By Michael Barry, U.S. Postal Service professional cycling team
Murcia ended up being quite successful for the team: we accomplished morethan we had set out to with two stage wins and a solid team effort. U.S.Postal currently has the most victories of any team in the professionalpeloton which isn’t bad considering we were the last to start racing.
Friday’s stage at Murcia was a little harder than the profile had suggestedand some serpentine undulating roads took most of the peloton by surprise,split things up and zapped a good amount of energy out of everybody’s legsand spirits.
It ended up being good for us as the challenge of the course made therace harder giving our team the advantage going into the final sprint withMax. With 30 km to go, Triki, Chechu, Jurgen and Daniel went to the frontto set a strong tempo in the peloton and to real in a breakaway that wastwo minutes up the road. Once the break was caught and we neared the five-kilometer to go banner and finish line Pavel, Lance and I kept Max near the front of the bunch and out of the wind to ensure he was as fresh as possiblefor the charge to the line.
With just over a kilometer to go, Pavel was on the front stringing thepeloton out into a single line. Next I did a hard effort on the front andthen Lance took Max to the line. Lance went through the last corner withouttouching his brakes at full speed. At the line Max won by a good bike lengthover Zabel with the next riders coming across the line in single file.
It is rare the team does a lead out and very rare Lance is even closeto the front in a final sprint. It was an extreme adrenalin rush and everybodyon the team gave everything they had to get Max to the line in positionto win.
One of the trends I have noticed in the last two races is that we areracing as a team, unselfishly for one common goal. With both Floyd’svictories and Max’s, everyone road towards a common goal unselfishly whichis a great feeling and bodes well for the future events. These races havenot been marked as “goals for the season” but more as races to get in shapefor the events to come. Other teams, such as Kelme, are flying at the momenttrying to gain as many points as possible as early as possible.
The “queen stage” of Murcia was on a course over a tough road with severalclimbs and a mountain top finish. Daniel Rincon, our new Colombian climbingace who has a perpetual smile on his face, even when it is pissing rain,cold and muddy, was going to go for the stage victory and I was given thefreedom to race for my own position overall.
Right from the start I knew that I was not on a good day as my legsfelt empty and painful with each hard acceleration in the bunch. I figuredI might as well try and push through it, ride my own tempo up the finalclimb and at least put in a good effort as I hadn’t really gone too hardyet up a long climb this season.
Kelme rode in dominance of the peloton right from the start of the stage,as they knew they had a potential winner in Valverde. Rincon held toughwith the leaders until the final kilometers of the long climb when a flyingDiLuca, Valverde and company left him.
Lance held strong with the leaders for several kilometers of the climbbut then stepped off the accelerator to ride at his own tempo to the finishline, as it isn’t really the time of year for him to be going into thered zone on a climb.
Sunday’s final stage was set up to be a field sprint in downtown Murciaas the course was flat. So, we thought it could be another opportunityfor Max and we helped him out as much as possible. It wasn’t an ideal finishfor him, as it wasn’t really selective and hard enough and he ended upgetting caught behind a few crashes and wasn’t able to get in positionto take the run to the line he needed to win.
As soon as the race was over we were changed, in the cars and all onour separate ways home. I decided to drive back to Girona as it was quickerthan flying and Daniel accompanied me for half of the trip. Daniel is thebrother of Olivero, a Colombian cycling legend and climbing ace from theearly to mid 90’s. Daniel lives in Duitama with his wife. A lot of guystake their jobs as cyclists and opportunities for granted, but not Daniel.It is really inspiring to see how happy and appreciative Daniel is to beracing and to be a part of the U.S. Postal team.
At dinner two nights ago Miguel Indurain stopped by our table to sayhello. Daniel was in awe, like a kid in a candy shop with bright wide eyes.I would imagine kids around the world will be looking at him in the sameway in years to come- if they aren’t already.
Visit Michael’s website at michaelbarry.cafor more on the U.S. Postal rider and his wife Dede Demet-Barry, who ridesfor the T-Mobile women’s team.