176.1km, 2100m ascent
We’re in the Minho, in the far north western corner of Portugal.
It’s a wonderful place and feels like home away from home.
It’s tough for racing though, it’s extremely hilly; you never go well, you’re never comfortable.
It was warmish also, about 33ºC which for us used to the blistering heat of the Algarve is quite pleasant.
The race got of to a bad start.
I had to mark certain teams at the beginning of the stage and did a fairly good job of this, which was good since we were ‘under staffed’, so to speak, at the front of the bunch.
Our leader, Ricardo had another fall while I was in the mêlée at the front.
As soon as I knew I dropped back. He was okay, but gosh, it’s really worrying when these things happen. We work so hard; it would be utterly devastating to loose because of a fall.
The rest of the race went well, just resting and saving energy.
The tough terrain and phenomenal work by United Health Care meant that it wasn’t that restful, but there you go.
At the end I put the pace on to try and keep my team mates out of trouble -as we were told in the team meeting, but an older cyclist decided against it.
Back at the caravan he started firing off at another team mate (an exemplary and selfless cyclist). I wasn’t involved, but felt like smacking him. He’s old enough to know not to be firing off at everyone with a hot head from the race.
The finish was a tough 2km climb.
I just hung at the back of the bunch trying to keep safe and get to the finish using the minimum of energy.
The race was won by César Fonte of Efapel/Glassdrive, a cyclist local to the region. It was a fantastic victory, he’d spent the whole day in the break and held off the galloping bunch to win.