We’re on our second rest day here in Spain during my first Grand Tour, and I thought I would take a few minutes to let you know how things have been going for me.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect out of the Vuelta. Of course, I had heard all about racing a grandy from my teammates and mates in the peloton, but I still wasn’t really sure if their experiences would mirror my own. I was a little bit nervous coming into the race because this was new to me.
During the first week of the race, this felt mostly like any other race, and I started to think the difficulties of a three-week stage race had been blown out of preparation. As we enter week three, I now know that this type of racing is not be to be taken lightly. During week two, I started to get more tired and as we’ve begun to race week three, I’m really feeling the cumulative effects of racing both physically and mentally. The first two weeks were reasonably hard. These last few days have been a huge challenge. I’m at a point where it’s definitely harder than what I had anticipated.
During a shorter stage race, I can go hard nearly every day. Right now, I’m starting to understand that I can’t make full on efforts in the same way I could in a shorter or less challenging stage race. I have to be careful of how deep I go. I’m able to put in a few big efforts and then I’m blown. That’s a huge difference between racing a Grand Tour and racing a shorter stage race. I’m in survival mode at the moment.
The last three days of racing were my biggest mental and physical challenges by far. We raced three difficult days in the mountains. These days, on top of two weeks of racing in the legs, mess with the mind. We’re not just talking summit finishes here – there are mountains at the start, middle and end of each stage. I’ve gotten dropped early on a couple times, and that makes it even more challenging to get through the day. It’s a matter of plugging away – and then plugging away some more.
We have more staff members here to look after us than we have at smaller or shorter races. That makes a huge difference in our preparation, racing and recovery. Our chef joined us early last week, and that has made a big difference, too. Nicky saves us from eating hotel food every day, and the dishes he cooks keeps us happy and healthy. Having a nice meal at night makes a big difference at the end of a tough day.
The team has been fantastic in every way. We don’t have to move much except to ride our bikes. They always take good care of us, but they’ve stepped it up in small ways that make a huge impact.
Simon Clarke’s win during our first week remains our biggest highlight. It was fantastic of him to take a stage early in the race. Alby [Allan Davis] has come close to a stage win a few times, and he remains eager to get his first Grand Tour win.
Results aside, a huge highlight for me has been the team bonding. We’re all good mates here, and the atmosphere within the team, not just of the riders but of the staff as well, helps us get through the hard moments. We have a good mix of younger riders and older, more experienced riders. The way the older guys help out the younger guys is fantastic.
Don’t take my word on the whole team bonding thing. Check it out for yourself in our music video.
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