Christian Meier (Canada & Garmin) is a man for his stats. Monday’s mountain stage breaks down like this: 4,600 metre of climbing, 5,000 kilo joules expended, that’s the equivalent of 5,400 calories – that’s one hard day at the office.
We caught up with the 2008 Canadian Elite road race champion the evening after Cunego had demonstrated that he’s in shape for the Worlds and Lombardy.
How many Grand Tours, Christian?
“This is my first, it’s a new experience; other riders tell me that it’s ‘next step’ in my development as a rider.”
What’s your role in the race?
“In week one, we were working for Tyler Farrar, the first six days were pretty much all sprinter days and I spent a lot of time on the front.
“Now Tom Danielson and Dan Martin are for the GC our job is to get Tom into as good a position as possible for the bottom of the last climb, protecting him through the stage before that.
“Then, when we’ve done all we can for him we shut it down and conserve energy, leaving him to do his thing.”
How were these Northern stages?
“The roads were like those in the Amstel or the Fleche — very stressful with lots of traffic islands and little towns to negotiate.
“The Dutch and Belgian riders are used to that but not the guys from the smaller Spanish teams. The first four stages were very tense — you felt like you were on the brink of a crucial moment all the time.
“And whilst it’s hard work being at the front all the time, it’s certainly the best place to be for safety; the Liege stage with the rain and crashes was terrible — I think we were all pretty relieved when we were done, up there.”
A lot is being said about the heat, this year.
“Myself and a few of the other Garmin guys live in Girona where it’s been 40 plus for most of the summer so we’re used to it.
“It’s been a shock to the system for the bigger riders and guys from the North, though. Today (Monday) it was a bit cooler, humid but comfortable, the sun wasn’t blazing — but it’s Southern Spain in the summer, it’s always going to scorching!”
How was your time trial?
“The plan was to treat it as a rest day – I was beginning to feel all that work at the front — make the time cut, cruise round, but David Millar and Tom Danielson decided to come in the car behind me, with our DS, Matt White so they could see the course.
“With 10 K to go, I punctured, there were no spare wheels and no mechanic so they had to take my spare bike off the roof, Dave Millar did my wheel change — I’m not sure how many minutes I lost there!”
How was today?
“Pretty much what I anticipated — whilst this is my first season on a European programme after riding in the States, I’ve ridden the Dauphine and Catalonia so I knew what to expect.
“Our job was to get the guys in position with 22 K to go then try and save a little; I felt pretty good when we got the job done, but it s one of the hardest days I’ve ever ridden.”
Management must be happy with Tom Danielson?
“Ecstatic; he’s been on the verge of good results for a while, now — the Tour of Burgos was the turning point for him this year.
“We just hope it keeps going like this; he had a couple of good years at Discovery but then he struggled — it’s good that he’s back to this kind of form.”
A disappointing TT for Dan Martin.
“The weather changed constantly throughout the day and it’s pretty hard for the lighter guys to be riding in the wind and rain.
“Dan said he reckoned he was going OK on the straights but lost a lot of time in the corners in the wet.
“But he’s a very mature guy for his age and he’s looking forward to his day in the mountains, now.”
What’s your remit for Tuesday?
“It’s another mountain top finish — well, there’s actually three K downhill off the top – but it’s to get Tom and Dan into position for that last climb.”
How have the hotels and food been?
“Pretty good, so far; we stayed in some great little hotels up in Holland and the other day our hotel was on the beach at Salou — that was nice.”
Who are the favourites for the GC?
“The Spanish guys are always highly motivated for their home races — Valverde and Sanchez are looking good, so is Basso.
“It’s guys who can handle the heat now and also who have avoided the bad luck.”
And are you happy with your season?
“Yeah, for sure!
“It’s my first full season in Europe, I’m here to gain experience but it’s been a lot of fun, too. I think my body is adapting to the European race work load well, though.”
After the Vuelta?
“Canada has three places for the Worlds, so I think I’ll be selected; then after that it’s Paris—Tour, Piedmont and Lombardy — it’s been a long season, I started at the Tour Down Under, so it’ll be good to get a break.”
No doubt about that, Christian! With thanks for talking to us and all the best for the hot road to Madrid.