Stage by Stage

Team presentation in Sacramento. Who's expecting us to upset the WT teams?

Team presentation in Sacramento. Who’s expecting us to upset the WT teams?

Tour of California

Been a while since California, but just been trying to recover from 8 days of hard racing. You’d think I’d have plenty of time to write a short blog about the race, but I’m feeling even more lazy when I don’t have to do anything. This time I had a suggestion about writing more about the feelings, the action, the tactics from a first person view within the peleton. Here it goes.

Stage 1 was a flat day, but we heard there could be some wind out on the course, so we had to be attentive. A break of up to 6 riders didn’t bother us, as we were planning on helping out Ty for the sprint, but if a bigger break went, we had to put someone in there just to be safe.

Race time: I’m at the back of the peleton on the start line listening to the US national anthem. The commentators do their usual countdown, I clip in and we’re off. There’s a neutral start, so I just slowly move up to the front of the bunch before we hit km 0. Green light. Racing. Speed picks up, guys trying to get away, but the road is so wide I’m not worried at all that anything will stick. This continues for a while. We hit a smaller road next to a river and I’m seeing a couple of guys getting off the front. Some of the big teams are well to the front of the peleton, so they’ll slow everyone else down on the small road and that’s the break for the day.

Pretty soon Etixx gets on the front, I slot in behind them as there’s a slight crosswind and it’s just that tiny little bit easier then trying to fight in the bunch. I get in the aerobars, just to be pedalling even less. This goes on for some time. Gravel section coming up. Some guys start racing for it. I move up. I hit the gravel road in the first 20 guys. Move up a little still as to avoid anyone coming down in front of me. We hit some deep gravel at times and everyone has to focus not to crash. A Lotto Jumbo guy almost goes off the road and eats it. Just saved it. Rocks are still flying around. I’m just hoping none hit me in the teeth or in my eyes. Thankfully “Spy” glasses are giving me some protection. We get off the gravel. Tail cross wind.

Straight away we get to 60km/h. Racing. Guys hit deep potholes on the road and I’m just trying to stay out of the wind, but still see the road. Guys are getting dropped for sure. Wind changes. People calm down. We pick up the speed when we finally get to the circuits. Full out. I’m looking around to see where are my team mates. I can find only Robin and Dion. Andzs was there just a minute ago. Trying to help them move up. Where’s Ty? We’re about to cross the finish line with 1 to go, I see Dion a few spots in front of me. I move up, yell so he gets on my wheel and ride straight to the first position in the group. I take the corner in first, hoping Dion got somewhere behind me. I go all out through a few corners until I feel I’m slowing down. I look back. Etixx is taking it up. I get back in the field somewhere. Wherever I can. Still going full out not to lose time. I sprint around a couple of guys in the end. Crossing the finish line. Day 1 done. No results to brag about.

Cavendish stopped by our RV to see what the fuss was about. Some pre race skill drills

Cavendish stopped by our RV to see what the fuss was about. Some pre race skill drills

Stage 2 was bit more interesting. Still 200km long drag, but at least the profile doesn’t look like a frozen lake. First KOM of the race, so whoever gets it, gets to wear the jersey from at least a day. Same plan. No point in getting in a small break. Just help out Ty.

I roll around before the start to warm up, because we go slightly uphill from the start. A neutral section through the town, but before that the US anthem, people cheering and the start gun going off. Clip in. Go. The neutral is too short and I don’t manage to move up where I want to be, but everyone is already racing. Legs feel slow, probably was standing too long before the start. Riders are single file on the road, as a lot of people are trying to get in the break, but the big teams don’t want to let a large move go. We keep going hard for a bit. I slowly inch myself to the front. No point in rushing as I’ll use up too much energy. Made it. I’m at the front. Look around to see who’s exactly doing what. Etixx is trying to let a small group go. Two guys manage to get a gap. Again small road. Big teams slowing down. Another guy jumps across. That’s three. Robin goes. That’s four. Everyone is good with that. We slow down even further. That’s the break.

