Sunday, May 16, 2010

Crowds and Crashes

During Stage 1 of the Tour of California, the first thing that struck all of us on the Cervelo Test Team was the crowds. There were an unbelievable amount of people on the course, thousands and thousands all along the road—not just the start and finish, which were packed, but basically the whole way there were fans. I’d say there were probably more people lining the roads today than any other race I’ve done in Europe outside of Germany. It was impressive to see the turnout, and it’s fun to race in front of huge crowds.

We expected a field sprint, so the team’s plan was to work for Theo Bos, our sprinter, the whole day. My job again was to cover the early moves, along with Oscar Pujol. Basically, he and I had to cover every move, especially if one of the teams with a dangerous sprinter got a teammate in it. I jumped with some, Oscar did the same, but nothing stuck. Finally, a good break got away that Cervelo and the other sprinters’ teams were happy to let go. Columbia-HTC controlled the field from then on with a steady tempo. I went to the front and did some work, and Oscar helped, and by the end the pack had shut the break down and we were all ready to work for our sprinters.

Unfortunately, the finish was marred by some crashes, and Theo got caught behind one. Columbia had their good leadout going and launched Cavendish to the win. They’ve done this a lot, and they had the finish under control, but after all our hard work, Oscar and I would have loved to do what we could to give Theo a shot at the line.

It was a shame to see the finish get so dangerous, especially since the course wasn’t at fault. The crash that happened in front of Theo occurred on a straightaway. The problem was that in a race like this that mixes some of the biggest and best teams with some smaller ones, everyone on the smaller teams is desperate to win. There was one team in particular—not a domestic American team, by the way—that was taking unnecessary chances and taking a lot of risks that aren’t professional. Among the European teams, everybody respects everybody else’s work in terms of what we all need to do; we all understand that the other guys are just trying to get their sprinter into the line—but you don’t try to break into somebody else’s leadout, you don’t take risks that are going to cause a crash. We’re respectful of the fact that the other guy is just trying to do his job, the same way we are. We all do our jobs and the fastest, smartest guy wins, most often.

Some of the big riders, the big names, are unhappy with the behavior of that team, and my understanding is that tomorrow the team is going to get a talking-to from some of the more senior guys in the peloton. Hopefully, they’ll understand we all just want to do our best to get back to work tomorrow and every day after. We all want to get to Los Angeles.