137km long and pancake flat. This stage could go in two directions- The yellow jersey team could take control, allow a break to go and work to control it for a bunch sprint, the typical format that the you see in the Tours de France and other world tour races. The other possibility was that the yellow jersey team would choose not to defend, which would mean stacks of attacks, and a much tougher day. Unfortunately, we were in for option 2!
We averaged 49km/hr and the attacks never stopped until a break finally got clear at around the 100km mark! We were represented in a lot, but also missed a couple, meaning we had to chase pretty hard for some periods. Don, Tom and Sam settled in to a tough chase to bring the break of 5 back so we had a crack at a bunch sprint. With the help from a few other teams including fellow/rival Australian team Drapac, they succeeded. I stuck to Jacks wheel like glue for the final 10kms. Bunch skills were tested to the maximum, we need some more on board cameras to share the sketchy experience. We were in around 8th wheel, on the back of some lead out trains with about 800m to go. I was thinking “Ha! this is pretty good! In with a shot here.” Moments later, Jack was forced to change focus from launching us forward, to untangling himself from another rider who had popped up from I don’t know where. He had to brake, and since I was still stuck to his wheel, so too did I. This loss of speed saw a heap of riders wash over us, I saw the 300m sign and was way too far back- Game over. I conceded and rode solidly to the line, focussing on getting there safely, there was a lot of chopping going on ahead and I didn’t want to slam into the back of a crash for nothing to gain.
Very frustrating that so much work was done by the team without any payoff- but that’s how sprinting goes! Sometimes, things just don’t work out. Tomorrow we have some different challenges- a category 1 AND an Hors Cat climb, back to back, and straight out of the blocks- ouch!