We’re approaching the downhill that leads to the bottom of the KOM, so I move up, because I know it’ll stretch out on the downhill and there will be like a 30 second difference between the first and the last guy in the group. Keep moving up on the downhill. Slot in just behind Etixx guys, they are riding tempo to keep the break at bay. We hit the bottom of the climb and I look back, so I could see how far are the last guys. Pretty far. Glad I’m at the front. On the climb I let people pass me. Doesn’t matter. We’re not even half way done. I finish the climb within the last 10 guys – that was the plan. Just means I climbed the slowest – used up less energy, but still am in the peleton.

Might as well take some bottles from the team car for the guys and myself if I’m at the back. Chat with Craven. “Who got the KOM? Robin? Nice!” Get bottles. Move back up the field while handing out bottles. Made it to the very front. Still a bottle left. Put it up in the air: “Anyone?” Hand it to an Axeon rider. We start the flat run in to the finish. Keep it cool. Look for Ty. Coming into the circuits, just behind Ty, we’re pretty close to the front. Hear a crash.

Trying to figure out where. Breaking. Guys crashing in front of us. Ty goes down, I go on top of him. Feel guys crashing on top of me. Stand up. “Ty!? You OK?!” No response. How’s my bike? Where’s my Garmin? Can’t see it. Time to chase. People all over the road in small group. Catch up to one. Still off the back. We cross the finish line. Two laps to go. Chasing hard. Lap to go. Still chasing, but only 12 second back. We can get it.

First corner. An Axeon guy gets a flat going through it. Almost crashes and takes me out. Brake. Accelerate. Go as hard as I can. Still finish 22 seconds down. Disappointment. Ouch. My elbow hurts. Get on the trainer. Cool down. Hope Ty’s ok. 22 seconds won’t be a decider in the GC anyway. No results to brag about.

The area around Sacramento was a pleasure to ride around

The area around Sacramento was a pleasure to ride around

Stage 3 the first proper hard stage. Several KOMs on the way, so a good day to be in the break. Also already had ridden the stage and knew it’d be hard to chase on the 2nd part of the course.

On the start line. Anthem. Gun shot. Km 0. Wide road. No use in trying to get away now. Save energy. First small climb coming up, move up just before we turn onto it. Good, I’m in the first 20 guys. This is where we might get away. Attack. There’s 4 of us. Two more bridge up. I’m suffering already. Going almost full gas. Peleton is easing up. We might get away. Nice. Someone attacks from the bunch.

Bridges up, but drags all the rest of the field with him. Reset. Another move goes. I can’t follow. 6 guys are up the road. Peleton eases up. Missed it. Garmin rider comes up to the front. Starts chasing. Score. Not over yet. We catch them. Technical downhill section. Follow a move. Boom. In a break of 5 again. Nice. Keep riding. Can’t see the peleton. Road keeps twisting. Small rise. Deam it. They are just there. We get brought back.

Already 30km covered. Wider road, flat. Moves going. I need to get some food in now, so I have energy later. Robin gets in a group. Looks like they are gone. That’s a nice move. Some teams aren’t happy. We hit a highway. Long drag of a climb. Peleton is single file. I’m moving up. Guys are dropping. Break is caught. Oscar and 3 others attack. Looks like this might stick. Everyone is tired. Need to move up. UHC rider is moving up. Just follow. He attacks. I’m on his wheel. A Smartshop guy follows us. No one else is there. Ok, lets bridge up. 7 of us start working. We have a minute.

First KOM of the day coming up. Oss from yesterdays break is with us. He’ll be going for the sprint. He attacks 1km out. Missed him. I’ll just follow the next one and get 2nd. I’ll get him on the next climb. Everyone comes back together. We start working on our advantage already. 2.30. 3.00. Next KOM. Oscar leads it out. I start my sprint too early. Oss takes it from me again, but just by a hair. Wasn’t even sure he got it. 3.20. 3.00 Next KOM, coming up. I tell Oscar that after the downhill we start the Mt.Hamilton, so he should follow me and Oss when we start sprinting. Oss goes long. I can’t hang. He beats me again. I wait for Oscar. The three of us hit the long climb.

