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La Vuelta de Barry: A mighty wind

In our meeting this morning Johan told us about a stage in the Vuelta back in 1996 when Tony Rominger lost his shot at the overall due to inattention on a flat stage with crosswinds. It was the same stage we rode today from Cuenca to Albacete. Needless to say, we were all ready for a fight in the wind and an attempt at gaining Roberto and Triki a minute or so before tomorrow’s TT. Back to workAfter the rest day, Wednesday’s stage was insanely and relentlessly fast, with a never-ending succession of attacks and counter-attacks. At the end of the hilly 165km stage we had crossed the line in

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By Michael Barry, U.S. Postal Service professional cycling team

In our meeting this morning Johan told us about a stage in the Vuelta back in 1996 when Tony Rominger lost his shot at the overall due to inattention on a flat stage with crosswinds. It was the same stage we rode today from Cuenca to Albacete.

Needless to say, we were all ready for a fight in the wind and an attempt at gaining Roberto and Triki a minute or so before tomorrow’s TT.

Back to work
After the rest day, Wednesday’s stage was insanely and relentlessly fast, with a never-ending succession of attacks and counter-attacks. At the end of the hilly 165km stage we had crossed the line in just over three hours. We had averaged around 50kph.

The final kilometers yesterday were a little nerve-wracking for our team as Roberto was stuck behind a crash just before the final ascent of the day, a 3 km cobbled climb through the center of Cuenca.

Four of us waited for him and brought him as far up the peloton as possible before the climb. He ended up in the front group and didn’t lose anytime, however Triki ended up losing a minute due to a gap opening in front of him on the climb.

After the stage we were in awe of how fast the race was and how no break was able to stay away. Going into the race we were all sure the stage would be won from a break and we were attentive to be in each move all day. But, at the end of the day it was Zabel that won at the front of a decimated field.

Nerves, wind and a plea for sanity
Going into today’s stage, everybody in the peloton was a little nervous that today would be the same. When we rolled under the 0km banner after the neutral start, yells burst out of the peloton to ride slow in several different languages.

We actually did roll along at a steady pace… for about 2km. Then, the first attack flew off of the front. Thankfully, ONCE immediately went to the front with Fassa Bortolo to keep the race under control. They let the break gain a few minutes and the peloton settled into a steady rhythm. In our morning meeting we were told the race would get tense when we neared the finish and the course left tree-lined roads for open fields. As all the teams are using radios it becomes very tense in the peloton when we are about to near a corner and head into a dangerous crosswind section. Teams were all attempting to amass together at the front to keep themselves away from dangerous splits.

After a few teams tried and failed to split the field, we were given our orders- for the entire team to hit the front of the peloton in a tail-crosswind section and accelerate to split the field. We did our job and the group behind came to pieces.

In crosswinds the riders on the front can accelerate and ride in an echelon. On narrower roads only a dozen or so riders can get in the echelon while the others are left out in the wind to fight for any draft. Weaker riders open gaps as they can’t hold the wheels in front of them in the wind and the group blows to pieces.

Today was an important day for us as we were able to gain a minute for both Triki and Roberto over Dario Frigo and Aitor Gonzales. Behind us both of the Fassa riders rode as hard as they could to come back to the front of the race and never made it. Going into the time trial tomorrow and the mountains on the weekend every minute will count.

Tonight, everybody is a little tired from their efforts the last few days but the morale within the team is very good as we finished the day on a high note.


Read all of Michael Barry’s Vuelta diaries
La Vueltade Barry: At the beachLa Vueltade Barry: The painful PyrénéesLa Vueltade Barry: Break out the big ringsLa Vuelta de Barry:The race is on