It’s my third Volta a Portugal and I really feel lucky to get here.
My form is good, possibly the best ever. Obviously I get the odd pang of paranoia; I think twice if I drink a beer, worry about food – kind of stupid really.
I slimmed down by three kgs for the Volta, which is basically my lightest ever racing weight and only now am I realising I’ve got margin to loose more.
One thing about being a roulleur/domestique here is that there’s really no pressure to loose loads of weight like the climbers, who have to get really skinny.
There was the usual presentation for the Volta. We were in a mad rush and it was stressful.
The prologue was not quite within the UCI regulations; the race got dispensation to make a short, 1km circuit that we had to go round five times in a TTT.
This was ok, and I actually enjoyed rushing over the cobbles and bumps. But the team was somewhat disorganised, which was a pity.
I think I could have gone faster by myself, I felt I hadn’t done anything despite dropping back a lot to collect teammates and covering loads of gaps.
We chose a strategy that didn’t work out, we hadn’t practiced it enough, we weren’t able to recon. the stage, there were very inexperienced members in our group, some of us made mistakes…
We finished last – well not “last last”, but the last team; there were another 40 guys behind us.
I was really unhappy with how it went, I felt good myself.
Oh well, you live and learn.
Stage One was atypical; there was a strong headwind and the stage was very long, 203km to be precise, and no one wanted to do anything, so we pottered along at 30kph.
It was a nightmare!
We were given some freedom to get in breakaways and I took my chance 50km from the line.
The breaks that had gone earlier in the day were all given 10’, 15 minutes by the peloton by I was given no margin… Still it earned me the combativity award.
I lost some time bringing a leader back to the pack 10km out.
Stage Two was a fast, hilly stage with a lot of teams seemingly interested.
Nothing much happened for me – I was on water carrying duty.
The finish was spectacular and eventful, with one team chasing down it’s own rider who was sure to win …
Stage Three and climbs at last, after that horrendous, long, flat, windy stage we had some mountain tests, which I passed well.
I had a lot of duties carting water about, something especially important on hilly stages as feeding is more complicated.
A lot of guys were already suffering.
I developed an enormous saddle sore that requires antibiotics.
And the stage was very hard; MTN kept the pace high throughout, the temperature was 47ºC in place and one of my bottle cages broke.
I still did my duties well though – I got to the mountain (it was a summit finish) in such a state I had to lay down 4km from the line. I really had no energy. I managed to finish the stage, but that was definitely one of my top three worst ever days on the bike.
This was supposedly a transition stage.
It was hot again, 43ºC and I was the first at the back to get water. Our car is miles back since we’re not doing well on GC and so took an eternity to get back up to the peloton.
During this time a team decided to go to the front and put a brutal pace on. And I was right there at the back in the worst position possible.
I didn’t actually get water, I had to grit my teeth for the next 40 km, holding on for dear life, which really took it out of me.
On the last climb of the day, 2 km from the top I just didn’t have the heart to dig deep and found a good gruppeto to roll home in. I kind of regretted that afterwards.
Rest at last! The rest day is a weird thing; you begin unwinding even as you sleep before the rest day and the day itself flies by.
I’m not a fan myself. I think I’d rather grit my teeth, keep ‘race mode’ switched on and just get through the whole race.
Anyway, I’ll try and write something a little more in depth and about the second week after the race.
‘Til then, Tomás.