September 16th - Stage 21 - La Vuelta

  • Stage/Finish: Alcorcón › Madrid

  • Distance: 100.9 kilometers - flat

  • Weather: 86F/30C - sunny

 

Images: ©BrentBookwalter & Chris Auld.

  • First one—ice cream bar on the bus pre-Stage 21.

  • Second one-crossing the finish line of my ninth Grand Tour.

  • Third one—enjoying a beer on the bus after Stage 21.  

Brent's Update:

Every Grand Tour I’ve raced felt like its own complete season or maybe even a lifetime’s worth of bike racing packed into one race.

This year’s Vuelta was my ninth Grand Tour, and once again, it was an all-consuming few weeks of racing with the sport’s best. It tested me both mentally and physically. It feels great to be through it, and I’m proud to say I’ve finished every single Grand Tour that I’ve ever started.

There is no easy way through three weeks of racing at this level and almost a full month on the road. You are surrounded by the sport and contained within a traveling circus.

What I enjoyed the most about this Vuelta was the relatively laidback environment. It definitely felt different from my other Grand Tour experiences, which were 100 percent committed to the overall GC cause. This time, we had some freedom to race each day as we choose, but I can’t exactly say that made it any easier.

Instead, it meant adjusting, which involved a new challenge for me. When riding for the GC, you approach every stage with an “all for one--one for all” mentality. There is never a lack of focus. Every kilometer of every day counts, and it squeezes every drop out of you and your teammates. It is mentally and physically exhausting, but it provides an anchor and purpose. 

So this Vuelta, I had to replace that focus with the sense of opportunity and flexibility, and it took some recalibrating and relearning for how to approach each day. Even after 21 stages, it was still a work in progress.

In other Grand Tours, I’ve looked at riders on teams who didn’t have a GC rider to protect and thought to myself, “Wow, that must be nice. If I were them, I would just sit at the back and wait for tomorrow because there is essentially nothing to lose.”  This year, I learned my viewpoint wasn’t completely accurate. There is still suffering and danger; the race is still live and the battle is being waged.

And I learned a new perspective of why every rider out there fights and remains in the mix. It isn’t all about protecting a result or a leader; it is about protecting yourself and keeping your head in the game. I learned that the best way for me to stay engaged was to push myself into the fight, stay in the moment and remain focused. That was my constant goal and objective.

I also learned that highs and lows come together. Riding in the breakaway on Stage 5 was a perfect example of this. A savage start and almost two hours of attacking to get in the break, making it in there, feeling super strong, knowing it would likely go to the line to contest the win.... only to be followed by missing the crucial splits and missing out on an opportunity for a big result.

The absolute highlight of my race was when Jamie arrived for the second rest day and stayed through the time trial and came back for the final stage in Andorra. Preparing and getting through a Grand Tour involves such a tremendous amount of support from loved ones and those close to me. It felt incredibly special to share some of those moments during the race with her. I cherish those memories and will use them to empower me in the future.

Now back to Girona for a few easy days and then over to Austria to race with Team USA at the World Championships!

 

September 12th - Stage 17 - La Vuelta

  • Stage/Finish: Getxo › Balcón de Bizkaia

  • Distance: 157 kilometers - hilly

  • Weather: 75F/23C - sunny

 

 

©ChrisAuld_IMG_0074.jpg

Images ©Chris Auld

Brent's Update:

After a rest day and TT day, I’d hoped I’d feel a little livelier than I did today. There’s no denying it was Stage 17, and the body and mind are feeling it.

Like just about every other stage, we had a tough seven-kilometer climb after the start that we knew would be decisive for the break.

I was out of the fight before we even hit the bottom as we barreled through a sketchy city from kilometer 0 and played a high stakes game of chicken through tons of roundabouts and narrow sections. I worked my way up toward the front as we hit the climb, but the break had already formed, and we had Dylan and De Marchi up there once again.

It was a classic Basque Country stage with lots of uncategorized climbing and urban sections. It never feels like we roll along but instead pinballing through cities and up and down mountains.  

The last climb was another Vuelta special with sections 20 percent and some insane fans. I rode up with local Basque hero Mikel Irizar and the cheering for him was incredible and deafening. The road was only visible when the fans parted the moment before we ran into them.

