By Michael Barry, U.S. Postal Service professional cycling team
Yesterday was a second big test for Roberto and Triki. To place on the podium they both need to ride well in the time trials. They can climb without difficulty so it is against the clock that they need to limit their losses. Going into the time trial both of our leaders had the two Fassa leaders breathing down their backs.
The course was fairly flat, a loop that started and ended in downtown Albacete. Most of the 53 km course was on roads wide open to the wind with a few rolling hills. It was a nice circuit but not a particularly spectator friendly one – most of the loop was devoid of human life other than the occasional person with a watch in their hands checking the times of the riders.
For a few of us on the team it was the longest time trial we had ever done. A long time trial is an entirely different kind of effort to a short TT. A short TT you can go all out and not have to worry too much about blowing up where as in a long TT you really need to gauge the effort. For example, we saw a few riders reach the halfway point with incredibly fast times only to then lose large chunks of time over the second half. The circuit yesterday was also much harder on the way back, with long head-crosswind straights-which are ruthless when you start to feel the pain.
Most of us were simply going to ride at a steady tempo without killing ourselves so that we would be all right for the coming days. Floyd however was asked to go hard so that Johan could get the time checks for Roberto and Triki.
The big losers of the day were Aitor Gonzales and Dario Frigo. Both were expected to pass Roberto and Triki in the TT, but instead the lost minutes. Perhaps they were struggling due to their efforts in the wind the day before. Both had dropped significantly in the overall and are no longer a strong threat to us or ONCE.
Riding toward Triki’s olive groves
Today started out with the usual attacks but we soon settled into a tempo; the race was controlled by Fassa and ONCE. The course was fairly flat with a few rolling hills. We were faced with a headwind for much of the day that helped quell a lot of the attacks.
Half way through the stage we started seeing the olive trees and Triki was quick to point them out. We are now in his region. It is arid and desert like down here with olive trees spotting the hillsides. Halfway through the stage we went through Sevilla’s hometown – a small little place in the middle of nowhere. It is strange that one of Spain’s best climbers comes from the country’s flattest area.
Today Aitor Gonzales, last year’s winner, called it a race half way through the stage, pulled over and stopped. It wasn’t really a surprise given his performance yesterday.
As we head towards the mountains we are hoping both Roberto and Triki will be able to make up some of the difference to Nozal and deGaldeano. .
For more on Michael and his wife Dede Demet Barry visit www.michaelbarry.ca/