Q&A with Christian Meier on Volta Catalunya Stage 1

Tue 19 Mar 2013

Christian Meier spent the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya down the road in a two rider breakaway. He earned the sprint jersey and the TDF 100 jersey in the process before being reeled in by the chasing pack ahead of the day’s final climb. While the team had hoped to set things up for the sprint, a surprise split in the field foiled their plans. The team was left to sprint for the lesser places behind the 12 rider group that came across the line 28” before the bunch.

Via Facebook and Twitter, we invited you to send us questions to ask Christian about his day. He answers them below.

Q: Was it your job today to get into the break?

The plan today was that either Wes [Wesley Sulzberger], [Sam] Bewley or I look for the early move. Putting a rider in the break is a way to take the pressure off so that the team wouldn’t have to work during the day. We thought the stage would end in a sprint, and there’s not a lot of sprinters in the race. Because we have Alby [Allan Davis], other teams could have looked to us to control, and we didn’t want that role today. If we had a guy in the break, it leaves someone else to control.

We also knew there would be a good chance to take one of the jersey today if we were in the break. Also, look at what happened last year with Alba [Michael Albasini]. He was in the break on the first day and managed to hold off the field. He won the stage – and went on to win the whole race. 

Q: You took all the sprint points while Cristiano Salerno (Cannondale) took all the KOM points – is this something you two discussed?

I bridged up to Salerno after he had gone away solo. I went across to him at the first climb, and he had already taken the first KOM before I had caught him just over the top. I knew the stage included a number of intermediate sprints. I also know the KOM jersey is a difficult jersey to keep – especially in a race like Catalunya with two very big mountain days. At the end, the mountain jersey will likely go to someone on the overall. The sprint jersey is a bit more realistic to keep. It was a bit forward-thinking on my part to choose to go for the sprint jersey.

I told Salerno straightaway that he could have the KOM and that I would take the sprints. He agreed. It’s easy with two riders in the break to divvy up the spoils this way. It’s not always so easy in a break of four or five when everybody wants a slice of the action.

With that decision made, we were able to keep a good work flow during the entire stage. There was no playing around to tactically outsprint each other to the line.

Q: What’s the deal with the special TDF 100 Sprint?

I actually had to look this one up on in the race handbook to get an answer for you. It’s a way that the Volta a Catalunya is paying tribute to the 100th edition of the Tour de France. There is a special prize on each stage that is given to the rider that crosses a special sprint line first – today that was me, and I earned the yellow jersey for my effort.

Q: Once you were caught, what was the team’s plan?

The plan was to put Alby or Brett [Lancaster] up for the sprint. Brett was going well and looked to be in good position today. Unfortunately at one point on the decent, a group of 12 riders somehow clipped off the front. It just sort of happened, and before we knew it, they were gone. 

In a normal situation, that wouldn’t happen. Someone must have let a wheel go, and that particular section of the descent is so fast and curvy. All of a sudden there was a 12 man group with a gap – and they were gone.  They had the advantage of a tailwind, and we couldn’t find a way to bring them back. Unfortunately, that didn’t work in our favour today. Hopefully Alby is up for it tomorrow and we can keep things together for the sprint.

Q: I saw someone go the wrong way around the roundabout – how often does a rider go the wrong way?

It’s actually pretty rare – and the rider you saw make that mistake was me. Usually we’re surrounded by a race caravan and motorbikes and all sorts of other vehicles associated with the race. Normally these people know the roads, and we can follow them. There was a motorbike ahead of us, and he kept going all the way around. I misjudged it and went around after him, too.

Q: Is the team bluffing about the lack of general classification ambitions?

No, we’re definitely not bluffing.

Q: Will you try to keep the points jersey?

Yes, we will try to keep the sprint jersey. Obviously chasing stage wins is our main priority, but this gives us a good secondary goal. It’s one of those things that isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. If a break gets up the road tomorrow and another rider sops up all the points, it can be gone just like that. This is a jersey that is usually won or lost by the breaks.

There are a couple of ways we can work to keep the jersey. The most obvious is that I go up the road again. This doesn’t always make the most sense from a tactical perspective, though. While it might not make sense to put me in the break, we can put one of my teammates into the break. He can take sprint points to prevent another team or rider from taking them from us.

If a big break goes up the road, it’s unlikely that one guy will gobble up all the points. We’d see the intermediate sprints split between riders, and this works in our favour without us having to do any work to make that happen.The other thing that can sometimes happen is that we control early. If the sprint is early on in the stage, we’ll do what we can to keep things together up until the first intermediate sprint. We’d set me up to take the points and then let the break go after that.

It’s an interesting jersey – the sprint jersey. What we do will depend on how the various stages unfold. It’s the kind of competition where if we can find a way to pick up a few points here and there, we should be able to maintain it.