I’ve been really poor updating on the road this trip (EDIT: This was written our final day in Europe. I’ve just been too sick to post anything since I got home). Actually, now that I think about it I don’t seem to write well on tour at all. I usually scramble for some words and pictures when I get home before its too late to write about what happened and before the next tour begins. Its probably the same reason why I could never do school homework on trips: days are centered around racing. Actually, a diagram sums things up nicely. The only time to write is during ‘recovery’ time and watching TV or a movie or something that doesn’t involve much thinking is always more appealing.
The team’s first race, Fleche du Sud was a five day stage race in Luxembourg. Joey got into a successful breakaway on the 3rd stage which set him up to take 3rd overall. Oscar won the final stage which helped secure Team GC.
And then, 3 days later, we went to a pro kermesse in Puivelde, Belgium where Robin rode away from Sven Nys in a last lap breakaway to take another victory.
Originally I was going to sit the last race out. We had flown to Europe with 7 guys in case someone got sick or hurt. Blair had to sit out Fleche and I was going to do the same for Paris Arras. But Friday morning Blair woke up sick. Too sick. In 24 hours I went from trying to find another kermesse in Belgium to going to France.
In the first stage of Paris Arras, Joey got into a large 12 man break early in the stage, attacked them with 5 kilometers left and won solo with 20 seconds on the field! Here we were, The Americans, in our broken down white van that couldn’t go over 60 mph, among these French and Belgian teams who rolled up in team tour buses. The Americans, who could only understand our names when the announcer was talking on the loudspeaker. But The Americans (plus an Aussie) were kicking Europe square between the legs and I know it hurt them deep in their cheese and wine and bread loving hearts. We had to defend the yellow jersey if only for the stars and stripes!
Sunday was miserable. It was cold. And rainy. It rained all day. The plan was to let a small breakaway get away, gain some time, then bring it back close to the finish, ensuring everyone finishes with the same time and securing Joey’s win. Fairly standard plan. And all the French teams knew it and were not willing to make things easy. A perfect 4 man break would roll away and 10 others would attack until it was brought back. At times it felt as though they were doing it on purpose. After all, they were being beat at their own game. It made for a stressful and very quick 30 miles of racing.
Finally a break of 5 rolled away and we quickly got on the front to control things. With 30 kilometers left, we passed through the finish line on a on a short circuit before the finish, about a minute down. Oscar made the call to bring the break back and we slowly ramped up the pace until we were absolutely flying. We went around a corner so fast that a huge crash formed on the slippery pavement. And just like that, the break was caught.
20 kilometers left to go everyone else in the peleton who had been waiting to pounce came to life on a big hill coming back into town. I was completely shattered and got dropped midway up. But the race ended up in a field sprint. Joey won the overall, keeping the winning steak alive, and the team won Best Team.
That was my first time riding on the front of a race in defense of a yellow jersey and it was, at times, an emotional roller coaster. I can only imagine the feelings winning teams experience on the final day of a grand tour. It was fun. It was hard. It was beautiful. It was scary. It was teamwork. It was chaos. But it was more than that. At the end of the day, when Joey accepted his final yellow jersey as winner, I knew part of it was mine. It was all of ours. Every victory is, but this was more. It was complete and utter sacrifice for one common goal and each rider gave everything he had. That is what makes sports compelling to watch.