Suddenly we have 5minutes. Nice. Just get into a good rhythm. It’s just Oscar and me. UHC rider is yelling at us. Screw him. “Oscar, you good?!” He nods. 500m I look back, Oscar has dropped. No matter. Have to keep riding. I know this climb. 2Km to go from the top. I’ve got a good gap. I’ll go as hard as I can on the descent. Fan cheers on the road side. Some mistakes on the downhill. No worries. I keep my head cool. Next uphill, just keep going hard. Downhill again. This one is even worse. But I need time. I crash.

Dropped my bottle. That’s ok. I get up quick. Pick up my bottle as well. Keep descending hard, don’t care. I’m in town. Just stay aero, keep the pedals turning. Yes, there’s tailwind! This will help me a lot. I’ve got plenty of time on Oss. I might just make it. Wonder how big is the peleton and who’s chasing. Now a long shallow uphill section. Deam this headwind. When did that turn?! Just get to 8km to go. Then you’ll have a small downhill. If I make it there then I’ll have a good chance to hold off the group.

8km to go. I’ve got 2minutes 30. I’ve got this. 2Km to go. Still 2 minutes. Oh, this hurts so much. One eternity later. 1Km to go, they can’t catch me. Not now. Really steep section. I’m so slow. I still hear that the cars are behind me. I must have at least a minute still. Last 300m, flattens out. I do actually have this. Just make it to the line. Lift hands. It’s over. I did it. Wow. Really?! Crazy. How did this happen? A result to brag about. I get the leaders and the KOM jerseys on the podium. Sweet.

Holding two jerseys. Doesn't get much better than this

Holding two jerseys. Doesn’t get much better than this

Stage 4 should be a sprint stage, just because we’ll keep it together. Plan is to keep me and Dion safe at the front, not let a big break get away, watch for crosswinds and work with Etixx because they will chase for Cav.

Riding to sign in. Quick interview. Sign in. Quick interview. On the bike about to go to the RV. Quikc interview. Back on the RV. Quick interview. I’m tired and we haven’t started racing yet. I get called up to the start line. I’m standing in between some big name riders. Anthem. Let’s go. Attacks start flying. Some crosswinds. I keep it cool. I’m at the front. Nothing will get away without me. Small split in the wind. I jump to the front group. In control. A break finally gets away. We ease up. I stop on the side of the road for a quick nature break. More then half the group does the same. Power of the jersey. Boys keep riding the front. We keep the break close. Get bottles. Eat. Drink. Stay in the draft. Save energy. Etixx is helping.

Some guys roll up to me from the big teams. Pat me on the back, congratulate, say that yesterdays ride was great. I smile. I feel respected. I feel like I actually did a good ride. Some crosswinds. We keep the team at the front. Lotto Jumbo tries an attack. We lose some spots. Guys leave me room so I can move up with ease. Power of the jersey. Last 20km. Tinkoff guys with Sagan attack. They are not getting anywhere. They explode. We get them back. Sprint coming up. I ease up. No use in crashing again. I’ll just roll in with the group. Done. Sagan wins, moves 10 seconds closer, but still 22 seconds behind me. I don’t care. I still have two jerseys. Podium. Press conference. Doping control. Drive back to the hotel. My knee hurts.

Even when we have to be serious we still have fun

Even when we have to be serious we still have fun

Stage 5 again a flattish day with a chance of crosswinds. We’ll keep it chill. Just have to let the right break go.

Same circus at the start. People, interviews. Autographs. Looks like it might rain. I take a vest with me just in case. Sign in. Quick interview. Start line. Call up. Anthem. Gun shot. Start. Stay at the front. See what are teams doing. A break goes up the road. 5 guys. One of them is just 40 seconds behind me, so we can’t let them get too far away. We keep them at around 3 minutes. The gap keeps jumping around though.

