Today's time trial stage was to be in all day affair, with an early wake up to view the course in the morning and the race in the afternoon. My roommate Jani and I woke at 7:30 am, ate breakfast, and then prepared to leave to see the course one time before the race began. With the time trial course just under an hour away from the hotel, we hopped in the car at 8:45 am and headed to the start.
The TT course was about 31 miles long, so we didn't ride the entire course in order to save some energy for later. Instead, we drove the first third of the course and rode the rest of it, starting with the climb. The profile showed the climb as being just under a mile long, but from bottom to top it was probably closer to three and half or four miles long, with a big headwind.
When we got to the finish line, we jumped back into the car and drove to the start again, where the team bus was waiting for us. As Jani and I were getting on the bus, the rest of team was heading out. They all had earlier start times as a result of the crash on the first stage, so they were getting ready to go already. Jani and I had at least three hours to kill before our start would come. The team had lunch out and ready for us to eat when we got to the bus. It was nothing fancy - just the usual rice and chicken, and a Coke on the side for me. Jani's lunch was even a step further down as he had just a big bowl of rice.
With the entire rest of the team already gone, the bus was like a library inside. Jani was playing with his computer, while I watched two episodes of Entourage. After an hour and half of waiting, it was finally time to get back to work again. After getting kitted up for the second time that day, I warmed on the trainer for a half hour to get the legs rolling just before it was time for me to head to the start.
Second times a charm, right? That's what I was thinking as I got on the start ramp again. This time, I was completely prepared to leave one minute after the rider in front of me, only to find out that the race was using two minute intervals between riders this time. Now I was running a minute early as opposed to the minute late in the prologue. I still just couldn’t get it right!
My plan was to ride the start hard and then just play it by ear from there. The first part of the course was slightly uphill with a strong headwind, but it felt a lot like Paris-Roubaix, because the road was in need of serious repair. When I hit the climb, I could already tell that the legs weren't great, and it was time for Plan B - to save a little and hope that Jani would have the legs to ride as team leader for the week.
After the climb, the wind was so strong on the descent that I was all over the road fighting to stay upright. I over shot one turn, going off the road and into the gravel, barely keeping the bike from going down the hillside. And I was playing it safe! I began to wonder how many crashes there would be today, since I knew many riders would be going all out and taking huge risks to stay in the hunt.
After the descent, the drama wasn't over with 15 miles of riding still to go. That section was fast - crazy fast - and I was doing 35 to 45 miles an hour. As I hit each open section between the trees or buildings along the road, a huge cross wind would hit that would have my front wheel going sideways. When we weren't fighting the wind, we had to stay completely focused to avoid crashing on the speed bumps and roundabouts that we were taking at 40 mph.
When I crossed the line, I thought I had nothing to be happy about, since I knew my time was nothing special. BUT, not long after, Jani came flying in with a time that was looking like YELLOW! After two more riders finished, it was official. Jani had taken the stage win and the race leader’s yellow jersey. And he did it all even after having to change bikes on the climb when one of the aero bar extensions came loose.
Great job Jani! The rest of the week should hold some interesting stories, as Team RadioShack fights to keep Jani in yellow!