By Michael Barry, U.S. Postal Service
Two days to go and Roberto is within striking distance of the golden jersey. With each accent in the course the last few days he has been able to take back some time from Nozal. The uphill time trial tomorrow will decide the race. Although the course is tough and very steep in sections, it may not be long enough for Roberto to take back close to two minutes from Nozal.
Over the last week Roberto has become stronger while his rivals have weakened. And we are all hoping there may be a chance he’ll be able to win the race.
Yesterday’s stage from Las Rosas-Las Rosas was easy looking on the profile but quite tough and hilly once we were out on the open road. There were no categorized climbs, but there were certainly climbs. From the start the peloton was in a long line and it essentially stayed in the same formation until we crossed the line.
There have been few stages won out of breakaways in the last three weeks, so the peloton is still racing from the gun with the hope that a group will go to the line for the win. Both today and yesterday the breaks succeeded. The peloton is tired and the groups getting away are not so much breakaways as they are splits in the front of the group. Both days close to 20 riders went up the rode but only a few made it to the line without being caught by the charging group behind.
In the run in towards the finish line yesterday ONCE was on the front keeping things under control and they decided to try to flick Roberto and Triki by opening up a gap in the lineup in their team. The gap opened with Nozal and de Galdeano in the front about 20 meters ahead of Roberto and Triki. Luckily, with Floyd’s help the gap was closed and no time was lost. Both of the ONCE leaders have been suffering and the team thought that by opening a gap they could give themselves some extra time going into the weekend. It was a kindergarten tactic that infuriated our team and added some fuel to the rivalry.
Today’s course started in the suburbs of Madrid and took us into the surrounding mountains. The course was up and down all day with two third-category climbs and two first-category climbs.
From the start the peloton split and Floyd found himself in front in a group of 19. Their gap grew quickly as there were not any teams with any incentive to chase them down. Halfway through the day it became apparent they wouldn’t be caught.
At the bottom of the first climb of the day Matt, Max and I were together in the middle of the peloton and all came crashing down as the group tried to squeeze from a four-lane road into one lane. We had survived a trip right round the country without a graze and within a couple of days of the finish we all came down together. Thankfully, none of us sustained more than scrapes and bruises, and we quickly rejoined the group.
On the last climb Roberto attacked and quickly dropped Nozal and de Galdeano. As Floyd was still up the road in the front group, he was told to wait for Roberto so that he could help him get to the line more quickly and gain as much time as possible on Nozal and de Galdeano. He waited at the top of the climb, and Roberto was soon on his wheel. At the finish line Roberto had moved into second overall and was over a minute closer to Nozal.