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Cruz-ing at the Vuelta: Two down, just 19 to go

Woke up felling pretty good. Weight still at 64 kilograms. Breakfast was bread with honey, bread with Nutella, cereal combo of muesli and Special K and an omelet. Sign in was at the traveling village similar to the one at the Tour de France. My assignment today was to be with Roberto for the entire race. Benoit and I were to be his shadows. We have to stop with him if he pees, flats or has some other mechanical and take him back to the group. Basically we are supposed to make sure that Roberto never has to hit the wind, we have to close all the gaps for him move him up in the field when he

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By Antonio Cruz, U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team

Woke up felling pretty good. Weight still at 64 kilograms. Breakfast was bread with honey, bread with Nutella, cereal combo of muesli and Special K and an omelet.

Sign in was at the traveling village similar to the one at the Tour de France. My assignment today was to be with Roberto for the entire race. Benoit and I were to be his shadows. We have to stop with him if he pees, flats or has some other mechanical and take him back to the group.

Basically we are supposed to make sure that Roberto never has to hit the wind, we have to close all the gaps for him move him up in the field when he wants to. It seems pretty simple but Roberto has so many friends in the peloton sometimes before you even notice there will be three of his friends from other teams surrounding him talking and joking. I kind of feel like I’m at a party with a friend but I don’t know anyone there.

Plus Roberto squeezes through gaps really well and because he commands a lot of respect people make room for him to squeeze through. People will move for him but not for me.

There was a lot of nervous energy in field. Lots of bumping and chain reaction braking and swerving. Someone bumped Botero and he almost took me out. There was a lot of yelling and cursing in Spanish, I thought there would be a crash. I almost hit a spectator who poked out a little to far into the road.

There were a few breaks but Cofidis kept the race under control. Since there are no time bonuses for the sprints, they were mostly left to the smaller Spanish teams to contest. Once the soigneurs got to the finish they radioed back with an accurate description of what we could expect. We had kept Roberto in the top 25 as much as possible. For the finish Johan definitely wanted Roberto in the top 30 for the last 10k and in the top 15 out of the last turn before the uphill finish saidRoberto had to be in top 30.

This was really hard because we were going between 55 and 60k at the end. The uphill finish was really sketchy. We were positioned right behind the lead out trains of the sprinter’s teams; when guys would peel off the train they would almost come top a stand still right in front of us. It got really congested. Every thing worked out great and we kept Roberto safe. The crowd at the finish was huge.

I got lost riding home to the hotel finish, and had to ride another 15k!

It feels real good to get the first few stages out of the way. I talked to Eki a bit about the mentality of getting through a grand tour. I am trying to follow his and Johan’s advice. They said to just focus on each day’s stage and not get stressed out thinking about what lays ahead. I felt very comfortable by the end of today’s stage; I think I was too nervous yesterday in the time trial. Johan said I went out too hard in the first half but that was normal for a rookie. It’s time to relax; that’s pretty easy since we are the team of the defending champion and get to stay in all the nicest hotels.

Antonio