Stage Ten of la Volta a Portugal 2012 started with a ceremonial 37km where we pottered along behind the winners. I felt awful.
I found it very hard to congratulate David Blanco. I told him so. I felt crap, humiliated, embarrassed; it was the first time the reality of loosing the race had sunk in.
David is a friend, he’s a very intelligent and interesting guy. He’s off to work in Africa next month, his record of five victories in the Volta a Portugal set, I said I’d visit him and I’d really love to one day, finances and career permitting.
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After the ceremonious part of the stage came the racing. The area round Lisbon is really hilly and the race was very tough.
In order to ‘keep up appearances’ I and a couple others were asked to control the race, letting only a small group go and then drilling it. I did… begrudgingly.
At one point we passed a forest fire which must have made good television. I enjoyed taking chunks of time out the breakaway on the roller-coaster descents, trying to catch the TV motorbike.
On the circuit in Lisbon I went round calmly towards the end of the peloton, avoiding the many holes in the road, although the roads were much improved on last year.
A team mate, our third man in GC crashed and I waited for him, alas he found a more effective way of making his way back to the bunch and abandoned me to the wolves as they say.
I finished a couple of minutes after the rest and met with a lot of nice people, had my shower and drove down the coast with my family, followed by a fantastic dinner in Milfontes.
Well there you have it, +/- 1800 km cycled in two weeks, 1600km raced.
I got to the end okay and was actually sad it was over. Yesterday morning (Monday after the race) I woke up early, still in “race” mode, excited. It felt weird. My family also found me weird… It’s taken a couple of days just to settle down… Even so I feel kind of ‘battle ready’.
I woke up and saw a yellow jersey on the wall of my bedroom, a jersey I helped win the previous year.
I felt a bit odd thinking back to it. We were welcomed by huge crowds in 2011, in Lisbon, Almodôvar and Tavira, towns full of people, open top bus parade, fireworks, the lot.
A friend phoned me from Tavira and said that there must have been only 20 people to welcome the team this year -I didn’t bother going anyway as I preferred to have a nice dinner with my family. I’m not much for ceremonies, or small talk with strangers, so it doesn’t make any difference to me whether there’s a big kerfuffel or not.
I’m looking forward to spending time with true friends and my family.
The funny thing is, win or loose, the job is the same.
I love cycling, I love this brutal, unfair, beautiful sport.