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'I knew if I tried to go for the gap I'd crash'

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Team Sky leader Chris Froome finished 13th on the stage and remains in fourth place overall ahead of another big weekend in the mountains. David Ramos - Velo/Getty Images

Team Sky leader Chris Froome finished 13th on the stage and remains in fourth place overall ahead of another big weekend in the mountains. David Ramos - Velo/Getty Images

Getty Images

Team Sky leader Chris Froome finished 13th on the stage and remains in fourth place overall ahead of another big weekend in the mountains. David Ramos - Velo/Getty Images

Last night my Sky team were staying in the same hotel as the the Garmin Sharp, Tinkoff-Saxo and Katusha squads and it was funny to see how nice and polite all the riders were to each other off the bike.

Unlike most other sports, cyclists spend a lot of time living alongside their direct rivals, either in small European towns close to airports and with good training roads, hotels or in the peloton.

With no set training times like most team sports, you often train with riders from other teams and get to know your rivals quite well.

I'm not really an aggressive rider and don't tend to get in much argy-bargy so it's sometimes funny to see guys trying to run each other off the road in the morning and later that night see them laughing and joking about it in the hotel.

Maybe it was the fact that we were staying in wine country last night most riders had a glass of Rioja with their evening meal. While we have our own chef at Team Sky and always have a variety of freshly made food for dinner, my breakfast habits have begun to become a source of entertainment for my team-mates.

Most of the guys have omelettes or rice, maybe even a bit of toast and Nutella, for breakfast, but I always have the same thing; a massive bowl of porridge.

In an effort to vary the taste, my daily porridge creations have seen me add fruit, nuts, seeds, honey, cinnamon and even the odd bit of protein powder to my oversized serving and it's become a running joke as to what I'll add next.

After breakfast this morning, we had a long drive to the start with about 40km of it spent travelling alongside the famous Camino Way.

Looking out the window of the team bus at the walkers trekking to the same final destination as this Vuelta, I tried to figure whether it was us or them that were mad.

The team plan this morning was to follow any moves that went in the early kilometres but a slightly uphill start made it pretty hard work. I was struggling a bit for the first half hour or so and missed a group of 11 guys that went clear after 10km.

When the escapees opened a gap of one minute, French squad Europcar started chasing at the front of the peloton, holding them at a minute for another 10km before giving up the ghost.

There was a slight stall for a few minutes before the Aussie Orica GreenEdge team took over and loosened the leash to about two and a half minutes for most of the day.

Having gone over the first two third category climbs pretty comfortably, I rode in front of team leader Chris Froome to give him shelter on the second category Alto de Caracol with around 45km to go.

Tempo

With the Aussies still setting a steady tempo on the front, I moved to the left of the bunch and with Chris on my wheel, moved towards the front in case there were any attacks on the 10km ascent.

Approaching the top, I grabbed a feed bag from one of our team carers at the side of the road and swung it over my head. With the bag dangling in front of me, I reached in and handed a bottle and a couple of energy gels to Chris alongside me and stuck a bottle in my own cage.

As there was another bottle left, I turned around to our Spanish climber Mikel Nieve to see if he wanted anything but he declined so I dropped the bag at the feet of a fan as we crested the summit.

Although Orica GreenEDGE stopped riding on the descent, they were replaced by the FDJ team of French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni on the 25km drop to the finish and we began to catch the break in ones and twos.

Having been shown video footage and details of the final uncategorised hill to the finish this morning, we knew that the road narrowed and there wasn't much room for moving up after we turned right with 7km to go, so Chris would have to be near the front by then. With 11km to go, my room-mate Christian Knees rode up the right hand side of the peloton with Pete Kennaugh on his wheel, followed by Chris and me.

There was a lot of fighting and shoving in the bunch and I got knocked off Chris' wheel by two guys from Katusha and Astana. As they squeezed me out, I knew if I tried to go through the gap I'd crash, so I had to let the lads go but managed to make my way back up to them again before we turned right. Dario Cataldo led Chris and I onto the short steep 800m climb to the finish.

With Chris slotted onto race leader Alberto Contador's wheel as we hit the steep section, I eased up, losing two and a half minutes in those 2km. There were plenty of attacks in those final 2km with Spanish rider Daniel Navvarro of Cofidis jumping away to steal the stage.

Chris gave a little dig in the last kilometre and a half but unfortunately second placed Alejandro Valverde saw the danger and closed him down immediately.

Daniel Moreno of Katusha and Wilco Kelderman of Belkin took second and third and the last of the time bonuses on offer while Chris finished 13th on the stage and remains in fourth place overall ahead of another big weekend in the mountains.

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