Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stage 3 Recap

It was thrilling to watch some of the best riders in the world take on the terrain I cut my teeth on - flat, windy, San Joaquin valley country roads. The San Joaquin Valley used to be a lake, and it is almost completely flat for the almost 400 miles from north to south.

I watched and smiled knowingly as the riders lined up in echelon formation to try to draft in the heavy quartering winds. To this day I find it amusing that many riders get nervous when I draft closer than a couple of feet off of their rear wheel as our little 3-man racing team back in high school used to draft with our front and back wheel overlapped up the the lead guy's axle. We get very strong on-shore winds here in the valley we call the "Delta Breeze".

This "breeze" is actually a very persistent wind from 15-35mph and will absolutely tear your legs up. More than once I have sat on the side of the road and dug cramps out of my hamstrings, burning from the constant strain. Thirty miles from home and facing a stiff Delta Breeze is a tough ride.

They say wind is the hill that never ends for good reason, it is exactly that, and only the best teams can beat it and survive to ride the next day. There were a LOT of dead tired, and even completely exhausted riders in the case of the 4 who attempted a break-away yesterday. Yesterday's winds were just the normal storm flows flowing up against the Sierra Mountains from the south bringing the rains we need so badly this year. California leans west as you go north, so the winds end up being SSE.

It was good to finally see team Cervelo' make its presence known yesterday, and they executed to perfection at the finish. Cavendish was a bit under form yesterday, but did get cut off at the finish line, so he may want some redemption and payback today. Levi and Lance have both crashed, Lance several times, and that might be a factor today.

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