Today's stage didn't look like it was going to be an epic day on paper. But the weather was awful and the climbs proved to be much more difficult than anticipated.
I was driving in the caravan all day, and when the first three riders got away early on in the race, it just seemed like business as usual. The weather was bad, and I thought that this might be interesting if the riders were motivated. What I didn't count on was how hard the climbs actually were.
I had been explaining to the people in my car about how climbs are categorized, and when we hit the main climb of the day, I thought "Hmmm, this might be interesting, because I see 5k to the KOM and we aren't on the climb yet."
This was a Category 2 climb, so I figured it must be pretty steep. What we saw next was amazing... The climb was relentless. It just kept going and going... I would have thought it a Category 1 for sure. Also amazing was the amount of fans lining the roads. There were all types out there. Costumes, wigs, old cycling jerseys and just cold, bundled people in general.
But, truly notable was that I have never seen so many men running around in their underwear all in the name of sport. It was quite a sight in the freezing cold and driving rain. The VIP's in my car were disappointed that there were no women, but, lo and behold, there was one brave girl in a bikini at the very top...
I think that the crowd was fueled by a bit of wine and the opportunity to see their cycling heroes. It was quite a party along the road, and I'm sure they were rewarded by up-close and personal viewing of the suffering boys earning their paychecks today.
Tomorrow is the stage that everyone thinks is going to be hard. I'm curious to see how it stacks up. I have a feeling that Astana is not going to sit around and take today's results lightly. Mancebo rode an amazing race, and he is going to be hard to shake on any climbs. It's going to be a battle, and I'm looking forward to watching it unfold.