USA

Stage 7 - Tour of California

What a crazy exit out of CA!

I went to Santa Cruz for a sponsor event and managed to make it to the airport with very little time to spare.

I’m already heading back to Spain and it is incredible to think back on how quickly the past two weeks flew by. The racing was as heated as ever, and clearly, the most deserving riders won each stage and the overall.

This year was different for me heading there straight from Tour de Yorkshire with only a few short days in between. While they were short, those were some great pre-race days with the BMC Racing Team guys. We enjoyed some good California rides on our way down to Long Beach.

Once the race started, I sometimes forgot I was in the USA with the peloton so international and likely stronger than ever before. I also noticed the cultural shift with the A.S.O. (Amaury Sport Organisation), who also handles the Le Tour de France, now running the race. What hasn’t changed was the spectacular showcase of the beautiful state of California.

It was a pleasure and honor to make our way from Long Beach up to Sacramento and to be cheered on by the American fans the whole way. I loved hearing my name shouted each day when I went for sign on. My dad and stepmom came in for the final stages, which was a personal highlight.

We’ve come to expect long transfers with traffic during this race but knowing there would an American-sized bed waiting for me and a breakfast box stocked with the amazing produce from places like Whole Foods added that touch of American convenience and comfort that I miss when I’m In Europe.

And the burritos!

I had a solid dose of post-race burritos, which hopefully will keep me going until my next trip back to the States.

Personally, it was a week of ups and downs. Despite being frustrated for not improving on my third and fourth overall finishes from the past two years, I’m taking a more long-term perspective. While I wasn’t able to continue my top five trend, I believe I still have it in me.

I came into the week with high ambitions of riding a strong overall race but was disappointed to be off the mark on Stage 2. From there, it was a matter of shifting focus and returning to teammate mode in support of Tejay and his bid for the overall. I was proud to be in the fight with a group of fast finishers in Stage 3, in contention with my TT ride compared to the other GC players, and that I was able to fill the role of valuable teammate.

It’s nice to have the ATOC as a way to assess my progress as an athlete and as a person over the years. When I think back to Tejay’s overall win in 2013, I can see how far I’ve come and how much harder this race has gotten. Back then, I was purely a teammate and never considered being at this race as a GC contender. The race has grown tremendously in its demand and depth since then. Similarly, I feel I have also developed.

The changes aren’t just on the bike; I’ve worked to become a leader, and it is satisfying to have a race where I can see this work translate into results. I am still inspired to work and achieve. Maybe the best news of the week was that we learned the Tour of California will continue and I hope to be there 12 months from now.

As for today, I’m looking forward to getting back to Jamie over in Girona and catching a little rest before getting back at it in the Dauphine in a couple of short weeks.

📷 VeloImages

Stage 5 - Tour of California

At today’s sign-in, the announcers were already asking about Stage 6 of the Amgen Tour of California. I reminded them Stage 5 was still ahead and we had a lot to deal with. While it had a flatter profile and less technical, it was still a day where we needed to be heads up and switched on.

Heading into the race, wind was the main topic of discussion along with how it would play out with the world-class sprinters we have here.

We were fortunate that some of the sprinters’ teams immediately showed their muscle up front and helped us encourage a good small group to get away. The sprinters’ teams quickly got to work controlling their gap, and BMC Racing Team posted up behind them as we navigated some slightly more technical roads through the middle section of the stage.

There were a few crashes behind, so we were happy to be up front and clean. On these “sprint” days where we race on wider roads with fewer corners, the group typically gets nervous sooner than it needs to. Today was the perfect example of that.

The wind was never strong enough to cause major echelons, but there was plenty of nervous position fighting from corner to corner in the final 50 kilometers. Sometimes it feels like a waste of energy to be pushing up front during those moments, but then a big crash happens and the effort is obviously well spent.

We were happy to defend the jersey and head into tomorrow’s epic high-altitude climbing slog with as much banked energy as we can expect after five solid days of racing. I fully expect to have everything thrown at us, but I’m also confident in our group and looking forward to the challenge.

📷 Chris Graythen/Getty Images for AEG

Stage 4 - Tour of California

As expected, today’s time trial provided a big shake up and was a great balance after the more pure climber focused Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California.

Thanks to the excellent prep work of our Californian director Jackson Stewart, we had some good virtual recon ahead of time. This morning was our first chance to see the course. It was fairly straightforward and required a relatively steady rhythm and supreme aerodynamics. There were a couple of small handling sections, but I never had to touch the breaks. This meant the speed was always up and the power profile would be constant.

