Into The Bumps. Stage 3 saw the profile go from pancake flat to very lumpy. It was bound to be a day where things were shaken up somewhat on the over all standings, but Canadian hardman/topbloke Svein Tuft is a quality athlete, so we were quite excited about still being in the mix.
The day was also pretty hot, meaning we had a large number of bottles to be handed out, in a lot more places than is normal, so Joachim our swannie designated to making up the bottles this week had a bit of work to do.
The stage was different from the sprint stages in another way, in that it never really went more than about 40km from the start/finish town, despite being a 192km race.
The course zigzagged all over the place looking for any hill of note to throw the boys over. Thus we were looking to get in front of the lads at various points to make sure they could get bottles without losing position on the ridiculously narrow roads.
It was similar to what we do for the Ardennes Week races (Amstel, Flech-Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege).
As Trav Meyer noted, he started one climb in about 50th place, and felt fine going up the hill, passing blokes whenever there was space, but half the time he was waiting for a gap to open up to move forward.
At the top he felt fine, but was dropped from the front group simply because he’d not been able to get himself into the right position.
Our day started with strapping for those in need, followed by obligatory Belgian radio 80s mix (Kate Bush “Wuthering Heights” was the highlight) for those in the car.
I ended up being lucky to find myself in car 2, with Marc Quod (Quody) our driver, and Andrezj Poznak our mechanic.
Each team has two race cars following the riders, with the order of the cars determined by the position of the highest rider on GC for each team. We were car 1 (go Svein) and so were the first of the line of the second cars.
Why two cars? We can at times have someone in the break, and the rest of the team in the peloton.
This is a several km spread on a road that you can only drive in one direction. It’s impossible to cover a whole team with just one car, so whenever things split apart (either in front of or behind the peloton), car 2 gets called into action.
There was a hilarious moment today when I realised that instead of sticking the race signs to normal street signposts (which most every other race does) they had two skinny old blokes working it as sign holders, similar to the bikini models holding up the signs between rounds at a boxing ring. Hare-brained left-fielded low tech can-do Belgie-ness at it’s absolute best!
As the race rolled on we started looking after lads who had a bad patch at the wrong time and found themselves out of touch, or who were in the wrong position on a climb, or who had done their job for the day.
It can get very hectic, with a couple of near death experiences through the day being about par.
Our man Svein boxed on over all of the tough hills and particularly with the help of Trav Meyer (who rode out of his skin all day) he managed to stick with the big hitters group, keeping himself in third place overall (two blokes had skipped off the front in the final 20km and the bunch couldn’t drag them back in.
Stage 4 is another flat stage, so things should be a little less worrisome for us.