Upfront, Dylan was locked into a tight battle for the stage win and narrowly got edged out by Mike Woods. Dylan earned five top 5 stage finishes at this race — completely incredible persistence and consistency -- but of course he really wants that win.

Again, the stage wasn’t over at the top of the climb, and we navigated another 25 minutes back to the bus as I nursed a flat front tire for the final few kilometers.

We were still weaving through thousands of fans that were all in a hurry to get back to their cars. Somehow our 157-km stage turned into 180 km of riding over 5.5 hours. A few more hours in the car to wind down and get closer to Catalonia where in theory we should have a flatter day tomorrow.

 

September 10th - Rest Day - La Vuelta

  • Santander

  • Distance: 0.0 kilometers

 

 

Brent's Update:

The second rest day at a Grand Tour feels like the arrival at an oasis after a long, bleak trek through the desert.

Despite being situated literally in a gas station parking lot--don’t be jealous, the view out my windows is overlooking gas pumps—it was great to get through last week and especially the gnarly Stage 15.

Jamie came in along with a few of my other teammate’s wives/ girlfriends and having some fresh outside enthusiasm immediately lifted the mood.

For the rest day, it was business as usual with a team ride where we checked out the TT course, followed by massage, and then a physio check-up. My back has been tweaked the past few days, but thankfully we have some awesome support to put me back together each day. 

 I’ve been debating how to approach the TT.  I see potential opportunities in the next four road stages, so it may be wise to ratchet it back and take it as an “open back up” day as opposed to an all-out onslaught.

On the other hand, having the freedom from not protecting a team GC position is also an opportunity to test us late in the race. Obviously, Rohan is guns blazing ready to go and has been targeting this stage since day 1. I think my roomie, Joey, will also do the USA skinsuit proud.

For the rest of us, it will likely be a matter of feeling it out knowing that there is always an opportunity but also being aware of the demands that lie ahead in this final week and managing resources accordingly. 

September 8th - Stage 14 - La Vuelta

  • Stage/Finish: Cistierna › Les raeres. Nava

  • Distance: 171 kilometers - mountain

  • Weather: 83F/28C - sunny

 

Photos: ©Chris Auld & ©TimDeWaele/GettyImages

Brent's Update:

It’s been a challenging mentally and for team dynamics riding a grand tour without any team GC ambitions. We have been half-joking that the new rule is either off the front or out the back, but there are some truths and practicality to this in how we effectively use our resources. The past week, I’ve been trying every day to get “off the front.” Some teammates made it happen and found fortunate breakaway combinations and race scenarios that allowed them to go to the line. 

Despite all my attempts, it wasn’t until Stage 14 that I managed to get away. 

It was the usual tense neutral and fast start with a five-kilometer uncategorized climb. Despite being pushed to the back during the neutral, I snaked my way to the front just in time for the drop of the flag and immediately began going with attacks. With each one, my oxygen debt increased but I kept telling myself to commit over the top of the first climb. It was a deep effort but going over the top we noticed we had a small gap and immediately began rotating to speed up. I was happy to see my teammate Nico there but unhappy to see Kwiatkowski as he was only five minutes back on GC. 

Despite having some serious horsepower including a former world champion and three Grand Tour top 10 finishers, it would be a long shot to stay away. We could hear our directors lacking optimism over the radio. The first recommendation was to “attack Kwiatkowski on the climb and get rid of him.” Nico and I looked at each other thinking, “no chance of that.” So we began working together. 

It’s been mentally tough being in the peloton conserving energy while still suffering. The feeling of going for it was something I relished despite the heavy toll it took on my legs with each gnarly climb. So despite the low odds, it felt good to commit to the effort and enjoy some open road. 

Eventually, we got word that the GC group behind was blowing to pieces and going full gas. This was Kwiatkowski’s cue to pour on the pressure over a nasty Cat 1 climb. Nico and I both struggled to hang on but managed to stay in contact over the top. A few kilometers into the downhill and it was just us three. That road was nuts! One lane, decreasing radius corners, moss on the edges and grass growing in the cracks of the busted pavement. This one would claim a few victims between the breakaway and peloton. 

By the bottom of the descent, our lead had been slashed to a minute and dropping with Bahrain doing a full steam pull and peel. I came off on the next and penultimate climb, while Nico hung on with Kwiato. I was surprised to see the GC group so small when they caught me, but when I felt their pace I could see why. Part of my mind was saying sit up and save the rest for another day, but another part said to do my best to hang on over one more climb. It wasn’t a free ride, but I was happy to stay in the mix to the base of the final summit. 

