The Bounce. We came to this Tour with nine guys ready to race. We’re down our leader and facing some injuries, but if yesterday proved anything it’s that we’re still up for it. The day started out with a little stress, considering the injuries some of the guys were going to go over cobbles with.
However, the show must go on, and despite the misgivings, we were still pretty psyched yesterday morning — we have a very talented bunch of blokes in this team, and so we were still hoping to do a bit of damage today, and the plan went ahead as normal.
That plan meant that all ancillary staff would be deposited on one of the cobbled sectors with wheel changes and drinks in case the boys punctured or broke a wheel, or if their water bottles jounced out of their cages.
Before that we had to get to the start, which saw the day’s highlight track being “The Flame” by Cheap Trick (yes, yes, I know: tragic); and highlight philosophical point being “If you’re dancing, Everything’s moving.”
The start was particularly hectic. Pop physiotherapy quiz: how do you minimise the vibrations across a bashed up rib and fractured wrist when both will be significantly stressed by the activity undertaken? Answer: a month’s supply of strapping tape, some gel padding patches, and a bucket load of hope.
Other moments of high drama yesterday morning were worrying about us not actually getting through the peloton before the start, and team aerodynamicist/nerd Robby K having
A car from Euskatel literally stop on top of his big toe. A man hasn’t hit as high a note since Jeff Buckley passed away. And then there was the hilarity of Robby (understandably) having all knowledge of Spanish flee his brain (what with a car sitting on his foot and all), and the Spanish driver wondering what the hell this crazy man was doing screaming. Absolutely hilarious moment. Robby’s foot is ok by the way!
And then the race. I was lucky enough to score sector 7 as the point where I was to hold the spare wheels, which was closest to the finish line, meaning I was able to go along the whole course, checking out all the various cobbled sectors, ruminating and prognosticating on what we could expect for the day.
It was going to be a cool day of bike racing regardless, and then after only 10km of racing, we heard the news that Canada’s finest, Ryder “weight of a nation” Hesjedal was in a break, and it looked like it was going to stick. The level of “cool” went through the roof!
We went through the course, and scoffed at the early cobbles, with Crocodile Dundee-esque “That’s not a pave sector…” quotes. Sector 4 changed all of that, and I honestly was unsure if Tyler and Millar would get through it considering their various battle wounds, but knew if they did, they’d finish the day.
Absolutely filthy cobbles — in terms of depth and complete inconsistency of placing, as well as degree of camber that the road was kicking, and all of this lasted for a couple of kilometres. The best way to judge “filth” of a cobble for mine, is to check the fastest comfortable driving speed. We were at about 18km/hr and it felt like the car was going to fall to pieces.
A genuinely top shelf shocker of a stretch of road. This link should show a clip of it from our car (we were stuck behind the publicity caravan, but wouldn’t have gone any quicker anyway).
And that was just the course! I was dropped at the end of Sector 7, and then had to settle in for the wait. Painfully no one nearby had a tv or anything, so I was flying relatively blindly, just hoping that Ryder was still up, and frankly terrified that he had punctured on the final sector and I’d have to give him a wheel change. Terrified.
The happiness I felt when Ryder emerged from the cloud of dust that was the final sector, pushing a massive gear and absolutely going for it is difficult to describe. I was ridiculously proud to be a part of his team, and proud of him as a bike rider — he’d been up the road for about 190km at that point, had dropped all of his fellow breakaway companions, and had to that point held off the attacks of the best bike riders on these roads in the world (excluding Tom Boonen and Tyler, who were injured).
I was a little disappointed to see how close the chasers were to him, but for Hesje to have gotten that far going that well, was a sensational performance in and of itself. It’s incredible that he then managed to garner anything like a sprint in the final, but that’s the quality of the man!
And that was just the start. The next group on the road had Johan Van Summeren in it, driving along, with blokes flailing away behind him. Then there was Millar and Martijn in quick succession. I will admit to almost falling over when Millar went by.
It is ludicrous that he was still racing when nursing a bashed up rib, carrying about a kilogram of strapping tape, and having finished 30km of pave in 200km of racing. He’s ridiculously tough. Having broken bones before, all I ever want to do is NOTHING for the following week or two. To race a bike over cobblestones is preposterous. The boy’s a freak.
And finally, way before he should have come through, Tyler rolled out of the dust accompanied by Julian. He didn’t look happy, but he was still on his bike. I’d been positive and upbeat and certain all of the previous night, but had internally been worried to say the least. To see Ty roll by was about the coolest thing I’ve seen in a bike race.
So this team, which has been absolutely hammered by the Mock, the Gods, the whatever you want to call it (in all honesty, it’s just been bad luck), has just wiped the blood off it’s face, stood it’s ground, and hammered right on back.
I can’t begin to describe how good our boys were yesterday, but the whole team has a spring in it’s stride, and we’re looking forward to seeing what these blokes can do next! Proud to be a part of it! Bring it all on!