Apart from the usual sore legs and mundane diet, one of the hard things about professional cycling is the travelling. This season, I've done a few new races which meant travelling to America for the Tour of California a week in advance to get used to the jet lag and altitude.
Then we had a training camp after that and before the Tour de France. After the Tour, I went to London for the Olympics and then back to France for a couple of criteriums before heading to Spain for the San Sebastian Classic and this Vuelta.
I've calculated that I've only spent 14 nights in my own bed since May 1 this year, which means I've been unpacking my suitcase most evenings and packing it again most mornings in between.
On the bright side, we've been staying in the same hotel in Logrono for the last two nights, which at least means I could leave my suitcase alone.
The hotel, however, is built on top of a supermarket which means we have to eat in the supermarket cafe. It's a cheap, €5, all-you-can-eat type of thing where the food, as you can imagine, is geared more towards casual shoppers and truck drivers than professional cyclists. It has been miserable.
When you nearly break a tooth on a piece of pasta, you know there's something wrong and we've resorted to having one of the soigneurs cook our pasta on the team bus instead of eating the supermarket stuff.
After a tough couple of days in the mountains, where I've been fairly aggressive and ridden pretty hard, I was happy to see no reaction from the bunch when Javier Chacon of Andalucia went up the road alone in the first kilometre.
Within 40km he had 12 minutes, which probably meant that I wasn't the only one with sore legs from the last two stages.
I made use of the easy start to have a good chat with my Aussie training partner Simon Clarke. He was absolutely over the moon with his win the day before and we arranged to go out for a meal together to celebrate after this Vuelta.
There also was a bit of chat today about whether Sky should have stopped riding on the front and waited when race leader Alejandro Valverde of Movistar crashed yesterday.
There is a sort of unwritten rule that you don't attack the race leader when he crashes or punctures, but Sky had already been on the front splitting the bunch when Valverde fell. Apparently, he called to their team bus afterwards, giving out that they had no respect.
There's too much complaining about not getting respect in the peloton nowadays. Okay, Valverde was race leader, but when the crash happened nobody even knew he was in it. There was a pile-up and there were a lot of riders involved. Sky had already put us in the gutter and split the bunch. Nobody comes over the radio and says 'Valverde has crashed'. We don't even know about if for maybe 5km and if the bunch is already split into five echelons in the wind, what are we supposed to do, wait on everybody to get back together and go again?
I agree he's the race leader, okay, but where do you draw the line? I know for a fact that nobody is going to wait for me if I crash. Looking back, Valverde's Movistar team rode hard on the front in Paris-Nice when Levi Leipheimer of Omega Pharma Quickstep crashed on a similar day, with the break 10 minutes up the road and nothing to gain. I think maybe Sean Kelly was right when he said afterwards that "what goes around comes around".
Today we did eight big laps with a couple of drags on it and the plan was for our sprinter Lloyd Mondory to have a go at the bunch gallop, which was a certainty after we reeled in Chacon with 30km to go.
Usually, I stay near the front just in case there are gaps and I lose a few seconds in the sprint but today I was just hoping there would be no splits as I rolled in halfway down the peloton trying to save my legs for tomorrow.
Lloyd was eighth, but was unhappy because he was on stage winner John Degenkolb's wheel in the finale but got bounced off it by Daniele Bennati, who ended up second.
I'm still eighth overall and feeling okay but hoping to try and recover as much as possible for tomorrow's hard uphill finish. We counted 12 corners in the last 3km and it looks very narrow, like a back road, so it will be important to be near the front at the bottom.
Vuelta a Espana,
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