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Magnus Opus: Avoiding disaster

One step at a time. One day at a time. I know that my “legs” and whether I have them or not has been a recurring theme here this Tour. I tell ya, it’s a big deal coming to the Tour de France feeling like death warmed over and it’s an even bigger deal when you start feeling good. And I feel pretty good all of a sudden. Yesterday’s long break certainly gave me a confidence boost, but today I felt ready to do it again and did my best to get in an early break. As it turned out there were a lot of attacks and the one that finally stuck included my teammate Alessandro Bertolini. Actually, we

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By Magnus Bäckstedt, Alessio-Bianchi professional cycling team

One step at a time. One day at a time.

I know that my “legs” and whether I have them or not has been a recurring theme here this Tour. I tell ya, it’s a big deal coming to the Tour de France feeling like death warmed over and it’s an even bigger deal when you start feeling good. And I feel pretty good all of a sudden.

Yesterday’s long break certainly gave me a confidence boost, but today I felt ready to do it again and did my best to get in an early break. As it turned out there were a lot of attacks and the one that finally stuck included my teammate Alessandro Bertolini.

Actually, we were pretty sure that we’d see another break go to the finish again today, but the sprinters’ teams seemed intent on keeping this one in check. As soon as this break went, they didn’t really give those guys much time and they had to really work to get it up to four minutes or so. For us yesterday, it took a lot of work, too, but our gap grew out to around 16 minutes, so it was clear that the chase was on today.

Alessandro was definitely keen on going in a break today and he was ready to jump from the gun. I told him it would do him good to wait a little. Normally, the first four or five attacks don’t work, then finally everyone gets tired of chasing and the break goes. Alessandro managed to get into the right one. He’s the kind of guy who loves being out there on those long ones, too, so this worked out perfectly. He was happy.

He eventually got tired in there and was one of the first two that got caught, but it didn’t matter because the peloton swept up all of them by the end.

It was tough for those fellas up there, because they never got more than four-and-a-half minutes on the field and they really worked hard to do that. So it was to be expected when we started pulling them back in as we got close to the finish… all of them, that is, except for Juan Antonio Flecha. Sitting here this evening, we finally got to watch him on television and it was absolutely amazing the way he went away from those guys.

Flecha was unbelievable. He had those guys sitting right on his wheel for almost a kilometer and then he just rode them off. They couldn’t hold him and he went away on his own. It was a phenomenal and very gutsy ride. Good on him.

So, as you know, the big crash of the day, happened almost at the same instant we caught him at the 1k-to-go flag. I was lucky. I was sitting pretty far up there, on the right hand side of the peloton, and was just about to move up to see if I might contest the sprint. Things were going pretty well, too. But over on the left hand side I heard this big bang and half the peloton came down… that’s the awful thing about those things. Normally when you have a crash like that in the final kilometer you take a lot of riders down.

I was lucky, though. I wasn’t anywhere near it. I figure I was one of the last guys to get out of there before the whole field came crashing down. I could hear it start on the left of me and I just naturally accelerated and moved to the right. I never saw what happened or even who went down. I am glad I managed to avoid that mess.

Going into that sprint, I knew that it wasn’t really my forté. It was uphill – about four or five percent – and had a couple of corners, neither of which was going to be particularly easy for a guy my size. It’s definitely not my kind of game. At the same time, I did want to be up near the front, just in case I had the chance to do something. Obviously, it makes sense to stay close to the front coming into the finish, if for nothing else but just to avoid the crashes.

All told, I figure that it was a good day. I figure now that I am running at about 85 percent… and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ve put all of the crappy feeling I had at the start behind me and keep moving toward 100 percent.

Wish me luck and we’ll talk again tomorrow.

Cheers!