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By Kevin Livingston , Deutsche Telekom cycling team
If I think about it, the racing thus far has been about as I would have expected, but I forget how hard the first week of the Tour is. You remember all of the mountain stages, but this first week comes as a shock every time. And it’s not over yet.
The Giro was hard the first week, too, and, like here, there were lots of crashes. But there were always times on each stage where the riders would all relax, and you knew nobody was going to attack. It just had a natural rhythm to it, and you would get 30-50K that was easy. In the Tour, though, there is never an easy pace where guys are just talking in the pack. These stages are really nervous, guys are attacking nonstop, and the average speed is high every day. I’m just being careful to hold the line this first week and stay out of trouble, stay near Jan, and stay away from crashes. Some breaks with dangerous guys have gotten away, but so far it has been good that a few teams have cooperated to bring them back. Like today, we had Bölts in the break, but Moreau was up there, so we and Postal worked together to bring it back.
The team has been doing great. For Erik and the team, two wins is a good start. Today it worked out well for us to work for Erik winning the stage, because it accomplished both of our objectives. By all of us staying at the front, we kept Jan protected while at the same time giving Erik a leadout. It helped that all of us got up there. You get motivated off of your teammates all working hard for each other, and it carries through the team.We talked about winning the stage this morning. Our director knew that it could be a good one for us, with three short, hard hills near the end and an uphill finish. On the first two of those climbs, there were a lot of attacks, but by the third one, it was just us on the front. That one was no quick hill; it was four K long, and we controlled it really well. All nine of our guys finished in the front group, while a lot of guys got dropped (Postal had two in the front group at the end). There were 100 guys finishing at the same time today, but those uphill finishes are dangerous – you can lose a lot of time really fast. You never know where the splits can happen – it could have been at 40 instead of 100.
Very few people have asked me about the David Walsh article – just a couple at the start when it was a bad time to talk, and they never came back later. That thing just came out of the blue. He didn’t come out and say anything, but we’re not stupid – everyone knows what he is saying. It was so weird. I never talked to him; I had never even heard of him. I am confident that there is nothing because there is nothing. I know that, and I guess that’s why it hasn’t bothered me too much.
We’ve been lucky with the weather so far, but it is raining tonight, and the forecast is for rain tomorrow (stage 4). Tomorrow will be another hard day, with a lot of hard hills at the beginning and maybe bad weather. I will continue to stay near Jan and make sure we stay up front and out of trouble.
The next day is the team time trial, and we should do well. Last year, ONCE won it, we were second with Postal, and Telekom was third. We haven’t specifically practiced the team time trial, but we have done so many team chases and the team all has a lot of experience. Our technique should be okay, it’s just a matter of knowing how to regulate the effort. It’s important to find a speed where everyone can do their job. There will always be some guys that are stronger, but the way to go the fastest is to go a speed where everybody can pull, some shorter, some longer, and the team doesn’t fall apart.It’s still the first week, and we have all been recovering well, so even if it is hard tomorrow and we have to chase, we’ll be okay in the team time trial. You still have to race each day. If the racing gets really hard, you just have to do it, no matter what might be coming up the next day.