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By Magnus Bäckstedt, Liquigas-Bianchi professional cycling team
July 9 – Stage 8 – Pforzheim to Gérardmer >231.5kmIt was a long day.
To start out, we had four third category climbs right at the beginning and things went flat out right away. Almost as soon as the peloton hit the first climb we had 40 or 50 guys who got dropped straight away more or less and we spent the next 150ks trying to get back on to the peloton.
Once we got back on – seriously only about three or four kilometers after we got back on – the boss calls up and tells us to go to the front. There was a break away and he wanted us to cut the gap down before the last climb – the second category Col de la Schlucht – because he wanted some of our guys to have a shot at a stage win, with Garzelli, Pellizotti and Cioni. So at the end of the day, I can look back and say that I basically did 230k mostly at the front today. I can say I didn’t spend a lot of time sitting on wheels today.
It was hard up there, but all we needed to do was bring the gap down a little bit. We just had to make sure that they didn’t have the seven minutes when they hit the climb. We needed to cut that to three, three-and-a-half minutes at the bottom. At least once we got to the base I could sit up. As it stands, the time cut was generous today… and thank God for that, because I think we would have lost a guy as well (Liquigas’s sprinter, Luciano Pagliarini finished 179th at 49:04, two minutes ahead of CSC’s David Zabriskie, who finished last on the day – Editor).
We pulled the gap down and I rode easy to the finish. As it stands, one of the guys off the front stayed of the front and he joined up with Klöden to finish half-a-minute ahead of a group that had our GC guys in it. It was actually a surprise to see on television later on that Armstrong didn’t have any teammates left on that climb. That really surprised me a lot. He did well to take the first few attacks, but there are only so many that you can fight off. He did look fairly vulnerable. It can happen to a team. Perhaps everyone had a bad day or they went in over-confident. Either way, it didn’t look right for him.
Overall, even though today was as hard as it was, I feel pretty good. Tomorrow – from the looks of the race book – will be another tough day and then it’s a rest day. Those can be good or bad. Some times you come into the rest day and just collapse… others and you think, “I could have gone for another week.” It is kind of hard on rest days. You still have to get out on your bike and you still have to right an hour-and-a-half at least, if not more. Sometimes, when you don’t have a goal in mind, it’s tough to get out and ride when you’re hurting and the first hour is always the worst, but you ride into it.
Then come the Alps.
Wish us luck,