Again, the motos were a little too close as this group barreled into the climb. Never directly in front but always rolling in and out of the zone where the chasing teams could get just a bit of draft. 

As we hit the base of the final climb, my legs exploded as guys sprinted to position their leaders, so Nico and I called it a day. We still had to grind our way up four km of an insanely steep, one lane goat path that required a minimum of threshold Pace in a 36-30 gear just to keep moving. 

Astonishingly, the front guys put 5 minutes into us in 5 km. The crowds out there were incredible and inspiring while riding past, but treacherous when going down.  

TV should consider including the “ride back to the bus” in their coverage; it’s another worthy viewing component on these stages. Riding down 15-20 percent, dragging the brakes and weaving through hoards of drunk fans was not exactly a relaxing cooldown! 

Today is another savage one, but we can see the glimmer of tomorrow’s rest day way, way off in the distance.

September 5th - Stage 11 - La Vuelta

  • Stage/Finish: Mombuey › Ribeira Sacra. Luintra

  • Distance: 207.8 kilometers - hilly

  • Weather: 85F/29C - sunny

 

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Image: ©ChrisAuld

Brent's Update:

“Hump day” at the Vuelta, but this race is anything but downhill from here. Stage 11 was the longest of the race and a brute with another 12,000 feet of climbing.

We talk about luck with these breakaway moves all the time, and there is indeed some involved, but there’s clearly skill, courage, and power required, all of which Alessandro had in spades when he pulled off the win.

I tried and tried and tried to put myself in that position with him but it didn’t happen. I was always in the front part of the group as it split and blew to pieces over a two-hour roller coaster of racing from the start. I was up there with Alessandro hunting for the right move, which I thought we had on numerous occasions only to have it all come back together.

On multiple attempts I told myself “all in” and that I didn’t care what happened after that. We would get some separation with a few others only to fizzle out and be pulled back.

By the time we hit a 10-km climb around 100 km in, I was feeling cooked and needed a minute to catch my breath. Desperation in the group was increasing as everyone knew the right move had to happen at any moment. Fortunately, we had three—Dylan, Nico, and Dema-- up there as they went over the top of the climb. It was a fight for the next 100 km due to some GC threats making it in the group.

Now back in the pack, I was suffering, physically spent but even more mentally defeated by the failed attempts. But it was inspiring to hear over the radio how our guys were riding up front.

As I rolled through the final 10 km trying to spin my blown legs out, I could hear Jackson screaming at Alessandro, and I realized he had done it. A quick celebratory toast for Dema’s win and my roomie Joey’s birthday made it a happy albeit late evening.

Back at it today with more technically demanding roads and “undulating” terrain, which I’ll just go ahead and call mountains.

September 4th - Stage 10 - La Vuelta

  • Stage/Finish: Salamanca. VIII Centenario Universidad de Salamanca › Fermoselle. Bermillo de Sayago

  • Distance: 177 kilometers - flat

  • Weather: 81F/27C - sunny

 

 

Brent's Update:

Stage 10 was a good way to transition out of yesterday’s rest day. With a bunch sprint anticipated, most of us kept yesterday short and easy, but the risk that comes with that is the body shuts down after going full gas for nine days.

From the start of today’s stage, it was clear that the sprinter’s teams weren’t going to take any chances and only allowed two riders to slip away.   There was enough wind to keep everyone awake and a dicey downhill into the final climb and toward the end of the stage things heated up.

Despite not having a GC guy to protect or a sprinter to line it up for, I did my best to stay switched on and up front for this part, just to feel a little intensity of the race and stay focused.

After the climb, it was back to big roads. I needed a rear wheel change due to a puncture, but otherwise, it was an unusually relaxed roll into the finish.

Maybe on TV today looked boring to the fans, but they’ll be some action tomorrow and the coming stages between now and the next rest day, so sit tight!

Tomorrow is the longest stage of the race and looks to be demanding terrain--always up and down and twisty small roads. I think about 90 guys are thinking they will try for the break, so that will make for a tense start and unpredictable day.

