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By Michael Barry, U.S. Postal Service professional cycling team
We are now in the hotel in Léon sitting and waiting for the Vuelta España to begin on Saturday. We arrived in Leon last night, as we had to be at the hotel three days prior to the start for the medical testing-which is essentially a blood test.
This year the Vuelta starts out with several flat to rolling stages as we race across the middle of Spain towards the Mediterranean and the coastal town of Valencia. Valencia will host the first of three individual time trials, one being up to the peak of Sierra Nevada, the other being the final stage in Madrid.
Today we rode our time trial bikes to get comfortable riding together in formation as a team for the opening stage that is a team time trial in Leon. Unlike the Tour de France team time trial that is always over fifty kilometers, the race here is very short at twenty-two kilometers. It will be crucial to start out quickly as it is very hard to make up any lost time in such a short distance.
As soon as we get into formation on our aero time trial bikes it is amazing how fast we can go with minimal effort; the formation we are riding in and the bikes we are on simply get us rolling fast.
In the first week we’ll be riding for Max and setting him up for field sprints. The wind may be a big factor as we head across the center of the country and splits in the peloton may be the only thing that will change the overall classification until we reach Valencia after the team time trial on Saturday.
Both Floyd and Triki will be trying to place well in the overall classification. The rest of us will be racing for stages throughout the race, taking opportunities when they are there, and picking stages that suit our abilities. We don’t have a distinct leader as we did in past years with Roberto but we will have several cards to play in the race and it will be a new approach for the team in a three-week stage race.
The second half of the race has some vicious stages that have altitude profiles that look like the jaws of a wolf. The race will be exciting until last kilometer is completed in Madrid.
Dave Zabriskie has been time trailing well in the last month and seems to be in great form at the moment. Briskie the kid, a nickname not given to him by himself as I previously wrote but by Damon, will not surprise anybody on the team if he places in the first three in a time trial.
Waiting around for a race to start is a bit like sitting at a movie theater and waiting for the film to start. We are in the hotel ready for the show without much to do but put our legs up and wait.