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By Michael Barry, U.S. Postal Service professional cycling team
We have started the Vuelta on the right foot with a nice stage win in the team time trial.
The TTT is one of my favorite events as it takes a complete team effort; and, the feeling when everything is running smoothly is incredible. During the effort the whole team is completely focused- it feels as if we are riding in a tunnel with nothing but the open road in front of us with the voice of Johan encouraging us over the radio, the noise of the disc wheels, the sound of the wind and our breath blocking out all other noises and distractions.
In the last two years we have lost the Vuelta team time trial and finished second due to a slow start. Unlike the Tour de France time trial, which is longer thus allowing more range for improvement during the race, the Vuelta TTT is short and any time lost early is nearly impossible to make up. So, our major goals for the day were to start out quickly, get into our rhythm as quickly as possible and stay on the speed until the finish.
The race was quite technical at the start and we had to negotiate several roundabouts, corners and speed bumps before we could focus on simply going as fast possible without blowing up the team.
Floyd did a strong ride taking long pulls and also motivating us all as we raced. He yelled at the top of his lungs a few times, “we can win this f—ing race, come on guys!”
In the last meters, when we knew we had won, Johan told us to let Floyd cross the line first as he deserved the gold leader’s jersey for his efforts in the race.
Floyd is my roommate and it is definitely nice seeing a gold jersey sitting there in his suitcase. It was also a lot of fun going to the podium with the whole team and experiencing it as a group. Often in cycling, only one rider gets the laurels for the team’s efforts, so it was nice that we could all share the champagne and flowers together.
Thankfully, the race has started and we are now on our way around Spain. It has been a long three days waiting in the hotel for the race to start and we are all a bit relieved to be on our way.
Willy, the team chef, has been unable to cook for us as the hotel has an insurance policy that doesn’t allow him into the kitchen. I think he is looking forward to moving on as well as he has been a bit bored hanging around the hotel not being able to get in the kitchen and practice his skills.
In the next week we’ll be looking for stage wins with Max and maybe holding on to the gold fleece for a few days as well.
Game on, eh?