Final Defense. The final road stage of the Eneco race was again lumpy, this time including roads from the Amstel Gold spring classic. In particular the Mur de Huy, a nasty climb that starts on an increasingly steep grade until a left turn kicks the road up to around 20%.
Svein was still sitting in fourth place on GC, a couple of seconds away from the podium, and we were all hoping that he could stay in touch on this stage as he is in very good time trialling form, and may be able to do some damage on the final day time trial.
The job for all of the boys was thus to help Svein out as much as possible, and get him over the Mur in touch with the leaders.
This job became a little more difficult seeming when we lost two more riders early in the race, through sickness and plain bad luck.
We were down to Svein and the three Australian kids: Jacky Bobby (who was pretty busted up from his heroics on Stage 5) and the Meyer brothers (Cam and Trav).
It was gratifying to see Svein get to the top of the Mur with all of the big hitters, but briefly worrisome as he appeared to be isolated.
Then the cameras panned back to a small group of six riders chasing hard to get back in touch, with Cam and Trav taking turns to get bring their group up, grimaces of pain and strain on their faces, closing it down quick smart. Brilliant stuff! Everything was as good as we could hope.
The final 40km flew by, with flat tyres and a few moments of worry, but Svein had done the job well, lost no time, and has it all to ride for in the TT.
It has been a great performance for the whole week, and he has been ably supported throughout by the boys. Triffic stuff!
The aftermath of the stage chatter (particularly from the Meyers) was about who flatted where, and how hard it was to get wheel changes when the race had been blown apart, meaning team cars couldn’t follow as closely as we would like.
Cam did laugh that he had a wheel change from the neutral service guys ahead of Robbie McEwen, who at the time had the points jersey and flatted at about the same point as Cam had).
Cam managed to get back to the front group, while McEwen didn’t: you need the luck some times!
Jack had a tough day for a different reason — paying for how hard he’d worked the day before.
He did have a chuckle about all of the congratulations and words of advice he received from the commissaires and other sports directors throughout the stage.
He survived the day in the gruppetto (which he was waiting to see form up from about kilometre thirty he said) and will see what he can drag out of his legs for the time trial in the finale.
We’re all looking forward to seeing how our boys do today.