The Aussies and the RusVelo soigneur were wrong about the hotel. It was…green. Not the color way, but the eco-friendly way. It didn’t look like it when I first saw it though. When we first pulled into Dezhou, it was dark out and the hotel was lit up with lots of different colored lights that illuminated its bizarre shape – something like an orange that had been cut in half and placed flat side up at a steep angle. It wasn’t until the morning that I noticed this odd shape was due to heaps of tubes angled against the building to harness the suns energy. And instead of being one, tall, building, the hotel was actually about 5 smaller ones. Perhaps this allowed for more sun catching tubes, but it made for a very difficult time trying to find dinner.
I walked around for about ten minutes asking around and getting nowhere until I was finally pointed in the direction of a volunteer. ‘Follow me!’ a particularly eager girl told me. ‘You are so handsome.’ she said in halting English as we walked. I was taken aback. Rather blunt way to start a conversation. ‘
Thank you’, I replied. I asked her name.
‘Tzing Tzing something something something’. It was a long name. Awkward silence. She continued ‘My English name is Andes. Like the mountains. Andes like the mountains’. Andes kept repeating it.
‘Well, its great meeting you Andes’, I replied. We were at the dining hall and I was ready to get to eating and sharing my story. I found the team at a table.
Joe was repeating ‘You are SO handsome’ over and over.
‘Wait a moment. A girl told me the same thing’ I told Joe.
‘You met Andes too?’ he asked me. Oh yes, old Andes was telling everyone she thought they were so handsome. We all had a good laugh over it until someone threw a chopstick at Joe because he would not stop repeating her line, ‘You are SOO handsome!’
The circuit in Dezhou was interesting. By that, I mean had more than 4 corners and had some elevation. Aka bridges. From the beginning it was smoking fast. Strung out single file and 35 miles per hour for the first half hour. I tried to attack a few times but as great as my legs had felt the day before, they were the complete opposite in Dezhou. So I sat in and waited for the day to be just like each before it. But it wasn’t. First, Ty got into the break of 6. They built up a nice minute and a half gap before Team Type 1 and Christinas Watches began chasing. All of a sudden it dropped to 30 seconds. We could see them just ahead. So the peleton sat up, waiting for the gap to grow again. And it did, according to the chalkboard that is held by a moto in front of the field. But something was wrong. We could still see the group in front of us. But the chalkboard said 2 minutes. The field slowed to a crawl as everyone tried to figure out this conundrum before a team went to the front to just bring everything back together. However, it wasnt the entire breakaway. The group had split; there were still Astana and Tawian riders up the road!
Before we go much further, lets quickly review the tactics going on here in case anyone is confused. At the start of 99% of races, people attack right and left to establish a breakaway. During this, it is complete confusion and chaos. Once a break establishes itself that the field is content to let roll, its easier to let the breakaway dangle at 30 seconds until its time to reel it back in, than just chasing and going through the attack right and left ordeal again. Guys in the break know this so they will in turn slow down to save energy for the last 15 kilometers when its time to go really fast again.
The field chased hard and the Astana rider was dropped from the break leaving a single rider out front. Again, the field reduced its pace to a crawl with two laps to go. That’s when Tanner attacked. And no one responded. Mutterings of ‘Wow, thats a really smart move’ permeated the field as we all watched Tanner ride away. With one lap to go, Tanner had caught the Taiwan rider and they had a minute and 17 seconds to play with. The field began to panic. Team Type 1, RusVelo, Nutrixxion, all put riders on the front. I as following Ty, Oscar, and Joe for a little while before I got separated from them with about 3 kilometers left and began working my way up the right side of the field. Also with 3 k to go, the field finally caught up to Tanner in the home straight as he was bravely battling a stiff headwind. The race was destined for another field sprint, but this time it was a RusVelo rider who took home the win. I had worked my way back towards the front and finished in the top 30.
After the race, we rode back to the hotel, packed up everything, and got back into the bus for a final transfer to Tianjin where the race would finish in two days. I’m starting to really get excited about going home.