September 3rd - Rest Day - La Vuelta

  • Salamanca

  • Distance: 1.5 hour recovery ride

 

 

Brent's Update:

Monday was a welcomed rest day after a grueling first “week” here at La Vuelta. They call the block from the start to the rest day the ‘first week,’ but it’s actually nine days! 

So now in my mind, I tell myself that we are already approaching the halfway point. The rest days go by too quickly. After Sunday’s six-hour stage and another hefty transfer, it meant we arrived at our rest day hotel late and were all slow getting moving in the morning.

It was great not to have to zip up my suitcase, but I still had to hustle to make the 11 am training ride. We rolled up to Salamanca and soaked up some ambiance in the Placa Mejor Salamanca and googled some history on the place. I now know it is home to the oldest university in Spain, which is apparently where today’s stage starts.

The afternoon was lunch, a nap, massage, physio check-up and a couple quick catch up phone calls and emails before dinner and then back to bed. These next six stages should take us into some moderated temps, but very demanding terrain with some STEEP climbs towards the end of the week. Fortunately, tomorrow looks the gentlest, so fingers crossed we can “ease” back in.

 

September 1st - Stage 8 - La Vuelta

  • Stage/Finish: Linares › Almadén

  • Distance: 195.1 kilometers - flat

  • Weather: 103.5F/39.5C - sunny.hot

 

Images ©Chris Auld

Brent's Update:

Stage 8 was mostly about getting us across Spain and closer to the next block of stages. That meant an hour before the race in the bus, five hours on the bike and another 2.5 hours transfer in the cars after the race.

We are creeping our way north, but the temps were still searing hot, possibly the hottest of the race so far.

Not too much to report from out on the road other than lots of trips to the cars for bottles. It was impossible to get enough fluids and eating on the bike gets challenging when it’s this hot.

Tomorrow is a massive day, so I focused on getting in foods and liquids. It felt similar to what you’d think eating while exercising in a sauna would be---not at all appetizing.

The sprinter’s teams who chased didn’t make it easy on themselves after giving the three brave (crazy?) breakaway guys a gap of 12 minutes. There was a little bit of panic and urgency in the chase around 70-100 kilometers in, but as predicted, the small group on big roads faded once they hit the three-hour mark.

The BMC guys wanted to give Dylan another shot in the punchy uphill finish and did our best to position him into that final roundabout. He ended just outside the top 10. 

Now it is one day between Monday’s rest day and us, but tomorrow is a doozy with over 4000 meters of climbing and a hard, long summit finish. Let’s hope the climbing legs are ready.

 

August 31st - Stage 7 - La Vuelta

  • Stage/Finish: Puerto-Lumbreras › Pozo Alcón

  • Distance: 185.7 kilometers - flat

  • Weather: 92F/33C - sunny

 

Images ©Chris Auld

Brent's Update:

Stage 7 felt a little bit like a one-day race, not day 7 and 33 racing hours into a three-week Grand Tour.  The fatigue started to appear but based on how everyone else rode, I would think they’d all spent the past week on the couch resting up.

We rode through some very hot, dry and rural countryside and the breakaway went much quicker than I anticipated, but a quick tailwind couldn’t get their gap over a few minutes.

Throughout the day, every one was ambitious to stay up front, and I never felt like we were just cruising along. Instead, I always had someone’s handlebars wedged against my hip or someone’s shoulder shoved into my armpit.

The final 20-kilometer looked to be very small roads with some nasty climbing sections, so the battle for position began 30 km before we even reached that part of the course.

When we finally hit the “small” road, it was even worse than we expected with very busted pavement, melting tar patches and lots of gravel. I appreciate a race testing all facets of a rider’s skills and a team’s ability, but that road seemed a bit ridiculous.

BMC worked to get Dylan in a good position because this was a finish that could suit him. Joey and Nico were up with him and made it through a nasty crash at the bottom of the final climb, so I took that as my cue to pack it in.

There were crashes in the GC group and a few even in the dropped group, so I was happy to make it safely through another day.  I’m ready to head north to some new scenery and hopefully cooler temps. Since we spent the first five days going the wrong direction across Spain, we are now left with two big days of racing and transfer hours.

