By Michael Barry, U.S. Postal Service professional cycling team
The race is now into the mountains and things are beginning to really shake up in the overall classification. The race is moving along nicely for us as Floyd is in gold and Triki is in the top 10. After their incredible rides in the TT they have managed to maintain their positions at the top of the classification for the last week. It has been an awesome ride for the team so far – we have won a stage and carried the leader’s jersey since the start in Leon.
In the time trial it was expected that Victor, Floyd and Dave would ride well but it was a real surprise when Vic finished a close second to Tyler and had both Floyd and Triki in his wake in third and fourth. Dave Zabriskie had a mechanical problem early, though, and was not able to ride the race he had hoped.
Triki did one of the rides of his life in the time trial to finish fourth, as he is not known as a time trialist but as a pure climber. After the race he said he was nervous prior to the start because he was imagining all the cameras that would be following him in the jersey -he did not want to disappoint all the Spaniards watching the race on television or reading about it in the paper. These thoughts of failure gave him wings.
The terrain near Alicante is quite nice with terraced olive groves on the mountainsides and orange groves in the valleys. From the start today the sun beat down on us and within the first hour all of my clothes were soaked through with sweat. It is hard to race in the intense heat and keep hydrated. We were constantly downing bottles of energy drink and water but still, I felt dehydrated at the finish.
Morale within the team is still high, although we lost Max today. He is pretty tired out from a tough run of races in the last weeks and looks like he needs to get home and rest up for the coming events. He said he was fine on the flats but couldn’t push at all when the race went uphill.
We have our bus back and it is a blessing. She isn’t rolling along quite like before, according to Luc, our driver, but she can get us to the start and back home off the top of the mountain, which is essential. I am amazed at how he can maneuver it through tight ancient towns or down the switchbacks of a mountain. Today, as we drove down the mountain the front end of the bus was scraping the guardrail as we cornered through the switchbacks. Dodgy, and I am glad I am not behind the wheel.
In the coming days we’ll have some more climbing and attacks to deal with but the rest day is now on the horizon. I think we have reached the point in the race where, if asked, we couldn’t remember all the stages or the towns we have stayed in. I think Dede, my wife, also says that 10 days into a race I become pretty dull on the phone and don’t have much to say.
It is strange being in a three-week race, as we are in a bit of a bubble. The only contact we have with the outside world is through the news on TV, talking with the staff of the hotel, or talking to family and friends on the phone. Otherwise, it is cycling all day, every day, for 21 days.