|Patrick Kos came in third at stage 3 (© Van Ruitenbeek)
January 6, Day 3: "Even the fact that we didn't have water in our hotel yesterday, is only a small setback."
A tough day of 175k. The stage started with 50k of very bad roads, resulting
in multiple punctures in our team and 1 broken wheel. Much worse, Florian Smits crashed (shortly after rejoining the bunch
after his first puncture) and he struggled his way to the finish. The two following punctures he had weren't doing him any
good either, of course... The race was very controlled like yesterday, but the last 50k were full of excitement. Multiple
attacks by smaller and bigger groups, eventually ending up in another bunch sprint though. I myself wasn't feeling particularly
good from the start on and after one lousy attack in the final I punctured and had to let the group go. My team mates were
a bit unlucky in the sprint, so today, no results. But team moral is still high, Florian will be able to ride again tomorrow
and Patrick enjoyed his day in the jersey for best foreigner. Even the fact that we didn't have water in our hotel yesterday,
is only a small setback. Showering in the open air with the team is as akward as it is good for the male bonding. It was special
enough at least for the organization to make pictures of it!
January 7, Day 4: "We celebrated our first podium finish."
The third consecutive bunch sprint, I found my proper form again and
we celebrated our first podium finish. The race started with a high pace, with 3 teams working together for the sprint from
the very first kilometer. No group gained more than 3 minutes and the last 10 kilometers were as fast as one might expect
from a bunch sprint. By now our team sits comfortably in the back of the bunch as often as possible, as nobody expects us
to work and sometimes the roads are a bit dangerous. I have to say that the riders here are very good bike handlers in general
and the race is even more controlled than in Europes pro races. In the final 8 kilometers we worked our way up the peloton
slowly but steadily, sheltering Patrick as much as possible. He was on his own for the last 500 meters and did a fantastic
job, coming in third. He was delighted to go to the podium ceremony, as you can probably tell from the picture... Florian
had a fine day, no big physical problems after yesterdays crash. His girlfriend Astrid, who is our masseuse this race, turned
24 today and the organization was so kind as to provide a birthday cake at dinner. The only concern for tomorrow (other than
the 15k uphill finish) is Frank Wierstras health, he had quite some problems with the heat during and after the race. I hope
the team still consists out of 6 riders tomorrow, fingers crossed.
January 8, Day 5: "Happy with my 7th place."
A strange day. The start was very slow, for the first time this tour.
It seemed that everybody was a bit anxious for todays final climb, which turned out to be only a gradual uphill. The
final was very fast and I'm definately feeling a lot better than 2 days ago, so I decided to sprint for myself today. I was
a bit to far behind at the 1k sign a had to start sprinting early, but I'm reasonably happy with my 7th place. In the end,
I was allowed to go the podium as the best foreigner in the day result, although is seems that this jersey will be worn by
the best foreigner in GC tomorrow. Most important is that I'm confident that there will be more opportunities for me in the
stages to come, which is a better prospect than suffering in the back of the bunch. Frank Wierstra enjoyed the easy roll and
recovered well from his sickness yesterday. Florian is also feeling better, so the team as a whole is ready to race tomorrow
once again. The stage finished at 600m elevation, but we had a very long transfer through the Andes straight after the race.
We went as high as 3500m, where there is almost no vegetation. We spent 5 hours in a bus, but Wierstra told us that we should
be happy with that, as we shared our seats with Pedro Perez, Cuban sprint legend. Did you know that 66 liters of diesel cost
just half a euro in Venezuela?
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Malaya van Ruitenbeek
Born: December 12, 1982
Place of birth: Bonifacio, Philippines
Residence: Delft (Netherlands)
Height: 1.83 mtr
Weight: 73,5 Kg
Turned Pro: 2007
Team: Regiostrom-Senges (renamed in Kuota-Senges for 2008)
Stage 5 Tour of Thailand