 

August 30th - Stage 6 - La Vuelta

  • Stage/Finish: Huércal-Overa › San Javier. Mar Menor

  • Distance: 155.7 kilometers - flat

  • Weather: 86F/30C - sunny but windy

 

Images ©Chris Auld

Brent's Update:

We are approaching the end of Week 1 in Spain, and I think most of the peloton is starting to feel it in their legs.  We did less than 3,000 meters (~10,000 feet) of climbing, which was a nice respite, and we thought Stage 6 would come down to a big bunch sprint.  As I’ve seen in other races in this part of Spain, the area can be very windy. The flags were whipping this morning when we rolled out.

A three-man group quickly got away and we were happy to see Richie in there showing that he’s starting to recover from a tough stomach bug that he started the race with.

Sports coverage shows one side of the day. Their stories center on the toughness and suffering of the best guys at the top, but they fail to capture the humble drudgery and pain that the guys at the back are riding through. This isn’t Richie’s usual territory, and while I think he’s enjoyed having less pressure placed on him, he isn’t wired for gruppetto riding. Hopefully, today boosted his confidence and helped bring him back for some big rides in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile back in the pack, things went fairly smoothly, but there was always a little nervous energy because clearly there was potential for some crosswind action. With about 25 kilometers to go, things got chaotic and tense as we bounced through the town of Cartegena.

I was trying to stay switched on and in position, but in the back of my mind, I was thinking about staying safe and not doing too much damage to my legs after yesterday and knowing it wasn’t a huge deal to lose a little time.

Approaching the important corner, we came through another small town, and everyone slammed on the brakes as we dodged bikes and bodies on the ground. It looked like another dismal job of obstacle signaling by race organizers, and a couple riders paid dearly for it.

 That was enough to split the group.

We still had 25 km to go and had groups even farther back were battling the wind. Up front, they were in full echelon lead out mode. I did my best to stay out of trouble and eventually we connected with Nico’s group, which had a few GC contenders who were doing their best to limit losses to the front. It feels a little strange not to be sweating splits and time lost, but I suppose that comes with the stage hunting mentality. The plan stays the same à remain focused on opportunities as they arise.

August 29th - Stage 5 - La Vuelta

  • Stage/Finish: Granada › Roquetas de Mar

  • Distance: 188.7 kilometers - medium mountains

  • Weather: 98.6F/37C - sunny

 

Images ©Chris Auld

Brent's Update:

We knew Stage 5 was a day for the breakaway.

Our directors were laying on the pressure and hype this morning. It’s easy to say “go in the break,” but so much harder to make it happen. It takes legs, timing, and a little luck.

I wanted to give it a try, and eventually I found the right combination of those factors and got in a group of around 25 guys. It was no small feat just being there and took us almost 70 kilometers of twisty and hilly terrain before we had a gap. De Marchi was with me, and every team except Sky and Quick Step had made the move.

Anytime there is a group this big, the shenanigans start early and cohesion is rare. Everyone’s director is telling him to save energy and do the least amount of work. I hate this part of cycling as it turns into a game more than a sport. 

With 80 km to go, the splits began. At first, guys would open a gap on a downhill then not want to spend any energy closing it.  This sets up counterattacks with guys trying to bridge across. Reset, repeat.  It’s the most inefficient way to maintain speed and a time gap. But to be honest, the reason I don’t think I like it is because I’m not very good at it.

Alessandro on the other hand always seems to have magical timing and put himself in the front mix immediately. Although we got close to him, I never saw him again until the finish.

While one may think I had a “free ride” after that, not true. It was the complete opposite trying to control 20+ riders who were all on a mission to get away without me because they knew I wouldn’t be much help trying to bridge the gap.

It was great having Alessandro up there, but personally, it hindered my chances for a strong performance. As we headed into the final climb, I found myself on the worst end of the group with guys who were content to be done racing.

Overall, I’m pretty disappointed. It took things aligning just to get in that group, including Sky being ok with giving us enough gap to stay away. I was feeling strong and capable but really came away empty-handed and quite frustrated, not to mention the significant physical effort that I put out, which will take a few days to rebound from. I hope there are more chances in the coming days and weeks.

 

August 28th - Stage 4 - La Vuelta

  • Stage/Finish: Vélez-Málaga  ›  Alfacar. Sierra de la Alfaguara

  • Distance: 161.4 kilometers - medium mountains

  • Weather: 95F/35C - Sunny

 

Images: Chris Auld

Brent's Update:

Stage 4 of the Vuelta was the first of many summit finishes, and it surprised many that the early breakaway stayed away. When fellow American Ben King took the win, it was inspiring to see him show that the good guys can win!

