Marcel's Pain and Suffering Column
Stage 1, Cordoba - Cordoba, 162 kms:HOT it was!!!!!
When we hit that cat2 climb it was like riding through fire and the little water I had left in my bottle was not enough to x-tinguish it... 1st day---1st grupetto and it was big too. all sprinters were there and a few others as well. our guys were all in the front (except me) but they were all pretty surprised how hard it was today...I reckon everybody was. on the way back to the hotel I was lucky to have still a bottle on my bike because I made a deal with this motor bike rider. he got my bottle and I got a free "pull-up" the 2.5km hill that leads to the hotel. (4 stars and really nice!!)
today Claus (Moller from TVM) finally brought the CD I loaned him at the giro...so the massage was good listening to "the presidents of the USA" (2nd album). right now it's dinner time and I'm as hungry as a wolf...
Stage 2, Cordoba - Cadiz, 235 kms:HOTTER!!!
The teamdirector had 41*C on the thermometer in the car...but out of the sun! we had NO shade at all and half of the bunch is gonna look like lobsters tomorrow.
It took us 6:45 to do the 235kms of the day with a head cross wind all day. the sprint was lead out by TVM and Jeroen took it with class....good on him. I did not what I could have done physically, but it is really good to know that the legs are there.
After talking to a lot of guys in the beginning (easy start) I was even too lazy/hot/sleepy to talk for a few hours. I just made sure that my jersey was permanently wet to avoid sweating too much and I realised that it was COOLER with a helmet on then with a cap...surprising but true!!
Today we are in the best hotel in town (the one all the formula 1 people stay at when they are in Jerez for the Grand Prix). Nice big beds, huge rooms and a really nice swimming pool where I dropped the body temperature after the race. We have 28 TV channels as well, so Alex and myself might watch a good movie tonight (if there is one!!). If not we might go out and sit on the pool after dinner, have a cold beer to make us sleepy and then hit the kingsize bed....doesn't that sound like a great life?
But don't forget: we've done 240kms in the Andalusian oven, so we deserve
PS: good hotels means as well no McGyver acts to unscrew phonesets, cutting/ripping apart of cables and that kind of stuff. But to be honest: I bought myself a new "precision screwdriver" set, and brought my Swiss knife which proved to be great in the Giro and I can't wait to show Alex how good it works:-)
Stage 3, Cadiz - Estepona, 193 kms:You know what the worst thing for a sprinter is?? no?? I do, it happened today...I was 2nd...it was a headwind sprint and I had to go a long way around some guys and Jann (Kirsipuu) finished right in front of me. Strong long sprint...he deserved it.
The total average of today's stage was something near 45kph, but the max average was 56.5 after 19min of racing. It was not as hot as yesterday but 10 times more windy, which made it really hard cause there were 195 guys trying to be in the top 30. We had a bit of a critical moment when Richard punctured in a crosswind section about 40km to go, but Didier (Rous) gave him his bike and with the next group we made it back to the main bunch.
The laugh of the day we had in the village this morning...Chris, Henk, Rrobby and myself just found out that there might be english speaking people where you don't expect them to be...I'm not gonna tell more then that :-)
As we having a bus transfer right after the stage I'll have heaps of time to write this still on the road and I will have even more time to enjoy a good massage and lay back and relax to recover for tomorrow. I reckon it will be really hard, up and down (but mostly up!!) all day, hot and windy...just another legbreaking day.
I just hope everybody is really fucked from today's ride...and we'll go easy for a while. Now I'm in the hotel and I realized it's the same one we stayed in last year after the finish in Malaga. It's right on the beach and laying on the bed I can see the beach and ocean life on my right or the Californian "baywatch" beach straight ahead on television.....ehh, is SILICON valley right on the beach? nice red swimsuit Pamela.....nothing like this on the Malaga beach...they are all topless!!!!
Stage 4, Malaga - Granada, 174 kms:Here I am now, sitting on my bed, eating fresh fruit salad (had a sandwich as well) listening to one of my favourite mixed tapes (now runs "stairway to heaven") and try to get over the efforts of the day. Even without looking to the result I can say one thing: "IT SUCKED" it was mega hard-hot'n'hilly. All day was forward-backward-chase-get in the cars-come back-re-explode-re-chase......and finally with completely fucked legs I did a great sprint attacking at 350m staying in front until 40m to go when Guidi finished off his best leadout he ever had....in his wheel Lomba and Jeroen rushed passed as well but that did not matter any more. 4th....or third loser... there were only 2 things brightning up my day a bit. the first was when I saw Neil dorsett, hotel manager and friend from South Africa at the start. We had a short chat at the start and it's good to see him enjoying his holiday.
The 2nd was a good laugh going up the first climb of the day really easy: a guy from the Colombian "Avianca-Flavio" team PULLED off the front and just as we started to worry he PULLED over to the right, then PULLED down his pants and did not have a PULL ...he took a DUMP.
hope I made you smile!!
Stage 5, Olula del Rio - Murcia, 166 kms:Isn't it funny how things change year after year? Last year at this point of the Vuelta I've won 3 stages and felt great. This year I feel as tired after 5 days as l did last year after the mountains...but this is the way life goes...there will be better times with the perfume smell of the podium girls and lifting up both arms on the finish line.
Todays stage was fast (45avg.) and only one hill (cat 3)....but the bad thing was that I crashed just before the climb, injured my butt-muscle and spent 30kms chasing in the cars and as I came back I had to change my bike as well....as I hit the wind then at 300m to go in the sprint I went straight backwards. Tomorrow I'll try to recover a bit...there is a hard hill at 15kms to go so we will sit back in the grupetto and hope our leaders make it over it with the frontgroup. (I'll have 39/25 tomorrow!!) Gotta go to the massage now...hope I'll have more energy to type some more.
