Q&A With Christian Meier on Vuelta a EspaÃ±a Stage EightSat 31 Aug 2013
Leopold König (NetApp) unleashed a winning acceleration in the final two kilometres of the eighth stage of the Vuelta a España. The Czech rider gave his Pro Continental team their first Grand Tour victory, upstaging overall contenders Dani Moreno (Katusha), Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff), Ivan Basso (Cannondale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) on Alto Peñas Blancas.
The suspense in the race for the overall continued with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) losing time and the red leader’s jersey to Roche. The Irishman now leads Chris Horner (RadioShack Leopard Trek) and Moreno by 17” in the general classification.
Christian Meier spent the day in a large breakaway that splintered on the summit finish. Meier, eager to conserve his energy for the more important objectives that lie ahead for ORICA-GreenEDGE, was one of the first of the escapees to go back to the bunch on the lower slopes of the category one climb.
To honour the work done by Meier during the first week of the Vuelta, we decided our stage eight race report would take the shape of a fan-directed Q&A with our hard-working Canadian. Below, Meier answers many of the questions fans submitted via our social media channels.
Q: Was it part of the team plan for you to get into the break today?
The plan today was actually to try to get Clarkey [Simon Clarke] up the road and ideally have him in the move with one teammate. It was quite a hard start today. Lots of different groups went away before mine.
I was down the road in a small group and then another group bridged across to us. Just before that group went, Clarkey had made a big effort to try to go with a previous group. He hadn’t recovered enough to try again. In the end, I was in a group of 14 that eventually became 13 on my own.
It was good for us to have someone there to represent the team given the size of the group, but having someone like Clarkey would have been a little bit better. I did a fair amount of work in the last few days, so I’m not very fresh. Clarkey would have had a better chance of taking it all the way to the finish.
Q: Why did it take so long for the break to go?
I think it took so long because today was a stage that, had the right group gone away, maybe they could have stayed away until the finish. If it the group was fairly large and only included guys that were far back on GC, the GC teams wouldn’t be worried about it. They could still have their battle on the climb but wouldn’t be too worried about bringing back the guys out front. All the teams knew this, so they all wanted to be in the move.
Q: Originally, the break had 14 riders including Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp), who was within one minute of race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) on the overall. Why did he drop out of the break?
We didn’t stand a chance if a rider high up on the overall was with us. It was clear straight away that Astana wasn’t going to let us go with the NetApp guy in the move. They kept us quite close before he dropped out.
Basically, we got to a point where everyone in the break agreed that he either needed to sit up or the whole break would sit up. Otherwise, we’d just be dangling in front of the peloton for the entire stage. We left the choice with him, and eventually he called it. He dropped back to the main group, and we were able to stretch out our advantage.
Q: What are you thinking about while in the break?
Not too much. I’m not a big music person but I usually manage to get some sort of song stuck in my hand whenever I’m riding on the front or in a break. Usually it’s just the last one I heard when I got off the bus in the morning. It plays through my mind.
In the breakaway, if there’s a chance that the move is going to stay away, it’s important to feel out the other riders a little bit. I watch and see who is hurting and get a feel for what’s going on with everyone. I also always pay attention to who is taking the slowest pulls and try to situate myself behind him whenever I can.
Other than that, it’s just random thoughts. I wonder what’s for dinner. What’s my wife up to back home. It can be a long day out there.
Q: Once the break was caught, what was your job or role today?
To conserve. I actually had a feeling pretty early on that the break wasn’t going to be the one today. From that point on, I tried to do as little work as possible. As soon as we got to the bottom of the climb, I sat up and tried to roll in as easily I could.
We have a lot of racing to go and a couple stages we’re targeting. It’s important to be ready, focused and committed to those days. I do whatever I can to save myself for the more important efforts.
Q: Do your legs continue to burn for a few minutes after the stage or is there instant relief when you cross the line?
It’s usually instant relief – which is pretty nice!
Q: What do you do to recover from a day spent in the break?
We have plenty of things to recover whether we spend the day in the break or not. We have massage every night. We wear compression boots back at the hotel. Some nights we take an ice bath. We eat well and stay off our feet. It’s a pretty simple process at the end of the day. When we follow the process, we know we’re as prepared as we can be to get back at it the next day.
Q: How does the first week of the Vuelta compare to the first week of the Giro?
For now, I’m going to say that it feels like the first week of the Vuelta has been easier than the Giro. This may not be true later for weeks two and three, but I think it’s accurate up until this point.
We’ve had slightly shorter stages, and things have been more relaxed. The Giro was very hectic in the first week with hard, hilly stages along the coastal roads. The teams racing for the GC could never relax, so the bunch could never relax either. Here it’s been a little less stressful. I feel like it’s gone by really quickly.