And as always, the result only tells a small piece of the story….

For the third day in a row, the first attack from the bunch became the break. I think a lot of guys, including BMC, were thinking that if the first attack went, the group would likely be controlled teams like Sky or Movistar so they could contest the stage. If the break took a while to go, there was a better chance these powerhouse teams would consolidate their energy and give the break more of a leash.

As cycling often teaches us, expect the unexpected, and that was true today with the group in front getting a hefty 10-minute lead.

We had a reasonable pace in the bunch as we reached the first categorized climb halfway through the stage, but you could feel the tension rising as the gap inched farther and farther out. We kept thinking that at any minute a team would begin to ramp it up, string it out and chip away at the lead. That moment never came and it was a game of defense in the pack all day.

Again, it was super hot and I lost count of how many bottles I drank and dumped on my head. I found some slightly familiar roads that I had ridden this spring while doing altitude training In Sierra Nevada. These were the roads I sought out when the high elevations were still cold and a little snowy.

From there, we pinball’ed through Granada on the approach to the final climb, and I stayed up there over the first couple pitches keeping an eye on Nico. He’d missed his last chance for a bottle, so I was glad I pushed to stay there for a few extra minutes and grabbed one for him and dropped it off.

From there it was into conserve energy mode, but still, there is no easy way up a 10-kilometer climb in 95F heat! I have no delusions about chasing GC here and hopefully will be able to utilize a bit of banked energy when things align and an opportunity appears in the coming stages.  Seeing tomorrow’s profile and how today panned out, I think it will be a much bigger fight for the break, and there is also a chance it could stay away again.

 

August 27th - Stage 3 - La Vuelta

  • Stage/Finish: Mijas  ›  Alhaurín de la Torre

  • Distance: 178.2 kilometers - medium mountains

  • Weather: 86F/30C - sunny

 

  Images ©Chris Auld

Images ©Chris Auld

 

Brent's Update:

Without having a sprinter here and seeing our GC possibilities cut back yesterday, it was important to keep Nico in the mix, but other than that, it was nice to feel a little less pressure to always stay at the front and on high alert. Overall, we tried to use today at the Vuelta as a day to refocus and not spend too much energy.

That doesn’t mean it was by any means an easy one, and it is clear that despite only being Day 3, the heat makes everyone a little more edgy and irritable.

Stage 3 was another case of “first week” racing with time gaps still tight and tomorrow’s stage featuring the first of many summit finishes.  It saw us do our first big 20-kilometer climb, and then a bunch more up and down. My Garmin read 3000 meters of climbing by the finish. 

Yet the blistering heat wasn’t enough to deter a big group sprint.

The final 30 km were very technical and fast.  We rode those roads in training a few days before the race, so it was a rare opportunity to know what was coming.

I did my best to stay up front, mostly for self-preservation and to keep out of the scrum as much as possible. 

Now that most of us are in “energy save” mode, things get a bit tricky knowing who would be pushing to the line and who might be sitting up a little early. Today it was Joey and I hitting the line first, but hopefully, we can take turns throughout the days to come because every little helps. We want to be ready any time an opportunity presents itself.

 

 

August 26th - Stage 2 - La Vuelta

  • Stage/Finish: Marbella  ›  Caminito del Rey

  • Distance: 163.5 kilometers - flat

  • Weather: 85F/29C - Sunny

 

Images ©Chris Auld

Brent's Update:

I don’t think we had any flat roads on today’s “flat stage.” I guess it is a matter of perspective, but today didn’t really feel like a sprinter’s stage. I’m sure once we hit the third week, today will seem quite ‘cruise-y’. 

The temperatures were nasty hot, and that definitely added a significant obstacle to navigate. We had three priorities for the day--give Rohan a chance to defend his jersey, keep Richie in position for GC and support Dylan for the stage.

Immediately following the start, we tackled a seven-kilometer climb that we raced mellower than we anticipated. With so many big days ahead and everyone basically still in the GC hunt, the first attackers went away, and as the team who would be looked to control most of the day, we were happy with that.

Joey and Fran ran house at the front and were riding super strong. Our director repeatedly reminded them to give the break a little more time because we hoped some of the teams favored for the stage win would help later.

