The tour of colorado kicked of today in the lavish alpine town of aspen. The movie dumb and dumber was the first time I knew about this place and sadly that would be a pretty good way of summing up my performance on stage 1. Cannondale assembled a very competitive team on paper with me being a late edition. I had been keen to do this race all season however I wasn't given the green light until after utah when our young gun Davide numero uno formolo was rulled out with sickness. I jumped at the chance to add my name to start list and lined up today along side the green bullet elia Viviani, our captain Ivan basso, motorbike marunga, the German Koch, kich, salerno, and junior mohoric. It is a team pretty well suited to the race and with a sprint finish expected today we were confident in out chances with Elia and attacked the stage accordingly.
I had a very good feeling about today at the start. Elia was confident and all the boys were geed up to deliver him perfectly to give him a shot at victory. As soon as the flag dropped the boys were rapidly into action and ensured a manageable group was let loose and we went about controlling the race. All went perfectly according to plan and entering the final 15km the race was all together and only a 1km climb posed any threat to derailing our plans.
Today's course was a deceptively challenging 95km route. 3 laps with a few short but leg sapping climbs and some nice technical decents thrown in there for good measure to keep us on our toes. What makes racing here in colorado so challenging is the altitude and lack of oxygen which really means you have to measure your effort. Push a fraction too hard and explode and you simply don't recover and very quickly find yourself further back than full back. Ideally you ride at your own pace or happily follow a pace slightly less than you are capable of going however as its a bike race it pretty rare you going the pace you want unless your on the front. As a result of this and due to the lack of oxygen you are seemingly always uncomfortable. Anyways that's how it should be as its a bike race and certainly adds a huge degree if unpredictably about how every stage can pan out which I imagine makes watching races held at altitude pretty exciting.
Anyways back to bike race and the boys did a perfect job of controlling the race. On the penultimate climb the pace started to ramp up a bit so I got myself to the front and ensured the pace was nice and steady heading into the final climb to give elia the best chance of staying up the front. As we hit the final climb I was on the front and did my best to slow the group down to ensure elia the easiest possible ride up the final obstacle. Sadly the uhc team knew what I was up to and barged past and ramped up the pace sensing the opportunity to drop our missile sprinter and give there own speed demon and eventual winner keil reijan the best shot of glory. They really set a ferocious pace reflecting there belief in keil and quickly the group started to break up. At this point I was still at the front but knew elia would be in a little difficulty so started to drift back and wait to see where he and the boys were as there was still plenty of time to ride back some splits in the bunch so long as we were not to far behind over the top of the climb. This is where my stupidy kicked in and as I drifted back to regroup with the green machine I underestimated how much damage UHC had done to the group and I was quickly behind and out of the front group which I did not anticipate to be so small. I tried not to panic and look around for elia in the hope now that I would be able to ride back across but when I realized he wasn't there now I was well and truly on the back foot. Over the top of the climb I wasn't far of the back but at altitude your turbo is very limited and with bmc, UHC and garmin driving the pace I knew it would take a miracle to ride my way back into the front group, in reality with the calibar of riders up there I had no chance! That's where the the movie dumb and dumber comes to mind! I was in the perfect position when we hit the final climb and instead of sand bagging I should have simply kept my rhythm and the power on the pedals and I certainly could have made life a lot easier for myself. I was so confident in elia however that I just believed he would not far behind and hence that was my first thought. He had said to me on the final lap that not to panic when people attack as we need to simply stay together as its easiest to get ourselves out of trouble. Elia is a great captain and I always believe in him so today was no different but in reality at that moment on the final climb I should have just focused on staying at the front which was hard enough at altitude and should elia have been there great, unfortunately in the end my indecision meant we had nobody in the front and after the boys doing such a brilliant job all day we had to return to the hotel empty handed, that was one big blunder on my behalf.
While I am mad with myself on one hand on another I don't regret what I did. Yeah I blew a big chunk of time in the GC competition but my mentality always seems to be one to look out for my team mates first and foremost, especially elia whom a respect greatly. To be honest the front group was not that large so there's no guarantee I could have been in it however I should have at least tried. Better not to die wondering! When he asks for the teams the support he rarely let's them down and being apart of his victories has been some of the the best moments I have had on this team so from that perspective I don't regret my decision for a second. In reality he could have just as easily been right there and won the stage but today it went the other way. Sure on this occasion I should have just looked out for myself on that final climb but I didn't and today that backfired on me big time. I went very quickly from being in the perfect position at altitude of being the bat and quickly became the ball that smacked out the back of the bike race, the harsh reality of how the wrong decision at the wrong time in a bike race can be so costly. Anyways no use crying over spilled milk and we will just have regroup and reassess our goals and get stuck back into it tomorrow. It's going to now be a tuffer road to hoe but fortunately we have plenty of road to get it done before we get to Denver on sunday. I have to also say how pleased I am for keil. He is an absolute class act of a rider and has been knocking on the door of a result like today for years. Today his team really took the race by the scruff of the neck on that final leg snapping climb and keil showed everybody just why they did by winning the stage in such thrilling fashion, I am sure it's just the start of many big victories for him!!