Stage 4 of tour of utah was an absolute doozy today. When you stick a nasty 5km 10% climb in the first 15km there is only one possible outcome, suffering! Everybody wants to be in the breakaway and there is always someone or some team that isn't happy with whatever break forms! Well today it was our cannondale clan that missed the potentially dangerous move so it was our turn this time to make the day harder than I guess everybody including us would have liked! I have to put my hand up and take some responsibility as it was my role to be in break but after all my time on the home trainer in the lead up and pain in my shoulder my ability to attack hard out of the group is a little limited this week. Fortunately my endurance is not so bad so instead of attempting to jump across I decided to drum out a solid tempo on the climb and keep the 16 riders in check and wait for the boys in green to come up and keep things under control.
So onto the climb we went. I had 2 objectives, firstly to set a tempo that would annoy the breakaway as the hopefully make them think they couldn't get away. Secondly I needed to keep the pace as easy as possible to keep the group as large as possible over the first climb as there would be more chance of some willing helpers to assist us to bring the race back under control, safety in numbers was my theory. Fortunately it worked out pretty well and up over the climb we had a nice size grouped and once we got down the boys in green charged to the front to shut down the move. It didn't happen that easily I must stress and without motorbike marongoni and Mr aerodynamics junior mohoric we may not have shut it down at all. In a crucial moment like this it's important to stay calm as if we exploded then the group was gone and any chance for a high GC for George was gone, so not bringing the group back wasn't an option!
Having Ivan there as a road captain was absolutely crucial in this moment. At certain point where we were getting close to the group Ivan rode up and said that's go all out for 10min and shut it down. We already thought we were going hard, to be honest 30-60 second pulls of around 500 watts, but ivan said that's really crank it up. Motorbike marongoni has done this type of thing 1000 times and his next pull was absolutely amazing. All of a sudden we were heading north of 60kmph on the flat and to maintain this new tempo the 30second pulls were between 550-600 watts! Again Jensie was up the road so it's never going to be an easy shutdown but with motorbike marunga motoring along and us chipping in slowly but surely after nearly 40km of all out full gas racing we brought the break back. What happens next is always the most interesting bit as the counter attacks go baserk. This is where we really had to be on our toes as if you bring a break back you better show you did it for a good reason and not miss it again! Sure enough our road captain Mr basso himself was ever attentive and jumped in the break that finally stuck and the race finally settled down a little! That was a huge relief and by the time this cease fire occured I had average 340 watts for the first hour of racing! Now don't be fooled it wasn't like now we just dordled around the country side of ogden before we reached the days final 2 brutal climbs!! No to the contrary, again some teams were not happy with the break and kept the 14 riders at 1minute all day and with a nasty breeze constantly buffeting us there was never a single relaxing easy moment before we hit 140km and the race really began!!
While ivan was playing bunny rabbit up the road we were all back in the group looking after George. The stage was tailor made for him with 15km of climbing at above 10% coming within the final 25km. With the annoying breeze and the group in single file it meant always taking some wind in the face to keep George as protected as possible, this obviously means burning a few extra watts in the process but to be honest I am loving this week as I have been able to suffer every single day one way or another. After 3 weeks on the stationary training I have been craving the feeling and while I know I am wasteing a bucket load of energy and not really using it constructively to get results for myself, I am riding my way into my best condition the only way I know how to so I will continue to jump at the chance to burn some matches over the final few stages.
Back to the race and with the climbing about to start Ivan and his fellow escapees were brought to heel. I had gone back for bottles to ensure George had a nice fresh one to start the decisive moment in the race and kept one extra for ivan as he got gobbled up. As I towed George forward to start the climb in the best position possible I slapped a fresh bottle in ivan very tired looking hand and said well done. To use a cricket term much like Jensie the other day, ivan had played a fine captains knock.
Onto the climb and geroge was spinning his skinny little legs like an egg beater. The steep gradients that lay ahead in the initial 5km climb and final 10km to the finish suited his 58kg ringing wet figure to a tea. Once I knew he was good I started to find a pace I could handle. The efforts of the days work and perhaps the days before was catching up with me and I wasn't comfortable with the furious pace being set on the climb. I took the punt and swung out and decided to try and stay close enough to catch back on on the decent. At the top I had gambled a bit too much and after a daring decent I found myself just out of touch of the lead group. Bugger I thought, more because I couldn't be there to help George but in reality of a finish climb where the average speed was not much more than 10kmph you can't assist much, it simply who has the pins to do the job. So as I had suffered so far I figured I may aswell keep some pressure on the pedals for the final 20km and soldiered on solo in no man's land. In the end the final hour I banged out another 330 watts so was nice to bookend a pretty solid day with the same power for the first and final hour so guess a good sign that I didn't fatigue too much as the day went on. Funnily enough while I am instantly on suffer street when I need the turbo button here I can keep a nice steady pace for long periods of time so good sign that the home trainer work has done some good for me. I am sure after some rest and recovery after this week of sufferance I will have all the pieces of the puzzle to be in my best possible condition going forward. I guess also having 16stitches in my knee, a broken rib and separated shoulder its going to hold you back a little so once that too sorts itself out I am sure the old body will be feeling a lot happier about putting itself a little deeper into the pain cave!
Up ahead George was slugging it out with the big guns and with 5km to go was right in the thick of it. I he made the super selective group of the 10 strongest guys here and then proceeded to unceremoniously drop none other than cadel Evans en route to a fine 7th place on The stage. In the end I finished a little closer to the front than the back which is always nice but to be brutally honest I didn't really care on where I arrived I was simply happy with putting in another extremely hard days work in the saddle.
Here are some fact and power figures from the days race. Bare in mind the average elevation was around 1800m however I would be extremely happy with this effort at sea level!! This was one of one of my higher power days for the entire season.
Time 4hrs 25min
Average power 287watts (with zeros) 325 (without zeros)
First climb 19min 390 watts
Second last climb 18min 30sec 403.5watts
Peak 20min power 401 watts
Peak 10min power 432 watts
Peak 5min power 454 watts
Peak 30min power 385 watts
Peak 60min power 345 watts (first hour of racing)
1min peak power 525 watts
30sec peak power 675 watts
20sec peak power 740 watts
Kcal burnt 4652
You can see that I have some work to do on my shorter peak power levels, am a little to much of a diesal at the moment!
3 days to go and 3 more opportunities to feel the burn as they say, time for some shuteye, today's been a pretty solid one.