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Magnus Opus: Life in the bus lane, with the usual suspects

Well looking back there were some good parts of the day. There was that one downhill part and… well, the rest of it wasn’t too much fun. Basically our job for the first 100k was to keep Pellizotti, Garzelli and Cioni out of the wind and after see if they could do something if they had the legs. Obviously with Lance doing what he did today, there were a lot of guys who found out they didn’t have the legs… Garzelli didn’t do too badly, finishing like three, three-and-a-half minutes down. It wasn’t brilliant but still pretty quite good. It was a strange day. I mean here everyone was talking

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Stage 10: Grenoble to Courchevel * (192.5 km)

By Magnus Bäckstedt, Liquigas-Bianchi professional cycling team

Well looking back there were some good parts of the day. There was that one downhill part and… well, the rest of it wasn’t too much fun.

Basically our job for the first 100k was to keep Pellizotti, Garzelli and Cioni out of the wind and after see if they could do something if they had the legs. Obviously with Lance doing what he did today, there were a lot of guys who found out they didn’t have the legs… Garzelli didn’t do too badly, finishing like three, three-and-a-half minutes down. It wasn’t brilliant but still pretty quite good.

It was a strange day. I mean here everyone was talking about the T-Mobile guys and the Phonak guys and by the top, there was no one there.

Meanwhile, my day was spent with the usual suspects. We got the start with that brief downhill and then the rest of the day was “life in the bus lane” as you say. You can be smart about this, calculating the amount you can afford to lose on the climbs, riding smart and then making up a lot of time on the downhills and keeping pace with the leaders on the flats. Somehow, though, the thinking has changed in the peloton and it’s not quite like it was back a few years ago.

Five or six years ago, when you had fellas like Eros Poli there driving the bus, it went smart. We’d go steady uphill, drop down the other side like there was no tomorrow and really belt it on the flat. Back then, you’d make up three or four minutes on the descent, kept even on the flats, which means you could afford to lose another five or six minutes on the next climb.

Something is different these days, though. I don’t know what it is or why it is, but these days it seems like everyone – sprinters, lead-out men and the rest of the bunch that can’t climb – are killing themselves to stay with the peloton until the last possible moment. Years ago, we’d ride into a climb and when it became obvious that the climbers were going off, maybe a kilometer into the climb, you’d hear the guys in the back screaming “grupetto!” and suddenly the guys you knew would be in the grupetto, they all sat up. Pretty soon you’d have 30, 40 guys riding together and keeping tabs on the gap.

Now the mentality is different and it’s hard to put together a big group as early as we did. It doesn’t really accomplish anything time-wise. It just makes things more stressful on guys who should be working together. Once over the top, they don’t ride as well on the other side and it’s hard to put together 15 guys some times.

It doesn’t make sense. None of us are climbers. The one thing we can do is corner fast and descend. These guys are sprinters and lead-out men. They know how to handle a bike. We should be working on the descents and the flats.

We still have guys who’ve been around. There are guys like Fagnini, there’s me, there are a bunch of us in the peloton who have done this, but now it seems like there aren’t a lot of people listening to get it together out there. If it’s only four or five guys working together, you aren’t going to get anywhere. You need at least 15, 20 guys to put together a decent grupetto and working together. Who knows why? It’s just a change… a change of times and a change of mentality, I guess.