The wind was definitely a factor with a brutal headwind for the first half and a ripping tailwind for the final 12 kilometers, at least for anyone who began later in the start order because the wind shifted from morning to afternoon.

In the first half, I struggled to find a good rhythm thanks to the headwind. Our follow cars with director feedback were placed behind stage favorites Patrick Bevin and Tejay, so I was flying in the dark out. I just tried to stay focused on my breathing, position and pedal stroke.

Forty-five minutes is a long time to be riding at your limit, all alone, and stuck in the TT position. Time trialing still isn’t my strongest ability, but I’ve been working hard on improving. I felt l did a decent job staying focused and not letting those negative thoughts (which were telling me that I was c.r.e.e.p.i.n.g) get into my mind.

To my surprise, my strongest section was the dead flat, straight final 12 km. Over this section, I was very close to the pace of the top finishers, but my poor first half left me with too much time to make up. This put me just out of the top 10 on the stage but bumped me up to 10th overall.

The day was a very happy one for BMC Racing Team because we all know how badly Tejay wanted this and how hard he worked for it. It is a true testament to commitment and persistence, and it’s nice to see Tejay being rewarded after a challenging spring season. We will do everything we can to bring him to Sacramento in that jersey.

📷 VeloImages

 

Stage 3 - Tour of California

Stage 3 took us on some fresh roads we’ve never raced before at the Amgen Tour of California and then brought us back to the finish from 2016 on the Laguna Seca Raceway.

The new sections were those roads you love to ride but are super challenging to race. Think bumpy, broken surface roads that are narrow with steep ups and downs; it almost feels like mountain biking on a road bike.

Once again the depth of the field showed itself over those sections. The pace was high, but not high enough to prevent a few brave souls from attacking.

We did our best to stay around Tejay and keep him protected and well positioned, which was essential because there were a few crashes and plenty of sketchy moments.

The final kilometers on WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca were an explosive sufferer fest! I was digging deep to stay up front and in position for what we thought would be a small bunch sprint. Yet an inspired late surge from the break and some super gusty wind conditions played a role.

You hear it over and over--only the podium or winning matters. Yet judging by the aggressiveness in the sprint for third, that cliché is far from the truth. I did my best to time my surge and put myself into good position heading into the last corner, but a few guys still swiped me on the inside.

Overall, I was pleased to be up there in the mix, feel that finish line fire and get into the top 10 in a stacked field of fast guys.

📷 Chris Graythen/Getty Images for AEG

 

Stage 2 - Tour of California

Today was a tough day.

Not tough like we suffered and battled all day, but tough because I didn’t deliver the performance I expected of myself. I have been working so hard towards today.

The unpredictability of this sport is what makes it interesting and what gives me personally a lot of hope and ambition, but it is also cruel and so challenging to exist in this as your job, your livelihood.

Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California was a fairly mellow and uneventful day for the first 140 kilometers leading into the final climb. The pace and position fighting ramped up pretty hard as we approached the final climb, but the BMC Racing Team guys were always up front. I went into the start of the final climb in the first five positions.

The depth of this field began to show as each team had a number of strong guys who all wanted to do an all-out max effort pull to show themselves. If anything, I was maybe too far upfront during this phase. As I followed the acceleration of guys doing their final pulls, I already felt like I was nearing my max. Looking back it’s easy to say that sitting back a bit could have saved me a few accelerations, but being upfront kept me out of the mayhem….so it’s hard to say what would have been the best move.

In the end, Tejay did a solid climb to keep himself within striking distance. I’ll have to go back to the drawing board and get creative with how I can get myself back in the mix and hopefully apply some pressure to the teams ahead of us.

📷 Chris Graythen/Getty Images for AEG

 

 

 

Stage 1 - Tour of California

The turnaround from last week racing at Tour de Yorkshire to kicking off the Amgen Tour of California today was short, but after being in a hotel the whole time and having a long build-up of pre-race activities, everyone was eager to get the race going.

Stage 1 played out exactly as we expected with a small break getting caught before a fast bunch sprint. It was a fairly straightforward day, except for a few orange traffic cones keeping us on our toes. The wide American roads meant there was constant reshuffling and my legs felt a little stale, but the speed and acceleration out of the corners helped open them up a bit.

Hopefully, they are primed for tomorrow’s big day. It’s the highly anticipated summit finish showdown on Gibraltar…..

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