Second rest day. I have to say that I am extremely happy about it. It was quite intense racing, especially the last three stages. I took the ITT as an activation before the stages that were coming up. We had a short stage straight after the ITT, with a final short climb, but nothing special happened. The breakaway riders settled for the win and the peloton with the GC riders made it safely and without any shocks to the finish. There I saw that I was still feeling good, as I was always by our team leaders’ side until the finish. Then it was a flat stage where we reached the finish without any problems. After that, we had two extremely difficult stages where we all knew it was going to be hard from start to finish.
The Tourmalet stage was without a meter of flat and from start to finish the pace was extremely high. Unfortunately, Jonas got a puncture on the first long descent, before the Aubisque climb, which is considered a very difficult climb, and we knew the pace would be high on this climb. I had to stop and wait for Jonas on the downhill and bring him back to the main group or to the front of the peloton. It was quite a project because the peloton was stretched out and it was very difficult to get to the front on the descent. Fortunately, the descent had some flat sections, so I was able to overtake the main bunch there and bring Jonas into the first quarter of the peloton by the bottom of the climb. Because I had used quite a bit of energy and because the breakaway hadn’t been worked out yet, I knew that it was going to be very difficult for me on this climb. I kept in contact for 15 minutes and then had an explosion in my legs. I simply had no strength left and I lost contact with the peloton. Nevertheless, job done, Jonas was back in the peloton, and the rest of the guys, especially Robert, did a great job and we finished the stage with Jonas winning, Sepp in second and Primož in third. 100% result for our GC riders.
The next day was no easier. From the start there were attacks and by the first climb, a breakaway group had formed. We wanted to control the race ourselves, but the UAE took the stage into their own hands. They dictated a high pace on the first climb, where I felt great, easily keeping in touch with the first 40 riders, but a technical failure on the descent stopped me. The spoke on my wheel broke and I had to stop and wait for the car to change the bike. As there were many groups of cyclists, the car was not behind us either. I knew I wouldn’t see the first group again as I was too far behind. The team did a great job again and we were all happy, including myself, because I could see that I was feeling great, I just needed some luck to stay longer with the first group.
The last stage before the day off was very much in the escapees’ favor and we knew there would be many attacks. But we didn’t think there would be so many. There were a lot of attacks, GC riders were attacking us, and it was far from an easy stage. We worked very well with the team, taking turns to cover the breakaways and keeping everything under control, so to speak. The breakaway again accounted for the win, and we made it to the finish safely and without any problems. Tired, but happy, because we made it to the second rest day. I took the rest day again calmly, had a good sleep, and did a 1h30min recovery with a few short intervals to keep the body alert. Then rest and prepare for the new week, where it will be decided who will win this Vuelta. So far, I feel great, we are getting along great as a team, we have everything under control and I can’t wait for the new week.