Etixx is helping again. This time Tinkoff joins in. A Drapac guy showed up for two pulls as well. Good. Means we can save a couple of guys. I keep telling them to take it easier. They don’t listen. We hit a really steep climb. Field is all across the road. A Smartshop guy attacks. No one follows. Doesn’t matter. We’ll get them. Last downhill coming up. It’s wet. Better get to the front. I’m about to move up. Dion brakes, I cross his wheel. Almost crash. Just saved it. What’s wrong with me?! Move up. Break is at 1.40. Downhill. Slippery. I slip on one of the yellow lines. Saved it again. Gap is 2.20

Better start riding. We hit tailwind. Will be hard to catch them. Field is going full gas. It starts raining really hard. Trying to keep a good position, but save energy. Gap is coming down. People are freaking out a bit. Can’t see the road much. It’s cold. Should have put that vest back on. Last 10km. Break is only 30 seconds in front. We have them. Have to stay on the bike to keep yellow. Trying to keep a good position, but not saving energy. I’d rather just ride in the wind, see where I’m going and not crash. A crash happens.

Didn’t go down. Sprint to the line. Done. Another day in yellow. Good. Guys road amazing. Podium. Press conference. Doping. Food. Drive to the hotel.

Guys made it even on CNN. Big. But even bigger was the amount of work they did for me. So thankful!

Guys made it even on CNN. Big. But even bigger was the amount of work they did for me. So thankful!

Stage 6 was supposed to be a 24km long ITT, but instead it’s just 10.6km. It is what it is. I ride the course 3 times. Looks pretty fun. Sitting on the RV, chilling. Watching the live coverage. Guys are running around, warming up, getting dressed. I have still time. Watching the coverage. Time to get dressed. Skinsuit is nice. Still the Hincapie Sportswear one is better. Jump on the trainer. Talk with some guys about what the course feels like. I’ve got this.

I figure out what power I want to do. Should be enough. Start house. 2 minute gaps between riders. I keep sitting till they announce 1 minute to go for me. Start ramp. Countdown. I’m off. Breath. Accelerate. Get into the aero bars. Deam. My forearm still hurts on the bars. Pedal. Just don’t over cook the corners. Keep the power on the flats. U turn. Way back. Let’s pick the power up a bit. Small rise. 450w. Last hard turn. Accelerate. Flat out till the top of the climb and 1km to go. I look down at my time. No. It won’t be enough. 500M to go. Sprint.

Did what I could. Probably didn’t keep the jersey. What? Sagan won? By that much?! Wow. Beast. Still 2nd overall.

Stage 7 the Queen stage, the big mamba, the decider, the hurt locker. I’ve got two options – go for the KOM jersey or GC or try and do both. I’ll try and do both. Everyone keeps saying they won’t let me in the break. Ha. Like they’ll have a choice.

I don’t have the leaders jersey, but still the polka dot one. People keep congratulating me on my ride on stage 3. That’s nice. Still a big crowd next to our bus. People still want to take pictures with me. Sweet.

Focus. Race time. Call up and everything that goes with it. Start. Find where’s Oss. See him. Get on his wheel. Follow. He attacks. Follow. They bring us back. I don’t care. As long as he doesn’t get in the break. We start the first climb. There is no break still. Oss attacks. I follow. Some other guys manage to follow us, but that’s it. We’re gone. Field is too tired to chase. Oss keeps the speed high. I’m suffering. We hit a small flat section. I’m trying to recover. I pretty much don’t hit the front. Just stay in the draft. Climb kicks up again.

I’m suffering even worse. Just trying to hang on. Everyone is suffering. Oss keeps the pressure on. He’s not stopping. Feels worse with every meter. I can’t do this. Just hang on. Nop. That’s it. I’m out. I can’t. I’m wasted. I almost come to a complete stop. Wait for the field. Get in the draft. Much better. Still not easy, because of the efforts I did, but a lot easier then up there. Wow. Fans on the road sides. Coming up to the KOM. Better get a jacket on for the downhill. Warm. Downhill is long. Keep moving up, but people keep letting gaps go. Field is splitting a bit. I’m not closing any gap. I don’t care.

They will sit up and I’ll get back somehow. Probably. Hopefully. We get back. It eases up a bit. I get a bottle, food, I’m ready. I’ve got this. Two more climbs and we’re done. I’ll just hang on as long as I can. We hit the bottom. I’m in good position. People are getting dropped. Me and Dion are still there. I feel in control. I’m good. Just keep going. They pick up the pace. I’m still ok. Sky hits the front. We’re going fast. I’ll hang on for a bit longer. Sky accelerate once more. Gaps appearing in front of me.