[Later ....] The massage proved that my muscles are pretty tired and that the crash injury will hurt at least for another 3-4 days...c'est la vie!! Now down for diner...talk to some of you tomorrow...
Stage 6, Murcia - Xorret de Cat, 202 kms:What a Change!!
Today I felt heaps better then the last 2 days so there is some hope. The bunch only split 20k to go in a Cat 3 climb and then we hit the last one with the grupetto at 7km to go...lucky I had 39/25 and to be honest if I would have had 28 I would have used it. But luckily I'm pretty popular here in Spain so there were a few guys luckily to push me a bit....2 of them got a reward: 1 bidon and 1 hat! Special thanks to Graham Baxter (cycling tour organizer from England) that was the longest push I got in my cycling career!!
Really good to see the TEXAS is back in big business...Lance blew up all my teammates and the rest of the front group as he counter-attacked Pascal Herve and finished close behind Spanish climbing hope Jimenez who won and took yellow! good onyer champ!!
The only worry today was as Richard punctured just before one of the climbs. As 5 of us waited for him and brought him back right on the bottom of that climb he re-punctured. When we came back to the bunch this time I almost needed and oxygen mask. Alex and Richard got special treatment too: from the traffic-jammed finish area they flew via helicopter straight to the heliport of the hotel. 1 more hour of recovery. I probably needed it more...but thats life. Late dinner tonight (21.00) so Alex and myself are watching Tom and Jerry cartoons....The Best!!
Stage 7, Alicante - Valencia, 186 kms:3rd is allright, but if you are 3rd after waiting 5min for the photofinish decision, beaten by 5cm...and especially if you are in front by 5cm one metre AFTER the finish...then you are spewing!! but this only lasts an hour or so. The race was fast and it was really warm too. We averaged 45 something with a 20km climb in the stage.
Now typing this I am sitting in the plane which should take us to Mallorca, but we are 45 minutes late already...we were lucky (we thought) to get the first of the 2 planes taking us all over to the holiday island, but it seemed to me that I've seen the second plane taking off before us. Dunno what time we'll get to the hotel tonight, but it's gonna be late! I can imagine that we get no more food as we are stay at a tourist hotel...they usually serve 6-8pm for British and German tourists!! and it is 8:30 already.
We've just been told the computer system of the plane does not accept the "CLOSE DOOR" orders and that the technicians are working on it....but you imagine what is going on in a plane with 150 hungry bike riders who just wanna have something to eat and recover from today...everybody is yelling, shouting, laughing. I reckon the laughing will not last very much longer. Shit Happens!! I'm looking forward to a really easy start tomorrow...that happened in 91 when the transfer from mallorca to the mainland got us to the hotel at 1 a.m. This is not the fault of the Vuelta organizers though. I remember myself sitting in a plane for 4 hours without moving...and that on the way back from Australia!!
Sorry back to cycling now as this is what you all want to read about. Tommorow's stage is the first one in this Vuelta I'll calculate the time cut. It is going to be anything between 8% and 12% of the winner's time. Depending on the overall average of the race. If you come later you're out (like moncassin and one of his teammates today). As there are 3 Cat 2 climbs in the last part of the stage it should not be a worry but it's better to be prepared. I hope we have a big grupetto and then I'll take the time trial really easy, have the rest day on monday and by then I should be "brand new" and recovered for the mountains.
A little update on the transfer: they just run out of cookies and half of the people went out of the plane cause the a.c. works really well!! I want to say thanks as well to all the visitors of Bill's website who have sent me encouraging emails...keep them up please!!!!!
Stage 8, Palma de Mallorca - Palma de Mallorca, 182 kms:Henks' quote of the day: "this was the best and easiest grupetto I've been in during my entire cycling career".
This says it all, no? We took off in the crosswinds at 70kph, but finally we all made it together to the bottom of the first climb...where this exceptional grupetto was formed!
Back to our shitty tourist hotel after the stage. So what will I do tonight? (if I get a chance): l'll take a permanent marker and take 2 of the 3 stars that are on the front door away ... because this place only deserves 1 star!!! The people working there were really nice though.
Stage 9, Alcudia - Alcudia ITT, 40 kms:The time trial ... I love it. But first of all I did not sleep well at all. I even had to take a sleeping tablet as at 12.30. The disco place just started to go off...and apparently it lasted until 6.00 this morning. Looking at the eyes of some of the Vuelta people this morning I can tell they have been out even longer then that:-). Today's time cut will be 25% so there will be no rush. I'll do the 39kms in 55-57 mins just to make sure.
I'ts blowing like 100000 bastards again but it still will be kind of an easy day. I am typing this 2hrs before my scheduled start time. I am sitting in a hotel room (nice one this time) while most of my teammates are doing a lap of the circuit. So I'll watch them later on TV when I come back from my ride...then it is a bus tranfer (1.30) and the flight back to the mainland.
Relaxing at the Hotel!Well I wanted to take a day off typing, but here I am back again! The reason - the boat on which all the trucks and stuff came over is late! There was a strong wind and huge waves, so I'm pretty keen to know how the mechanics and masseurs will feel today. I was seasick once on the boat taking us from Melbourne (Victoria) to Devonport (Tasmania) before the start of the "Sun Tour" (Australia) - great race this! - and I'll tell you there is nothing worse than it.
So we sit here in the hotel at 11:30 and still have no bikes to do a little lap and the suitcases are still not here either, so we have close to nothing here. Luckily I have a good book and my computer, otherwise it would be really boring watching TV (only spanish channels).
Just running out of batteries on the laptop...back to my book.