Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux: 3 days, 4 stages
Stage 1: 170 km
Fresh of a world championship win, Taylor Phinney joins our team along with fellow Trek-Livestrong riders Gavin Mannion and Nate Brown. Also, in the USA lineup are Bissell Pro riders Boswell and Holloway along with BMC rider Cole House. The wind is strong today and it's cold. Riders know they must be near the front before the crosswinds. Our team is aggressive. I find myself mid-pack trying like everyone else to stay toward the front. It is nervous and there is no space on either side of the pack to shoot forward. All of the sudden, bars lock and around ten riders go down in a tangle of bikes. From behind I plow into them, on top of them. I yank my bike from the jumble, riders beneath me are moaning, and I begin to chase the pack. A small group of riders shoot by me, and when I accelerate for their draft my knee throbs. I see that it's cut and know its deep because it bleeds jelly. I chase on my own and catch the bunch on a short climb. Crosswinds. I'm off the back in a small group. We chase and rejoin. I hang back to access the damage. More crosswinds. Another group off the back. With 130 km left to race, we settle into a hard tempo and make it to the finish 14 minutes back on the lead group.
Four USA riders have made the front group. With 10 km to go Taylor wrecks, but blasts through the caravan and back to the front. Gavin Mannion reels in a breakaway with 5 km to go. Holloway and House ride for Taylor, and Taylor despite a crash with 7 km to go, sprints for 4th.
The race medics scrub my chainring laceration, and recommend the hospital. 9 stitches.
Many of you have twittered and emailed support, and it means a lot. After battling to make the time cut, it is an extreme disappointment to miss the start tomorrow. Tomorrow's time trial should put our team in a solid GC position, and it kills me to bail on my teammates. However, my knee, the hinge of the pedal stroke, is quite sore and swollen. The season is young.
I'll continue to cover the race via our team's website: http://www.treklivestrongu23.com/ but spare the rest of you. Assuming a swift recovery, I'll be getting back amongst it next Friday for Circuit des Ardennes.