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Michael Barry’s Diary: Is that Liam at the finish?

We have finally arrived in Catalonia and are close to Girona tonight. Dede and Liam were at the finish today and I will get to spend the evening with them as well as tomorrow as we’ll be in Lloret de Mar for two days. Lloret is a strange town that reminds me of Niagara Falls. It is overpopulated with tourists and tourist attractions and it not one of the more attractive towns on the Costa Brava. Next to our hotel there are haunted houses, wax museums, and water parks. Tonight we’ll enjoy a buffet dinner with hundreds of sunburned tourists. Today’s stage looked flat on the profile but any

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By Michael Barry – Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team

We have finally arrived in Catalonia and are close to Girona tonight. Dede and Liam were at the finish today and I will get to spend the evening with them as well as tomorrow as we’ll be in Lloret de Mar for two days. Lloret is a strange town that reminds me of Niagara Falls. It is overpopulated with tourists and tourist attractions and it not one of the more attractive towns on the Costa Brava. Next to our hotel there are haunted houses, wax museums, and water parks. Tonight we’ll enjoy a buffet dinner with hundreds of sunburned tourists. Today’s stage looked flat on the profile but any riders that are familiar with the region know it is rolling to hilly. From the start the attacks came but today. A break got away quickly and the peloton settled into a rhythm behind. As we rolled along, I chatted with several guys, all of who said their legs were sore from yesterday’s stage, or perhaps it was the accumulation of a week of tough racing. As soon as we arrived on the outskirts of Barcelona the pace in the peloton picked up drastically as Fassa Bortolo, Credit Agricole and T-Mobile began chasing. As we raced through small towns, around traffic islands and roundabouts and over hills, the peloton became a long single line that would fracture every time the riders on the front accelerated even the least. It was a good feeling getting on roads I was familiar with and had trained on. Although, we usually try to avoid the roads we race on in the Vuelta when out training as the race courses tend to be on larger two to four lane roads that are congested with truck traffic when they are not closed. This was noticeable today as many of the large crowds of spectators were in fact people that had been stopped in traffic jams due to the road closers and got out of their cars to cheer the race on. Around Barcelona the traffic was backed up for kilometers.

Not even counting the spectators stuck in traffic today, we had by far the largest crowds of any day yet on the Vuelta. We also traveled through some of the densest populated areas in Spain. The finish today, and where we are staying tonight, is a beach town and it was completely packed with spectators-most Dutch, English and Belgian. After the stage, Max was the local hero in a city full of tourists that had seen his dominant victory on television yesterday. The finish today was a bit too technical for Max and the Fassa train pulled Petacchi to another stage win. Their train is quite incredible-they have a team built to deliver him to victory with a couple horses to ride on the front, bring back the breakaways and ride a high enough pace to thwart any attacks in the last 20 km, and then six guys that ride amazingly fast for the last 10 km so that no other rider or team can even come close to Petacchi before the final sprint. With two hundred meters to go his last rider pulls off and he unleashes his sprint, which is the most lethal in the professional peloton. When Fassa are at a race with Petacchi all of the sprinters fight for his wheel and hope that they might be able to come around him in the last few meters. Few succeed. Tomorrow we will be faced with the next major hurdle of the Vuelta. The individual time trial is one that Tom and I previewed last month and it is a tough challenge. The race begins along the Mediterranean coast on a sinuous undulating road before climbing away from the sea up a tough 10 km grade. It is not a great course for a pure time trialist and I would imagine that the true GC contenders will excel tomorrow. Tom has the form to do a great race and is extremely motivated to show his fitness in the time trial tomorrow and the mountain stages in the Pyrenees on Monday and Tuesday.