A cold early brutal day to start our Stage 3 here in Alberta. We had a 5:45am alarm set and as that went off we were up and putting our bags outside at the bus to get ready for the transfer to the next stage. It’s always nice walking outside that early to a nice cool 26 degrees. Once we had a quick breakfast it was on the road for a 2.5 hour drive to the start of the next stage. The drive wasn’t all boring though as I was riding in the team car with our director a rock shot up from an opposing semi and dam near shatter our front windshield to the point of glass breaking on the inside of the window as well. That woke us up a bit.
Once we got to the stage we all ran into the bus to keep warm and we played our favorite game of how many clothes we can possibly put on to keep warm. Today we were up in some elevation so that made it even worse for the cold, there was even some talk about possibly changing the stage or shortening it. Once we started in the nice cool crisp 34 degree temperature we fortunately started racing on some rolling terrain and the break had a little more of a tougher time getting away so that racing warmed us up a bit. After about 40 mins a small group finally got off as some of the World Tour teams seemed a bit over it and just did a nice blockage of the front of the field to not allow anyone else to get out.
So the next 3 hours of racing were cold, real cold. We barely got over 40 degrees as it rained off and on and even saw some snow flakes come down. The field did multiple pee stops as there was no way of sweating this caused for continuous pulling over for a nature break. I fortunately made it through that cold part of the race to get towards the end where it started to clear up. We had a KOM at around mile 88 then after that we went down the highway a bit for a turn off to have another KOM climb followed by a short descent then back up a 5 km climb. Once we got over that first KOM the sun had finally come out and it is amazing how warm 45 degrees feels after racing through rain and near freezing temperatures. After the KOM we were basically in the home stretch before the race really started so everyone basically went back to the cars to start unshedding all of the clothing. Once everyone was back to racing it was full gas to get to the corner in the front. We hit the corner real fast to start the first climb and Trek went to the front to keep the pace high. The first climb was around 6 km or so and maybe about 40 of us went over the top to race down the short twisty descent leading into the last climb. Once we started the last climb it was 5 km to go and Orica – Greenedge & Katusha were lining it out side by side. Once we hit 2 km Katusha really dropped the hammer and dam near started sprinting as it lined everybody out. People started opening gaps and when we hit the 1 km to go banner the field finally broke apart. I tried my best to hang on as long as I could and I crossed the line in 13th place, 22 seconds down on the stage winner. With our good performance in the team time trial earlier this put me down in 11th on GC heading into tomorrow.
Lets hope tomorrow will be warmer.
Jon Hornbeck, rides professionally for the Hincapie Racing Team and is also is the owner of Fast Tours Cycling.
Photo Copyright Brian Hodes / VeloImages.com