Bora gave a little “help” in the form of my old teammate Marcus Burghardt, but when that guy rides the front, he aims for maximum damage and split the group on a downhill with about 60 km to go. Richie flatted and was caught in the second group, but it eventually came back together.

There was a critical corner with 30 km to go where everyone swarmed around us battling for position as we headed into the more technical, twisty, rolling and tailwind final section.

That was about the time when the wheels started to fall off for us as splits began to form.

Richie and Rohan were both distanced from the front selection and then Dylan flatted. De Marchi brought him back to the bunch while I drifted back to help reposition him.  By then teams were drilling it. 

Dylan’s chase back took its toll, and it became clear we couldn’t get him back to the front. Nico -- who always seems to be in excellent shape at the Vuelta -- did a great job battling to stay up there. Over the years, he’s done some impressive GC rides here, so we will likely shift some energy to supporting him while looking for individual opportunities. It’s one day at a time.

 

 

 

August 25th - Stage 1 - La Vuelta

  • Stage/Finish: Málaga  ›  Málaga

  • Distance: 8 kilometers - individual time trial

  • Weather: 86F/30C - Sunny

 

Teammate Rohan Dennis won the stage and moved into the leader's jersey

 

Images ©Chris Auld

Brent's Update:

Going into a Grand Tour that starts with a time trial is always daunting as you know the percentage of racing is small, so you don’t want to spend too much energy for no reason. At the same time, we all arrived here fit and ready and doing an effort that you can be proud of is good for your confidence, morale, and motivation going into the next few days.

I think I strung together a pretty good ride today. It was a high-speed course with a few tricky parts but nothing too difficult. There were only a couple of moments when you had to be on the brakes, and the climb was only short.

Stage 6 - Tour of Utah

Today was most likely the final time that I pull on my BMC jersey in the United States and that brought on extra meaning.

This is a race that I’ve been a part of since the beginning of my career. The Tour of Utah has treated me well, and I was heading into the final stage with the opportunity to lead the team after Tejay had an off day on Saturday. It felt absolutely amazing to go for it, battle, persevere and feel that finish line fire. Racing Utah with the BMC Racing Team has had some deep meaning in my progression as a rider. It felt like a fitting close to my time at this race with this team to conclude with a podium.

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Sunday’s start was fast and saw several attempts for a break to form. Joey was repping us in the first couple, but with a reduced squad and knowing we needed extra power in the final parts of the stage, we decided to holstered our manpower when the move finally went.

Lotto kept a stiff pace, and I was excited because that meant we would likely have the chance to play for the stage win. The climb up Empire was as brutal as ever. With a fresh coat of pavement, it was little quicker, which I think we all appreciated!

The team did a super job leading me into the final climb in great position, and the pace was stiff right from the start.

In these moments, I focus on one minute at a time because it’s hard to fathom continuing like that for the next 45 minutes! Once Lotto was out of guys, Jack Haig set out with a hard attack and only Sepp marked him. This caused our group to fragment. I battled and rode the climb the best I could, making sure to keep them in sight, but I really struggled to close those final meters.

As I would catch riders, they immediately would sit on me knowing it was my race to chase. I tried to stay focused and not get distracted. Towards the top, I saw my chance to make a big effort and make contact with the group, and I went for it. I was really suffering over the top of the climb and doubted my plan to attack on the descent, but I mustered some strength and went for it over the final meters of the climb.

I quickly realized the descent was wet, but still extremely fast. I caught the few guys who had been distance by Sepp and put my head down sprinting over the final uphill rise before the plunge into Park City. Jack latched on to my wheel, and we slid into the final corners together. I could see Sepp in the distance and could tell we were charging hard. I buried myself on the final 800-meter climb to the line, which felt more like 8 kilometers. I missed Sepp by 8 seconds.

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I hope to be back in 2019! For now, it was a rush to the airport and onto a plane back to Spain. Fingers crossed now---hoping to get confirmation that I’ll be starting the Vuelta sometime this next week.

📷: Jonathan Jono Devich / Epic Images

Stage 5 - Tour of Utah

Today’s stage was the classic finish atop Snowbird with a few changes to the earlier parts of the stage, which actually meant less climbin, but that definitely didn’t it make much easier.

The first hour saw some very aggressive racing. With our reduced squad of five guys, we rode a good race with Joey in a strong break that put Lotto under pressure and forced them to ride. Once Joey came back, Killian got away in a nice counter and proved the strongest in the breakaway as he was the last one caught and earned himself most aggressive honors. 

