Hanging out with the team on top of Merlo after TdSL Stage 6 - thanks for the pic, Andy!
Tour de San Luis, Stage 5 description:
Thankfully the time cut is HUGE! So I had flatted twice before the final climb ever came, but no biggie, just fronts and grabbed bottles and no sweat. Then the climb started and it was freaking insane, like a barely-there amalgamation of weather-beaten concrete slabs strewn on a hillside that made it *possible* to ride/drive to the top. No joke, it averaged 10.8% for km long sections but in-between there were points that you could almost not get up in a 26.
Then I realized one of the issues: my rear tire had about 30psi in it. The team cars all had to pass immediately at the base of the climb, so I basically just had to keep riding and hope for the best. Finally, about 2/3 up the 20km climb (did I mention it was 104 degrees and no even a bush in sight?) the team car was stopped. I got a new rear wheel and some Coke and was FLYING, like night and day. Frank had caught me by then, and we were just going to cruise in.
Then the new rear went flat, too! And there were absolutely no team/support vehicles. And 20km from the top to the finish. And on a very sinuous, up/down road with stream crossings. And a cop/ambulance right on my butt the whole way, somehow not understanding my issue and almost killing me in every white-knuckle turn!!
It was one for the record books :) My favorite was when the sprinter's grupetto passed us with about 10km to go, after I had flatted twice and could barely hold the bike upright--those guys go seriously slow!
Anyway, I was a wreck, pretty demoralized and all, but Ivan Dominguez came to me that night when I was on the massage table and said, "What happened man, you get the middle flat?" I didn't understand and explained that it was my rear, and he said, "Yeah I know, but did you have a middle flat?" After explaining and me understanding at the same time, I laughed and said for sure, then he said it has happened to him and everyone else in the past. Coming from that guy, it meant a lot, and I just put it behind me immediately and was feeling great the next morning!
The finishing climb yesterday was significantly *steeper* as well as an insane *headwind* the whole way up, but I could push the pedals hard and decided to stay with the front group the first few kms. The heat is something I'm still not prepared for, even after going through about 8-10 bottles in a 4hr race, but the legs were good and even going 90% I was catching some guys and not having a bad go of it. Got to the top and was fine, just cruised in, then we had some recovery drink and RIPPED back down to the busses, just insane descent at 15% with a tailwind!!
Busses left at 5:45PM. We arrived at the hotel at 9:45PM. NO JOKE. And we had a 2hr transfer to the start. It's been some terrible transfers and extremely boring highway stages with a big climb at the end, really only one cool/interesting stage (Stage 2) in all. However, great weather, awesome competition, and excellent team building so early in the year. The week has flown by, unlike any stage race I've done.
Today is the final stage, 160km or so with three big hot-dog loops, pretty boring until the final downhill sprint at 100kph! Tonight we might have some beers and relax, then the bus leaves for Mendoza airport tomorrow at 8:30AM (!!!) and arrives after about 4hrs on the same dead-straight highway. You can't say they aren't efficient with their roadways in Argentina :) Hard to believe I'll be back in Denver in two days, it's been an awesome trip and we'll see if we can do something good today.
Thanks for reading!