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By Dede Demet Barry
The riders are now in the midst of the toughest mountain stages of the Vuelta and the race organization and drug testers are not making it any easier on them, as they put the riders in lousy hotels over the weekend, with loud music playing all night long, making for a lousy night sleep and then woke them up at the crack of dawn for blood testing. While visiting Michael this weekend in Lloret de Mar, I felt like I was having a bad nightmare, in which I was brought back to the ‘70s and stuck in a cheesy all-inclusive family resort. Normally, the guys stay in nice hotels, so this was totally unexpected and disappointing for me and Liam, but for the guys, it is truly hard to perform on the bike when they cannot get a good sleep and are served nasty food. Fortunately, it is a moving race and tonight they are in plush accommodations to make up for it. Being at the races the past few days got me thinking about how much my life has changed in the past year. One year ago, I was traveling from race to race like these guys, living out of a suitcase, pushing myself to the limit in extreme conditions and was often stuck staying in crappy hotels. There are things I miss about racing, but I felt really fortunate to be pushing the pram with Liam smiling at me on Sunday when it was 95 degrees in Lloret and the guys were suffering through their time trial and it was especially nice to know that we could go home Sunday night and sleep in our own comfy bed and have peace and quite. The stage was fast from the start today and the riders almost immediately climbed up a second category climb. A strong break featuring many climbers got away and gained minutes fairly quickly. Discovery had Stijn Devolder in the break, which was good as the rest of the team could relax in the bunch early on. Many riders were immediately in difficulty on the first climb of the day and were dropped. The peloton never really relented all day so they either never made it back on, or if they did, never had any time to recover. There were a few crashes today too, one including Christian Vandevelde, which is bad news, as he has been riding great. In the bunch, Michael spoke with Gerrit Glomser and apparently they patched things up. Michael said he is actually a friendly guy and he trains quite often in Boulder, so they had a good chat and laughed about the time trial yesterday. With Roberto’s dominance on the first mountain top finish of the Vuelta, I expected him to clobber everyone on the final climb today and ride in solo as the stage was much tougher, which suites him. Although, there remained a small group with him at the finish and sprinting is not his forte. Triki and Tom did awesome rides today and are hoping to hold on to their top ten places in the coming days. Sadly the team lost Max and Leif today as they were simply too tired out to continue. They will both go home and recover for the World Championships where max will be racing for the Netherlands and Leif in the time trial for Belgium. Max’s stage win last Friday, showed that he is a legitimate contender for the road race at Worlds, especially if it comes to a field sprint like predicted. Leif finished 6th in the individual time trial in Portugal in 2001 and hopefully he can improve on that. The finish was at 2,200 meters and the team is staying in Andorra at altitude tonight. Which makes recovery a little tougher and tomorrow is an even more ruthless stage. The weather held up today but they are forecasting showers for tomorrow that will make the tough day in the mountains even tougher.