Quick little update on the final stage of the "Volta" Ciclista a Catalunya, A.E. Stage 7 definitely saw me emptying the tank. There were lots of crashes, attacks and exploding legs, including my own!Happy to be on the other end of it! I particularly dig the picture below because it has my ole buddy and teammate Amael Moinard hanging it out there with me.
Stage 6 of the "Volta" Ciclista a Catalunya, A.E. was an interesting one. We woke up to falling snow with already a few accumulated inches. With the profile immediately going up a seven-kilometer climb where temps were well below freezing and even more snow on the roads, race organizers, teams and rider reps made the tough but safe call to transfer the start farther down the road.
This translated to a long morning with a couple hours in the bus and more waiting around, but that didn’t slow down the racing. These short starts are notorious for creating surprises and there were plenty of attacks from km 0.
When two riders grabbed a bit of a gap, I think most of us thought they would be easily managed by teams with a sprint interest. A climb midway through split the bunch and then some crosswind split it again.
We stayed up and in good position and were on the good end of all the splits. Most of us thought the two riders would be pulled back just in time, but once again it proved how exciting shorter stages can be. They stayed away for the win.
It’s always a shame when a break stays away and BMC Racing Team doesn't have someone in there, but with only two riders staying away, obviously, there are a lot of teams feeling this way! I was happy to stay relatively warm, thanks to a huge pile of great gear. My laundry bag was very full tonight-- winter shorts, knee warmers, shoe covers, base layer, arm warmers, jersey, vest, liberty jacket, Sturm Prinz rain jacket, cycling cap and neoprene gloves!
At 212 km, Stage 5 was the longest stage of this year's "Volta" Ciclista a Catalunya, A.E. and it was another mountainous day with three big climbs.
All of BMC Racing Team was given the green light to try for the break after time gaps opened up following Stage 4. I could definitely feel some fatigue from yesterday’s big effort, and although I made a few attempts in the fast downhill start, I was happy to see my teammate Danilo get some daylight between him and the peloton in a strong group to keep him company.
Movistar once again exerted their cyborg-like control and kept the gap around 3 to 4 minutes, but they seemed ok with letting the break stay away if no other team wanted to close it down. There were a few strong teams who had missed the break, but I think many were discouraged knowing that if they closed the gap, Valverde would probably again take the win on the technical downhill finish with the final climb most likely thinning things out.
There were some attacks over the final climb, which lifted the speed dramatically, and after a bonkers downhill (which included a five-kilometer tunnel where we averaged about 80 km/hour for 5 minutes), we caught Danilo’s group on the line as he sprinted to a solid fifth place.
I did my best to stay up front and find the balance between keeping myself in good position to sprint if it came back together but not taking anything too crazy through those final corners.
I'm happy to be done with this long stage; another long one at almost 200 km tomorrow and it looks like it’s going to be a wet and cold one. Catalunya always proves to be a relentless week as there is no TT or shorter day to catch your breath. My two other races this season have included TTs and ended after five days, so hoping my body responds well. I am looking forward to bagging the added depth that comes from two more hard stages.
Stage 4 of the "Volta" Ciclista a Catalunya, A.E. was full-on racing into the big Pyrenees Mountains, which are still snowcovered. Fortunately, the sun was out, and the roads were mostly dry.
Tejay and I did a recon of this stage last week, and it was helpful to know all the ups and downs ahead of time. Any stage when the breakaway hasn't gone after the first hour usually becomes an interminable fight. Everyone starts to get the feeling that the next attack could be the one that goes to the line.
I burnt some matches in the second hour making sure we were present in some dangerous splits and bigger groups before my BMC Racing Team teammate Joey finally slipped away with a few others and the home team Movistar calmed things down with their typical stunner stiff tempo.
Climbing the Col de Crueta for over 20 kilometers and into the snowfields was a big effort to stay with the lead group. It’s always mind-blowing how fast and long we can climb and how many guys are still there fighting. It really becomes a battle of wills for most of us while the top contenders comfortably tap away up the climb in relative comfort.
Joey did a big effort to get back to the front group over the top, so we had a full BMC American contingent going into the frantic downhill heading into the final climb. Valverde was up to his usual tricks and got away on the downhill, so Joey and I helped chase to keep Tejay in the game.
We put Tejay in the best position possible going into the final climb and then it was lights out and game over for me after a ballistic first couple kilometers heading up to La Molina.
As a not so interesting but pretty vivid side note, I got whacked in the face by a musette and now I'm sporting a nice bloody swollen lip....
