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Stage 15: Tallard to Nimes – 222km
And stage 15 of the Tour de France was meant be a transition one? All I can say is that I’m glad to get it behind us. It was nuts. Even before it started raining, it was crazy with the wind … The only thing we didn’t have on Sunday was snow.
It was an amazing stage with all the conditions that saw blue skies turn to black as the storms rolled over us, to the echelons caused by the winds and nervous energy inside a clearly tiring peloton that is racing to the Tour finish in Paris on Sunday.
Probably leaving the biggest impact of all the weather gods threw at us was the rain. It pelted down so hard you couldn’t see through your glasses, and then when you took them off, the spraying of rain blinded you – not to mention hurt as it hit you.
It didn’t help that over the last five kilometres there were about five roundabouts, made all the more treacherous by rainfall making them more slippery and tougher to pass.
This sort of finale is never easy in any race, let alone after two weeks of a grand tour.
It may look like we are coasting, but in the back of our minds we are always thinking of the finale, and if not about winning it as the sprinters’ teams would have been on stage 15, then of surviving it unscathed for time loss in any late splits or crashes.
It is always dangerous, and in such circumstances you can never afford to switch off.
For me, with the goal of a top overall classification behind me, the main aim was to regroup from the mayhem and finish as fresh as possible so as to have a chance of recovering from my chest infection on the rest day in Carcassonne.
Which I can say I did with the official results showing I finished in 70th place at 16s to the stage 15 winner, Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) who won in a sprint.
With a rest day on Monday that I am really looking forward to, I am still in 15th position overall, but now at 16m 19s to the Italian race leader, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Obviously, this rest day will be different from last Tuesday’s when I was still placed second overall and excited about what may happen.
Now I am sick and trying to recover from a chest infection. But I think everybody in the peloton is happy for the rest day to come, and there are a lot of guys sick in the peloton.
I’ll be honest. When I look back at what happened with me – irrespective of my illness – the worst thing is knowing that it has been a big opportunity missed.
But there is nothing I can do about it, and my health is the most important really.
What I will do differently this rest day, compared to last week’s day off, is to really make sure that I spend a lot of it resting and recuperating.
I really hope if I do that, I can knock this bug off before the Pyrenees that start on Tuesday with stage 16.
I have copped a bit from some people saying that I am not up to it [the podium], but at that top level if you are not 100 per cent you lose time.
Cycling is too hard a sport to avoid being caught out when your health is not optimal.
My health hasn’t been and you can see what happens.
But finishing this Tour in Paris is still a major goal for me – and who knows, along the way if I can recover enough – maybe I can muster the strength to try for a late stage victory in the Pyrenees.
If not … so be it. This is all experience in the bank which I hope sometime will pay off.
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