By Michael Barry, Discovery Channel professional cycling team
Vuelta Stage 6
As we head west towards the Mediterranean, the temperatures have droppedbut the wind and the speed at which we are racing has increased drastically.Both yesterday and today we started racing flat out as soon as the startersflag was dropped and never relented until the finish line was crossed.Yesterday’s average speed was an impressive 47.5kph- I was in the breakawayfor the majority of the stage and noticed we were rarely dipping under50kph and were often up around 60. The amazing thing is we were going slightlyuphill for most of the stage.This morning I woke up feeling fairly recovered (I don’t think it ispossible to fully recover when racing everyday for weeks on end) from the efforts of the previous stage, which I was thankful for as I knew todaywould be a doozy with four climbs, the final a mountain top finish. TheSpanish are known as climbers and each time the race goes slightly uphillthey accelerate and a whole handful of Northern Europeans are immediatelyuncomfortable and on their physical, and perhaps mental, limit.There wasn’t much time to chat in the bunch today as we were in a singleline for most of the day as breakaways would take off and then a team wouldget to the front of the bunch to chase them down. Thankfully, all the guyson the team did their share of the work and we managed to have riders inevery major breakaway of the day, which meant we were never in a positionwhere we had to get to the front and chase. When we weren’t in single filewe were in echelons battling the wind.The plan going into today was to ensure Tom, Triki and Jose were ingood position for the final ascent to the finish. In the end Jose wasn’tfeeling anywhere near recovered from his two crashes so he wasn’t ableto follow the leaders, but Triki and Tom did a great job staying with mostof the main contenders. Roberto Heras is by far the strongest climber inthe race at the moment and accelerated up the last climb to take the stagevictory and the gold jersey with ease. His team, Liberty Seguros, doesn’tseem to have any weak links so they should be able to control the racewithout too much hassle.Many riders have already packed their bags and headed home and the raceis taking a heavy toll on the peloton each day. The attrition rate is highbecause half of the field is super motivated and the other half is readyto call it a season. I would imagine most of the sprinters that are hopingto do well at Worlds will not make it too far past the first rest day nextweek.We are up the mountains at the moment. Tomorrow’s start is in the townof Teruel and the last time I started a stage there was in the Vuelta aAragon in 2002. The town is famous for its ham and at the start line theywere handing out plates of it to whomever wanted a taste. Matt White, myteammate at the time, ate a couple of platters of it as he has a palatefor anything salty, meaty, fishy, or sweet. Too bad Teruel is in a holeand we had to climb out of it at full speed.