So, I looked over the stages when I was at home and stage 2 looked to be pretty easy and in my mind a pretty mellow day. But in cycling, things usually go not as planned. On paper the stage was basically flat with a slight climb in the beginning and then mainly slight down flat and more flat. Also on paper, it was 181 km, but in the race it was 186 km, not cool Argentina. The main points of the day was that it was long, I don’t think it ever dropped below 110 degrees, and we went straight down a highway for about 130 km before we finally made a turn.
Lets skip past that first 130 km though, the only thing that came from there was that it was super hot, all we did was drink and get bottles, caught up with some friends that I haven’t seen in a while, and also tried to stay out of trouble. While we were going down this straight highway we had a cross tail wind which wasn’t too big of a deal but it did make for some real twitchy and nervous racing. We weren’t going fast enough for it to split in the wind, but there was always times when people would think that may happen, so it just allowed for some tense moments. A break of about 7 guys went up the road which just seemed like an awful idea. Our game plan was basically to stay in the bunch and stay safe and for the finish and get Miguel & Travis up there. With this being the first race of the week and in January, we don’t have any interest in cooking ourselves out in the break for this stage when it looks to be a sprint, and also the favorite sprinter here has the team thats leading the race so they’re in the situation to pull everything back.
Ok, so back to racing, nothing happened for that first 130 km besides the fact that my eyes started to hurt from the heat and we were also doing sunscreen trips from the car to re-layer. Now this next part was a big mistake on me which possibly came from me not paying attention much or just being a bit out of it but once we hit our turn around we went from cross tail to cross head and the racing was full gas. A bit of a shock to the legs after basically coasting for 2.5 hours. Lesson learned for 2016, so being this far back with about 180 guys in the race I just looked up and saw a small bunch and then single file against the road. Immediately crashes started and I was closing gaps as people were opening wheels in front of them. This went on for the next 10 minutes or so as I kept watching that group in front stay close but I was doing a hell of a lot of work to stay in touch, not exactly what I had planned for this stage and all I was doing was kicking myself in the ass as I was putting out this not needed effort. So, once I got back to the end of the main front group and thinking it was safe, boom a big pile up crash. This crash took out enough riders to fill the road and luckily at this point I was moving up the right side to try to go around when the crash happened, so I did a quick deviation off the road into the dirt back onto the road and deja vu chasing the main pack again. They seemed to let up a bit after the crash and I got back on and moved straight to the front to be safe. We kept racing pretty hard, but started to ease up after a bit and more riders got back on.
The racing started to pick up again at about 20 km to go and at 10 km to go I believe there were maybe 8 corners, multiple round abbots, bridges and railroad crossings. We hit 10 km to go and at this point basically going full gas navigating the corners and then the crashes started to happen. It seemed like almost every other corner or round about there was a crash. Luckily I managed to get through everything and I kept looking down at my computer counting the kilometers and I noticed we should’ve been done by now, but we were still racing. Once we got into the last 3 km in a local village the roads went from descent to shit. The road seemed to be covered in a nice layer of dust, so we had that going for us plus just the roughness of the road and speed bumps coming at us. We finally hit the finishing straight and I stayed towards the back finishing in the bunch and we had Miguel up front almost cracking a top 10 with coming along the line in 13th. All in all, a pretty hectic day but we all came out safe and looking forward to the next stage.
Jon Hornbeck, rides professionally for the Holowesko | Citadel Racing Team p|b Hincapie Sportswear Team and is also is the owner of Fast Tours Cycling.