There was the chance that the break would stick; but with the boys of John Degenkolb working themselves into the tar for him – and having done their homework by riding the stage finale on the rest day – and the likes of Ferrari and Matthews fancying their chances now that Bouhanni is back in France, not to mention Sky piling it on to keep Froome out of trouble, it was odds on to be a sprint finish.
Despite having burned up his boys to get the break back and flying solo in the technical finale, John Degenkolb surfed the wheels that went too early and laid down that raw power to take his fourth stage of the 2014 – respect.
We were privileged again to get a rest day chat with one of John Degenkolb’s team; from the USA, Chad Haga.
How did the rest day go, Chad?
“Yeah, good, we went for an easy ride and had a coffee but we rode the last five K of the Stage 17 finish so we could get a feel for it.”
And did you just ‘cruise’ the time trial?
“I felt good in the TT but that climb was a bit of a shocker – it was tougher than I thought it was going to be.”
I believe that first hours have been pretty savage on every stage?
“Everyone thinks they have a chance of getting in the break and with the break managing to stay away some days there are attacks going all the time ‘til the right combination goes.
“With us having Warren Barguil up there on GC we have to keep a close on who goes up the road.”
What’s been the toughest stage, so far?
“They all kinda blend into one at this stage but it was that one three days ago, Stage 14 with the really steep ramps at the end.
“The day was hard from start to finish; it’s one of the hardest days I’ve ever spent on a bike – I burned nearly 6,000 kilojoules.”
Some folks say; ‘maybe too many mountains?’
“I think that the race organisers are welcome to do whatever they wish – but I think it’s been a good balance with sprinter and breakaway stages as well as the mountains.”
“Like I say, the days all begin to merge; the Lampre guy [Niemiec] won that one? – yeah it was a really tough finish to that climb.”
What gears have you been riding?
“My bottom has been 34 x 28 but I know some of the guys are on 36 x 32 – but personally I don’t favour that because the ‘jumps’ between the sprockets are too big.
“But if I’d had a lower gear that 34 x 28 then I’d have used it – some of the finish ramps have been really, really steep.”
John netted his third stage [now four, today. ed.]
“Yeah, three stages, the green jersey and Warren top ten it’s been good for us.
“Both John and Warren are pretty much over their crashes with just a bit of road rash to show for them.”
And how are you feeling?
“It’s unknown territory for sure but I’m pleased with how I’m going – I mean, I’m tired but not dead yet!”
Does the team bring it’s own chef?
“Yeah; and he keeps us well fed with a great variety of dishes – he makes these fantastic cinnamon cakes…”
Race food – are you gels and bars or old school?
“I like to eat primarily ‘real’ food; little sandwiches and rice cakes but I’ll eat half bars as well – maybe overall half soigneur prepared food and half pre-packaged race bars and gels.”
What about the fisticuffs?
“I guess you could say it’s kinda amusing; but riders have different temperaments and guys are beginning to get frayed around the edges after so much hard racing.”
Can anyone unseat Contador?
“It doesn’t look like it – he’s very resilient, there at the top of every mountain and I’d expect him to go all the way.
“But I’m enjoying the racing; it’s good to see the others taking a pop at him…”
Hopefully we’ll be having another word with Chad once the dust settles in Santiago de Copostella.