Stage Nine to Valdelinares; a horrible day after the baking heat of Andalucía – but joy at last for Lampre with Anacona after the Ulissi and Horner debacles.
But where the hell is Pippo?
Perfect tactics from Movistar; “we’ve got a man in the break, why would we chase?…”
And they keep the jersey – and despite the best efforts of the Media to rustle up a feud, Quintana and Valverde seem to us to be working a perfect ‘one – two.’
However, a lot of watts burned up for no reward by Sky and there’s a loud ‘splash!’ on the wet tar as Alberto throws down the gauntlet.
Quintana and Rodriguez are quick to pick it up but Valverde and Froome are a little slower.
But that’s enough of my pontificating – let’s hear what a man who’s actually riding the race is saying…
It’s your first Grand Tour; the opening week has been savage with the heat, speed, hills and crashes.
So, what do you do on the first rest day?
If you’re Giant-Shimano’s 26 year-old American, Chad Haga, you speak to VeloVeritas, of course!
Haga turned pro with Optum-Kelly in 2011, his first big results came in his US neo pro year with a win in the prologue of the Mount Hood Classic and third on GC in the Tour of Elk Grove.
Season 2012 saw him take the prologue of The Cascades stage race – but it was 2013 when the young man’s palmares really exploded.
He was third in the GC of the McLane Pacific stage race; second on GC in the Volta ao Alentejo in Portugal; took a stage and was second on GC in the Redlands stage race; won the Joe Martin stage race; was 10th on GC in the Tour of California; third in the Cascades stage race and won the prologue in the Elk Grove stage race.
His results didn’t go unnoticed in Europe and for 2014 he’s been riding with Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb with the mighty Giant-Shimano team
Here’s what the man had to say on the afternoon of the first rest day;
Thank you for talking to us, Chad how did the rest day go?
“We pedalled about 12 K into the centre of town, had a walk around the cathedral, a coffee then pedalled back – that was just fine.”
That TTT must have made for a pretty savage first stage?
“It’s my first TTT with the team and my first TTT with more than six guys in the line.
“It was a really exciting stage and we were really pleased to come away from it with sixth place.”
Has the race matched your expectations of what a Grand Tour would be like?
“Yes, I’d expected it to be at a very high level – and it is.
“We’re nine days in and that’s not even half way – I’ve ridden a 10 day race in the past but it was nothing like this level, this is different altogether.”
Which have been the hardest days?
“Yesterday to Valdelinares the stage which Anacona won was very tough – and so too was the second stage which Bohanni won, Stage Seven where it fractured in the wind.
“Both days we were on the gas all day.”
What about the heat?
“It’s hard to pick out which was the hottest day, they’ve all been hot except yesterday, when it rained.
“But there were certainly a couple of days when it was stifling.
“You just have to drink as much as you can and keep going back to the team car for ice socks for our necks.”
It must be tough eating on days like that?
“You have to pick what you eat just eat a little and often – give your digestion time to work.”
Stage Seven looked horrific when those echelons formed.
“Everybody knew when and what was going to happen on that stage – and were trying to get to the front at the same time.
“It was chaotic!
“John Degenkolb and Warren Barguil both made the first echelon but it split again and that cost John a lot of legs to get back that should have been for the sprint – he wasn’t happy with fourth place.”
The rain and cool on Valdelinares must have been a shock to the system after all that heat?
“It was more the pace we were going up the last hill at which provided the shock!
“I didn’t mind the rain too much after all that heat.”
Lots of crashes…
“The roads in the first week were really slick, there’s been no rain for weeks to wash the tarmac and there’s a lot of rubber and diesel fuel on the surface – many of the surfaces were like a mirror.
“And you have to remember that lot of the time we’re racing through olive groves – that’s another reason the roads are so oily.”
You have John on the flat days then Warren in the hills – not many ‘days off.’
“No, not really!
“We’re a young team and were certainly been given the tasks to do and learn.”
How’s Warren after his crash on Stage Seven?
“Not too bad, he has a bit of road rash but all things considered it could have been much worse.”
What’s it like being part of John Degenkolb’s lead out?
“A lot depends on the parcours; in the Vuelta the racing starts at kilometre zero – but once a safe and manageable break has established then we’ll ride to control it or at least help the other teams who are riding on the front.
“Our job is to get John to the finish with his legs as fresh as possible – for instance, make sure he’s at the front for the climbs so he can afford to slide back.
“At the team meeting in the bus in the morning we’ll agree what the ideal plan is for the final lead out – but on the road you have to evaluate how close to that ideal you are then improvise, if needs be…”
Tomorrow’s time trial?
“I had wanted to try to do a ride but the team want me to save myself for my work for John and Warren – I’ve been giving them a good level of support and they want me to continue like that so it’ll be more of a recuperative ride for me.”
Iberian mobile networks willing we hope to speak to Chad again on the second rest day.