January 9, Day 6: "We are all glad that the
stage is over."
The mountains of Venezuela are tough, so much we know by now. Today was 50k downhill
and 50k uphill. An easy race tactics wise, but a very hard race on the legs and lungs. It was a feast to cover the first 15k
with a 60 kph average without ever turning the pedals, but it made me wonder what the finish would feel like. Turning the
pedals was definately involved ;-) Today was a typical "every rider for himself" race and we are all glad that the stage is
over. Patrick was going strong, but developed stomach problems in the final part of the stage. Pol and me had a decent day,
but couldn't mingle in the battle for todays stage win and the GC. The other guys all made it within the time limit, so we're
all chilling in the hotel right now. We all find the way the race is ridden a bit frustrating, as the best team here has in
fact 18 riders (officially 3 teams with different jerseys). All the other teams can send a guy to the front to attack, but
even groups of as many as 10 strong riders are easily pulled back by the bunch. We hope that the differences in GC and fatigue
will give some more room for breakaways later in the vuelta, because that gives everybody in our team the opportunity to really
participate in the race and not only ride for the sprints with Patrick. We will just have to hang on and wait for our opportunities.
January 10, Day 7: "20 meter of no road surface at all."
Rain! It rained all night, stopped raining in the morning but by the time we wanted
to roll out from the hotel to the starting line, it poored down once again. Everybody frantically searched for warm clothes
and garbage bags were turned into rain jackets. Because the first decent was dangerous, the race started neutralized. In the
valley the race restarted and it was full on from the very first pedal stroke. By the time we reached the top of the first
mountain, I was riding with 4 other guys somewhere behind the bunch but in front of a whole lot of riders. In the second decent,
which proved much more threacherous than the first with holes in the road, floods, falling rocks and even 20 meter of no road
surface at all, I almost managed to get back on to the bunch. A puncture made an end of the possibility of an easy day in
the bunch. Instead we had to ride hard all the way to the top of the final 15k climb to make sure we would finish within the
time limit. I don't even mind riding like that too much, but it's a pity that I never participated in the race once again.
Everybody of the team managed to get to the finish in one piece and we're all looking forward to the next day, a crit.
January 11, Day 8: "It was definately the Dutch team at its best!"
And what a crit it was. Only 95k, but with 40 u-turns and 1300 ascent meters, it
was everything but an easy stage. There was a large crowd and the weather was fine again, so the race was still enjoyable.
We leave our hotel 45 minutes before the starting time every day and as nobody had issues with their bikes before the start,
we decided to take a seat in a small park and take it easy for 20 minutes. These are the best moments of a race, just sitting
around, soaking up the sun and atmosphere with my team mates. We missed out on the break of the day, I myself because I had
some stomach issues. Later on the problems disappeared and I decided to make some turns in front of the bunch, just to have
the feeling of racing. My legs felt fine and in the end only 2 of the early break managed to stay in front. I was just getting
ready for the sprint when I punctured with 1 lap to go, with the peloton flying towards the finish. Nothing I could do other
than take it easy and finish the race on the small ring. A shame. After lunch we spent our afternoon at the pool of our hotel,
throwing our car driver and a lot of other organizers into the pool as well. The afternoon ended with a photoshoot with a
photographer from the race who wanted to capture our tan lines on her digital camera. It was definately the Dutch team at