I was excited for today’s stage - this would be my stage to lead a couple of
attacks. I discovered though that I was not the only one who had this plan.
Everyone was attacking. At one point I was in an attack group but we couldn’t
gain much lead on the pack and were gobbled up again. There were a thousand
attacks in the first 100 kilometers, making it very fast race.
At one point Alex Zuelle took a second to look down at his computer. "A
sesenta macho," he said. Yes, we're cruising up the hill at 60kms an hour.
Normally we never have time to look at our speed at such moments. Alex, being
Swiss, speaks Spanish with a wonderful accent and I couldn’t help but to start
laughing. The accent and those moments are worth a lot.
After the feed zone the group of nine with Leipheimer, Jiménez and Cabello
were able to build a substantial lead on the peloton. Thank God! We finally
slowed down to a normal velocity. Well, slow, relatively speaking, that is. We
were riding at regular race speed, but without anyone attacking it was much
At the beginning of the climb up the Alto del Portalet I decided to begin my
work as a domestique. I headed back to the car for 8 bottles of water for the
crew and just as my luck would have it, ONCE-Eroski decided to start doing some
serious work at the front which strung out the peloton considerably, making my
job much more difficult. I had to pass through the entire string of riders
delivering water. Sometimes this is easier said than done; at times you cover
two kilometers before you dispense all the water bottles to the riders.
Bingen Fernandez. Courtesy Cofidis.
It was certainly a pain to reach the front with ONCE-Eroski pulling the
peloton up the mountain fast. On the Col d'Aubisque things became even more
serious as ONCE-Eroski set out to break up the peloton. In the first few
kilometers I was able to make my way to the front of the group again so I would
be able to stay in a good group after the damage was done, but getting to the
front took a lot out of me and ONCE-Eroski was ruthless. There was a fierce
attack just as I reached the front bunch giving me no time to recover, and I
just could not hold on.
One by one many of us were dropped off the bunch. At this point I just dealt
with my luck and decided to take it easy in hopes to save myself something for
tomorrow. This is what happens if you find yourself at the back of the peloton
at the wrong time. It takes a lot of energy to pass by 180 riders to reach the
front. Ideally, everyone wants to be in the front at the start of the climb so
they don’t have to do what I did. But, as you know, logically not everyone can
be at the head of the peloton.
Luis Perez of Cofidis on Stage 7. © Unipublic [Click for larger image]
Tonight we are staying in Lourdes - the town of miracles. I think that we all
need a miracle or two to recover from today’s stage. I think that in hindsight
ONCE-Eroski hurt themselves by working at the front for so long. They wore out
many on their team’s riders, including their leaders. On the Col d'Aubisque
there was no one else left to work and Nozal had to pull for Galdeano which
shouldn’t have happened. It hurt Nozal today. ONCE-Eroski is strong but what
they didn’t realize is that there are a lot of other very strong riders. We rode
like motorcycles the entire day and many of us crossed the finish line
absolutely exhausted. Tomorrow will be no different and we all know that.
Bingen Fernandez Bustinza
Yellow Jersey Tours