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Back in the bunch, I was surprised that EF waited so long to attack and whittle down Lotto, with such a deep team of climbers and three guys positioned to threaten the GC. I expected them to start the hostilities earlier than the base of Snowbird. When they did finally go, the pace was super stiff.

I always struggle on the lower slopes of this climb, baking in the hundred-degree heat with a stiff tailwind. Today was no different.  The air quality in Salt Lake was atrocious, and I could feel some asthma symptoms beginning to lock up my lungs. I metered myself back a notch and had some super teamwork pacing from Joey.

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Around midway up the climb, I began to recover and set out alone to try and catch the chase group, which was hovering 30 seconds ahead, but being alone and on some of the flatter sections towards the top, I wasn’t able to close it down.

Despite being isolated with no teammates, Sepp Kuss rode away to a stage win. He was on another level and executed a rare jersey defense up the final climb.

I did nudge my way up a few spots in the GC and feel good about my effort, fighting and not giving up.

This race suits the pure climbers more than myself, but I’m pleased to be heading into the final stage still up there and will battle tomorrow as we grind up that nasty Empire climb and bomb into Park City for the finish.

📷: Jonathan Devich

 

Stage 4 - Tour of Utah

We knew going into Stage 4 of the Tour of Utah to expect a hard circuit around Salt Lake City complete with a solid climb every lap.

It definitely lived up to all those expectations.

To give you a little glimpse, we did 70 miles (~113 kilometers) in under three hours.

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Joey was caught on the final turn, so I had a go at it in the end and slotted in for another top 10 finish.

Now back to the mountains!

📷: Jonathan Devich

 

Stage 3 - Tour of Utah

Whoa, Stage 3 of the Tour of Utah was a hot one! It took forever for the break to form and I was left covering moves because we started a guy down after Tom didn’t start.

To make matters tougher, our young stagiaire Freddy crashed while the earlier attacks were going, so BMC Racing Team is now down to five.

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So today we were happy for Lotto to do the controlling after such a dominant performance yesterday. (Hopefully, it tired them out a bit!)

I did my best to stay up front and have another go in the sprint but it was a full-size group, and the relatively easy circuit didn’t play to my strengths. Finished just outside of top 10 in 12th.

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Tomorrow is the always tough Salt Lake City circuit race, but they’ve moved the finish line to the bottom of the hill instead of up at the top, which I’m sure will deliver some more action before heading back into the mountains for the weekend.

📷: Jonathan Devich

 

Stage 2 - Tour of Utah

Stage 2 of the Tour of Utah was shorter with a flat, fast start and one massive climb and descent over Mount Nebo. We knew going into the race that it would mix things up and it did just that.

We worked well together as a team to control the early moves. I can already see our young guys learning what to do, and we were always in good position before we finally agreed to let a group go up the road.

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After that, it was a long but relatively high-speed trip down a highway frontage road that traversed the desert and also some nasty smoky air from the nearby wildfires.

We went into the climb in great position, and the pace at the bottom became very stiff with immediate attacks. Knowing the altitude would continue to play a role, we stayed together with Joey setting a strong tempo through the initial steep pitches.

A few kilometers later, the group was getting whittled down after some more serious GC attacks with one of them being eventual stage winner Sepp Kuss.

Joey kept them on a good leash grinding away in the headwind but Tejay saw a moment to try to bridge and went for it. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite get up to them and the process put Joey and I into some difficulty. Hindsight is 20/20, and I think Tejay is still feeling out his form coming off the TDF.

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I battled back to Tejay’s group and immediately began chasing with everything I had knowing it would be a long 45 kilometers and knew no one would help Tejay and I even if it meant losing their own chances to win the stage and lose time in the overall.

It’s been a while since I mounted such a long and intense chase, but I was inspired to give everything I had to limit our losses if we couldn’t bring back an exceptional Kuss.

Looking back, EF was very strong, and I feel if we had worked together instead of racing against each other that we would have had a shot at the stage win. But every team has to ride their own race and stick to their own plan. Although losing the jersey stings, I’m encouraged that I was able to put in a strong performance and feature in the heat of the action. Historically, the race lead changes hands on the climb to Snowbird, and I think we are still within striking distance.

📷 Jonathan Devich/Epic Images