Following the stage in Huainan, there was another 6 hour transfer the next day to Jinning. That morning, Tanner and Blair got to the lunch bags first and proceeded to take the snickers bars from Joe, Ty, Oscar, and accidentally Casey’s lunches, before hiding them on the bus above the Australians. Sure enough before we left, Joe, Ty, and Oscar discovered holes in their bags and no snickers and came marching onto the bus to reclaim the best part of lunch. But no one budged and the trio left empty handed. To add insult to injury, Putt, Blair, and I began posing with our hostage candy bars before getting hungry and eating them all.
Poor choice. That night, we each got jumped in our rooms and wrestled to the ground. And the next morning, Tanner, Blair, and I had to ride dirty bikes and pump our own tires. One day, this will be funny, but the lesson here is do not steal and eat others snickers. Star that and live by it. Its not worth it.
The hotel in Jinning was disgusting. Rock hard beds, moldy ceilings, rooms that stank of cat pee. Makes you appreciate the nice hotels even more. On the positive side of life, we were on the ground floor and didn’t have to deal with elevators.
Jinning is the home of Confucius and while the hotel was lacking, the location of the race was gorgeous. The start was located in a huge garden. Giant bushes had been sculpted into giraffes and other animals forming arches over the road. Gardens and ponds were everywhere. I rode down one road that stopped at a lake. On the other side a huge golden statue surveyed the carefully manicured lawns, fountains, and paths. It was so peaceful – no honking cars or busy cities, I wanted to sit down and take it all in.
Perhaps the gardens helped because I felt fantastic in the race. I could attack over and over, pushing the breaks along. But none were sticking. I broke another wheel, came back fast and went right to the front just in time for a KOM sprint over a partially built bridge. The field was flying, cracks were beginning to form. A big crash split the field for a little bit. I saw a promising break go and moved up front to bridge across. The course turned right from a 6 lane highway to one lane path. The break only had a handful of seconds but the field braked to a halt in the corner and was gone as I tried to bridge. Damn it. Another day of being close. But close doesn’t cut it in sport. Its a harsh reality that is painfully real in sprints.
Oscar and Ty had been working well together so Joe and I decided to pair up and see what we could do together in the finish. Like clockwork, the remnants of the breakaway were swept up five kilometers from the line. Joe and I worked together on the outside of the field, dodging in and out of the draft, moving towards the front. Its a war up there. Teams of riders move about together, desperate to stay together. Shoulders and elbows touch as everyone tries to move their handlebars in front of the rider next to them. Joe and I shoot a gap between two parked motorcycles on the side of the road. We are in the top twenty with 3 kilometers left. The last corner appears and the field is going all out as we approach two kilometers to go. Things have long ago reached a boiling point in the field but the speed continues to rise. With one kilometer left, I lose Joe and spot Ty fighting for wheels in the top 10. I get out of the saddle to sprint up to him when I find myself out of the draft, in the wind. Its like the brakes went on. I couldn’t go any faster. I stop gaining position and move backwards. By that time, the sprint is on, everyone is locked into their positions, and its over. Just like that.
Its been the longest day of the race but we still ride back to the hotel. Its good to spin out the legs a little, especially because there is another four hour transfer right after the stage. Brian bought a rice cooker in Wuhan and we skip the race lunch in favor of Brian’s concoction of rice, almonds, dried fruit, and peanut butter. Before I know it, I am back on the transfer bus with rumors swirling that the next hotel is even worse. At least that’s what the Aussies heard from the RusVelo soigneur. Or something like that.
While iPods are definitely the most popular device on the transfer bus, you might be surprised to know that the Kindle is easily a close runner up. Over half of the guys on BMC-Hincapie have one. I’m currently reading Game of Thrones, Putt just finished up the last of The Hunger Games, and many of the guys on the bus were engrossed in Tyler Hamilton’s new book. Just a little fun fact.