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Rogers’ Road: Like a war zone

If the Col Bargaguy looked steep on television, it was … plus some. I can honestly say I have never ever climbed up a road as steep as that one – let alone race up it like we did in today’s 16th stage. It felt like we were pedaling up one giant wall forever and ever. We all knew it was a steep climb, but we never expected it to be that steep. I think a lot of riders were really caught out by it today. Me included. I have never ridden so hard on the bike. Although, I heard Tyler Hamilton had trained over it and you can see that the time taken doing that paid off today. One thing I have to

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Rogers - This morning... before the war

Rogers – This morning… before the war

Photo: Casey Gibson

If the Col Bargaguy looked steep on television, it was … plus some. I can honestly say I have never ever climbed up a road as steep as that one – let alone race up it like we did in today’s 16th stage. It felt like we were pedaling up one giant wall forever and ever.

We all knew it was a steep climb, but we never expected it to be that steep. I think a lot of riders were really caught out by it today. Me included. I have never ridden so hard on the bike. Although, I heard Tyler Hamilton had trained over it and you can see that the time taken doing that paid off today.

One thing I have to say about my fellow VeloNews diarist is that fella is all class and guts. What a ride from him today.

As for everyone else? Well, they were pretty much at their limit even though we were supposed to have had a rest day. It was like a war zone in the pack today, riders looking okay and next to you one moment then suddenly … boom … dropping off the next

For the Col Bargaguy I used a 39 x 25 gearing for almost the whole way up. There were only a couple of times I dropped down to the 23, but doing that quickly told me: ‘no way’ and I was back up to the 25 again. It was the first time this year I have ever used that 25.

The mist at the top was amazing too. You couldn’t see what was ahead. Maybe that was for the best. The only way you knew where riders were ahead of you was by following the sounds of crowds cheering, especially the Basques who came out in their thousands.

The climb was made harder by a little stuff up earlier in the stage, at the feed station in Laugibar after 93.5km, just before a third category hill that preceded the Col Bargaguy. Bare in mind we already had a lightening fast stage start, the fourth category Cote des Cretes and first category Col de Soudet in our legs too. So we were already doing it hard.

Unfortunately, our cars were in last place at the feed zone, which ended near the foot of the Laugibar climb. By the time I got my musette the race was picking up again. Also, when the pace went right up, I was still putting stuff in my pockets. Before I knew it, I was out the back and chasing. The effort I put in there was one I never really recovered from. And to think at that point I didn’t realize what was waiting us on the next climb!

Still, it’s great to have the mountains behind us. And as you may have seen, we didn’t waste any time getting involved in the mix once we hit the flat. A few people were asking why we chased Hamilton when Richard Virenque was our best rider overall at 14th place (at 22 minutes).

Actually, we still felt like we could get the stage win. We wanted to get Paolo Bettini up for the win. He has ridden very strongly throughout the Tour and he said he had good legs today. So it was normal that we thought if the bunch could bring Hamilton back, we would have a good chance of seeing Paolo get up for the win today.

Okay, it didn’t happen that way. Hamilton stayed away to claim a very popular win. We’ll keep trying though.