Tomorrow, we continue the high mountain stages into more unchartered territory. We head into the far northwest corner of Catalunya over a demanding 212 km. The morning will come too fast with an early 10 am start after having a comfy 1 pm roll out over the past few days.
I hid from the camera today but here is a glimpse at the day:
The third stage of the "Volta" Ciclista a Catalunya, A.E. was a cold one, even with the altered route that kept us off the 2000-meter peaks and away from the alleged avalanche zones.
It didn’t do much to tone down this pack of top-notch climbers who were obviously itching to get into some harder climbs.
I got to take on some of those familiar roads around Girona again, but I can definitely say it was the fastest I’ve ever descended off the Col de Bracons!
I didn’t feel as strong as I’d hoped over the final climb but managed to rejoin the front group a few kilometers before the finish. Then a big crash tossed some chaos into the final moments.
Tomorrow’s stage will be a couple notches up from today’s regarding climbing and difficulty. Condition-wise, it will be another frigid one as we climb up to almost 2000 meters followed by a long downhill, which will likely include some icy, watery snow melt before a classic Catalunya finish at La Molina where the ski slopes are open and people will be looking at us wondering what in the world we are doing up there.
I have to admit, 11th place is tough. Being that close to top 10 but just outside of it. I keep telling myself that it could be worse....it could be 12th.
We kicked off Stage 2 of the "Volta" Ciclista a Catalunya, A.E. with some strong headwinds. Combine that with the fact we all know there are some extremely difficult mountain stages around the corner, and we kept a pretty slow pace for the first few hours.
Things ramped up and got a bit dicey when we hit the crosswinds in the second half of the stage, but the always bending and undulating roads were never the right combo to cause splits, especially considering the teams here are stacked with climbers.
The final five-kilometer climb, which peaked 10 km before the finish, was a big effort on a wide sweeping road and I was once again reminded of the depth of the field at World Tour races. I was punching tickets of riders getting dropped for the final couple kilometers of the climb and digging deep to make it over with the front group.
We planned to help my BMC teammate Danilo Wyss in the sprint, but after seeing he wasn’t there, I thought I could give it a try. A technical final few km had me regretting not studying the roadbook more closely this morning but in my defense, the racebook maps look like they were drawn by a kindergartner, so it ends up being basically virtual recon.
I did my best to position myself and sprint and finished just outside the top 10 in 11th position. The next three days will be a massive load, especially with the frigid temps up in the Pyrenees. There’s talk of about rerouting some stages, but we haven’t heard any official word yet. Now that Spain’s favorite rider is leading the race, I’d say there is a better chance they'll decide to keep us slightly warmer and hopefully safer, but knowing Tejay is climbing great, I’m not sure how I feel about that.
The opening stage of the "Volta" Ciclista a Catalunya, A.E. was definitely enjoyable because it was a rare opportunity to race on some familiar roads around my European home in Girona. The spectacular coast sections are some of my favorites, and while we didn’t really have a chance to soak up the views, it's always nice to know where you are and what’s coming next.
Physically, the race rhythm took a bit of an adjustment after spending the past three weeks training. Fortunately, the profile and tactics were in line with this transition. But it only gets hillier, harder, and probably a lot colder from here, so I appreciate today as a good way to start.
Final stage and it started out wet, nasty and cold. The rain stopped falling from the sky, but the road spray made it feel like it was raining from the ground up.
As expected, there was the usual final stage desperation from teams with riders who were empty-handed so far at Volta a La Comunitat Valenciana - VCV.
My teammate Stefan Küng did a great job forcing a strong break of six. Towards the end, the roads proved to be very fast and open, and despite an awesome effort, Küng was caught heading into the final kilometers. We quickly switched to setting things up for my roommate this week, Jurgen.
We did the best we could to position him into the final kms, and he ultimately did some amazing self-positioning and technically savvy riding to launch a boss sprint to take the win.
From my end, I was happy to limit the shivering and wrap up this two-week block of training and racing with BMC Racing Team. It was fun to race with some of these classics guys, who I won’t see again for a few weeks.
I’m heading back to Girona tonight, which is a nice change. This is one of the very few races where I can travel by car! Next up--some recovery, training, and then back at it for the Abu Dhabi Tour in a couple of weeks.
Today was brutal. We had a super early start after a few late starts. I’d adjusted to the Spanish schedule, and then they threw a junior race start time at us!
