which will make the next few days tough – but it’s a challenge the team has shown they are ready to take on. Tomorrow’s stage profile looks like it could be one for the sprinters, unless the winds kick up. Friday and Saturday we head into the mountains. Stay tuned.