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Michael Barry’s Diary: Full bore and half rest

We are over halfway through the Vuelta and have reached the first rest day. The last two days were tough, with lots of climbs, and a relentless pace in the peloton. Tonight we are staying at the ski station of Benasque, a small little village that attracts Spanish royalty during the ski season and bike racers during the summer. The last two days Liberty Seguros has controlled the race from start to finish despite the fact that they don’t have the race lead. Rabobank, the race leader Menchov’s team, has helped them a little but essentially it is Liberty that has chased everything down. I am

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By Michael Barry, Discovery Channel professional cycling team

We are over halfway through the Vuelta and have reached the first rest day.

The last two days were tough, with lots of climbs, and a relentless pace in the peloton. Tonight we are staying at the ski station of Benasque, a small little village that attracts Spanish royalty during the ski season and bike racers during the summer. The last two days Liberty Seguros has controlled the race from start to finish despite the fact that they don’t have the race lead. Rabobank, the race leader Menchov’s team, has helped them a little but essentially it is Liberty that has chased everything down. I am not totally certain why they put riders in the breakaways and then chase them down, as it defeats the purpose of putting anyone in the breakaway.

Both stages they have also let groups go that are of little threat to the General Classification but never give them more than five minutes when they could take it easier, give the break a little more time and let the speed in the peloton going into the final climb bring them back. The one thing Liberty has succeeded in doing is making the race extremely hard on a lot of the riders in the peloton. Today attacks went from the gun and as soon as we started climbing the front group was down to about thirty or so. The peloton regrouped on the descent but as soon as we hit another hill you could hear riders at the back yelling at them to slow down.

I can imagine that Manolo, the Liberty director, is yelling at them over the radio to go faster…and they are probably going to listen to him and not to the guys at the back of the peloton yelling “Mercy!” Despite the fast speeds, I did manage to notice that we raced through some magnificent countryside. The forecasted torrential rain and cold temperatures never really materialized and we were under clear skies for most of the day other than one small shower which came down on us as we descended one of the mountains. Liberty is incredibly strong but I wonder if they will be able to hold on until the end and if Roberto Heras will in fact be able to get rid of Menchov and Mancebo – his two biggest rivals at the moment. The last two days were two of the hardest of the race and Roberto wasn’t able to gain any time on Menchov, and he will now have to wait until the next mountain days. Tom and Triki performed amazingly the last two days and are now both in the top ten. They were consistent on the two mountain top finishes and are feeling good for the last ten days of racing. As soon as Tom and I get to a room each evening, it is chaos: There are clothes, bottles of Powerade, cookies, shoes, computers and glasses everywhere. Both of our suitcases tend to explode as soon as the latch is released and even when we organize them they seem to be a mess when reopened. At least we are both similar in that respect, as there are a few guys on the team that fold their socks and underwear. Tomorrow is a rest day on paper but it’s really going to be a travel day and when you’re an athlete you never consider a travel day to be any sort of rest. Tonight we have to have our suitcases packed and in the truck before bed as they are taking off at the crack of dawn, or perhaps before, to drive to the next hotel. The drive is nearly four hundred kilometers much of which is on small non-highway roads. We’ll go for a ride when we arrive at the next hotel and try and squeeze in a nap-if we succeed at that then we can call it a half-rest day.