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By Christian Vande Velde, Liberty-Seguros Professional Cycling
Okay, I am beat now.
It was another hard day. They keep hitting us with these insane stages. Today was perhaps one of the hardest days on paper with some serious climbing and the highest peak of the Tour, the Col de la Madeleine.
My watch tells me we did 5000 meters of climbing in 71 km. Kilimanjaro is 5896 meters high so we didn’t do too badly today. As a kid I used to do a loop back home with my Dad that was 70km around. I can remember thinking it was a pretty solid ride back then- today we climbed the same distance.
Today is was hot. In the last three weeks we have had all sorts of weather thrown at us, and the extremes are taking their toll on the peloton. During the stage I went through about 15 water bottles and was still parched and dehydrated when I crossed the line. In hot weather it’s hard to eat but easy to drink and in cold weather it’s hard to drink and easy to eat. I think most guys in the peloton are being reminded to eat and drink by their directors over the radios. Sometimes, you’ll see the whole team on the front reach down for their bottles and take a long pull. You can almost bet that came right after their director just radioed, “Make sure you keep drinking.”
Lance and the Postal crew hit the race with their usual wrecking ball again and left the field in rubble behind. I looked up at the bottom of the Forclaz, they had nine guys up there! We had two: Igor and me. Roberto went home this morning, as he hasn’t really been feeling himself in the mountains.
U.S. Postal’s Pavel Padrnos, or “the Butcher” as Robbie Ventura nicknamed him pulled the entire way up the Madeleine. It was quite impressive. He is a great climber as well as being a machine on the flats. He is probably the strongest guy in the peloton to win the fewest races. He looks intimidating but he’s actually a mellow and easygoing guy.
Tonight we’re staying just down from the finish line in the Grand Bornand. The town is basically at the foot of another famous climb the Colombiere. Tomorrow we head down the valley towards Geneva for the start and then we climb over another course that looks like a wolf’s jaw on the profile.
I better get to bed as we’re about to be hit with another tough day in the hills tomorrow.