After yesterday’s stage win in the TTT, we were feeling good and ready to tackle the most demanding stage of this year’s Volta a La Comunitat Valenciana - VCV. We were met with windy conditions that yielded an especially aggressive and fast race for the first couple of hours. It was a nonstop fight to stay at the front and out of trouble.
When we reached the more mountainous portion of the stage, the pace was relentless in the group, which caused numerous splits and regroupings.
As we reached the base of the final climb, we had a fairly large field. BMC Racing Team’s powerhouses did an awesome job taking the front, but I was in 5th or 6th position and lost them in a roundabout. On the climb, the pace was ballistic, and I could tell right away that I didn't have the legs to go with the best climbers.
I dug deep and gave everything I had. I committed a full effort all the way to the top. This race has a stacked field of great climbers, and after an extended period off, I'm satisfied with my effort and performance. I don't think I've done a day like today since June 2017 (Dauphine). There's no way to simulate an all-out effort on a final climb after 4.5 hours of demanding racing, so hopefully this will return benefits later this season.
We finished the day with Killian Frankiny taking the best young rider jersey, so massive congrats to my young teammate. He fought his way to a top 10 on an incredibly demanding day.
We came to the Volta a La Comunitat Valenciana - VCV with today’s team time trial stage as a primary objective. We prepared well. We were focused and knew this effort set us up not only for this race but also for other goals later this season.
When we woke up, the weather was super nasty and I’ll admit that the thought of doing an “all-in” TTT effort on an already technical course was extremely daunting. But a TTT is a controllable environment and the team decides where to take risks, which is different from a road stage when you are subject to the decisions of the 150 other riders around you.
On the bus and at the start, rumors were flying. As someone who has spent quite a bit of my career being a loud and public voice for safer race conditions, I respect the decision to not count today’s stage towards the GC, but I was very disappointed with how this decision was reached.
From what I know (again…could be rumors), it was a very limited number of riders who were asked to neutralize the race. In my opinion, it was a biased sample and only the riders with something to lose were consulted. In the future, I’d like the peloton to be better represented in decisions like this.
As we approached our start time, the roads started to dry up. We went into the stage aiming for our best ride possible but knew we didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. I’m so proud of how our group executed our ride in those conditions, especially with all the added distractions. The effort was intense and we all definitely suffered, but it’s an honor to do it alongside this group of guys. They inspire me to contribute everything I can. It’s satisfying to be part of this win and a great way to start the season.
Around 40 kilometers from the finish, today’s stage at the Volta a La Comunitat Valenciana - VCV exploded. There was a tough climb with some extremely steep pitches. It was both technically and physically demanding. I was happy to be in good position. The pace was high and when we were near the top, I looked around and saw there were only 15 or so riders with me. That bolstered me a bit.
Then those guys took off. It was a really strong and bold move, and I wasn’t in position to follow them. Sky still had around 5 or so riders, so I thought it was a long shot they’d stay away. There was definitely a home court advantage with two Spaniards and the gap opened quick.
When we reached the flatter final 15-20 km, I contributed to the chase with the plan to set Greg up for a shot at the stage win. We had 5-6 guys trading pulls going all-in and we couldn’t shave much off the lead.
I was frustrated we weren’t able to give Greg a chance for the stage. I dug so deep chasing. It feels like so much wasted energy to commit to an effort like that and not have it work out.
On a positive note, today was the first deep effort I’ve done in 5 months. With the caliber of climbers here, I’m pleased I made a strong selection and still had gas in the tank to chase hard.
Looking to tomorrow’s team time trial, 30 seconds is a lot to bring back on strong teams like Movistar and Astana. It’s a technical TTT, and without a doubt, it will be an extremely physically demanding 24 kilometers. I hope to recover well from today and make a substantial contribution to BMC Racing Team’s ride.
First day of racing for the 2018 season and it went well. Thankfully the sun was out for Stage 1 of the Volta a La Comunitat Valenciana - VCV and I was excited to race. Being back in a big bunch of riders was definitely an adjustment, but today was about as smooth as it could go.
The end got pretty messy with strong headwinds, roundabouts and speed bumps. Combine that with nearly 200 fresh, ambitious bike racers (and some that were a little delusional….) and things got sketchy. A few guys hit the deck, but I stayed safe and out of trouble.
As an added bonus, my roomie and new BMC Racing Team Belgian teammate Jürgen Roelandts notched a nice top three!
Tomorrow will be a less predictable and more demanding day of racing with much more climbing including a tough climb about 30 km from the finish. I expect that will shake up the race and most likely narrow down the finishing group. It’ll be a good test at the end.
📷 credit: GomezSport