I’ll let others close them. I hit the wind. The road kicks up a bit more. The speed goes up a touch. No. I’m done. Too much energy left on the road already. I’ll get dropped anyway. I ease up. I notice the 1km to the KOM sign. Deam. Should have held on. Could have held on. Won’t get back anymore. Robin passes me. How was he still there? Whatever. I’ve got nothing left. I’ll slowly roll to the finish.

Find a group of stragglers. I’ll ride with them. Bit of chit chat going on. We hit the Baldy climb. People are on the road sides. Nice. Cheers. Some pushes. Everyone notices my polka dots. I get more cheers and more pushes. Someone offers a beer. I reach my hand out to grab it. What?! Miller light? Ha. No. Not taking that beer. It’s getting colder as we approach the top. Good thing I have warm clothes in the car. Look, there’s snow on the roadside. Cool. About to cross the line, look up 16 minutes behind the leader. Huh. Doesn’t matter. I’ve done my part for this race. No results to brag about yet again.

The ITT course was just next to Six Flags. A must go when in the states. Photo by Lauku Suns

The ITT course was just next to Six Flags. A must go when in the states. Photo by Lauku Suns

Stage 8 final day. We’re in LA. Plenty of fans should be here. Sprint finish is on the cards. Turns out Sagan did an incredible ride, so he’s just 2 seconds behind the leader. Will be an interesting final day.

I still get a call up, even though I’m back in the nice Hincapie jersey for the first time since stage 3. Very short neutral. I attack just after we pass km 0. They bring me back shortly after. Whatever. Doens’t really matter. High speed. Doing some city circuits. Pretty hard, but manageable. Final lap done, now heading to the other city circuits. Single file. I’m pretty far back. But I’m unable to move up. We’re going so hard. Why?! I can’t go harder even if I wanted to. How’s hurting me so much?! How are there people not getting dropped if I’m on my very limit. What’s wrong?!

We hit a small rise. Very light. The field splits into two. Good. I wasn’t the only one going full out. Suddenly that makes me feel better. I start moving up. We hit the intermediate sprint. Sagan gets a second closer to yellow. But still needs a second to win. Oscar and Lewis team attack, make a break. They are off the front. I can finally recover. That’s it. I’m thinking about the finish already. Me and Schmaltz are about to team attack as Oscar has been brought back. We see Andzs and Dion beating us to it. Too bad. I ease up. Final lap. I cross the line. No risks taken as the finish was downhill. Turns out Sagan got 3rd by a hair and gets yellow. Impressive.

People are lining up next to our RV. Photos. Autographs. A guy was standing on the side of the road with a massive Latvian flag. Me and Andzs take a picture with him. Real nice guy. I get on the RV. Time for a glass of wine. Rest. Food. It’s over. Oh I’m glad it’s over.

I guess you could tell I was surprised

I guess you could tell I was surprised

It was a fun week and I’m super thankful to all the guys that rode their legs off for me pretty much giving up their own chances. That’s what team work is all about. We were the only team to keep the jersey for 3 days straight. Only Hincapie, Tinkoff and Etixx got stage wins. I think we were the first conti team to have the leaders jersey. This was one of the longest solo moves in the race history. Was the longest solo move I did. Pretty darn sweet, huh?!

With this piece my idea that I should write shorter blogs went out the window. Plus this will be the first one I’m not writing in Latvian as it’s a bit too long. I’m sorry. Especially I’m sorry for my granddad who loves reading them, but I’ll just give him a call and tell him all about it.

Hope you enjoyed the read.

Best,

T.s.

First day in yellow and what a day to start it off. Photo by Lauku Suns

First day in yellow and what a day to start it off. Photo by Lauku Suns

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3 thoughts on “Stage by Stage

  1. Thanks for sharing your stage by stage. We enjoyed watching you race. Also, thanks for meeting my son Sergejs. Wish you all success this summer!

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