Dylan van Baarle’s Vuelta a Espana blog: Week two

30 Aug 2021

Dylan van Baarle’s Vuelta a Espana blog: Week two

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The asphalt always wins.

There’s one thing you learn early on in bike racing, the asphalt we ride upon can be your greatest friend, but it’s best to keep some distance between it and your body. It’ll always have the last word if you smash into it. On stage 12 I hit it hard, and was left sitting on the ground in a lot of pain thinking, “Oh f**k, not again!” 

We got up towards the top of this climb in a good position, we knew that section of the stage was up and down around there. We were towards the front and UAE were controlling the break when they overcooked one of the corners, so they instantly started braking, and braking, and then all of a sudden Puccio was on the floor in front of me. There was no way of getting around him, so then I was also on the floor too. I guess they say if you can’t beat them join them. Ha! 

Straight away I had a lot of pain in my left leg so I couldn’t really stand up by myself. I sat there waiting for the pain to go away, which it did a little bit, but the doctor still had to help me to my feet. The problem was I had pain from my groin to halfway down my leg, and the last time I felt that kind of pain was three years ago when I crashed in the Vuelta. In that crash it turned out I had fractured my pelvis, so I was sat there afraid I’d done the same again. It’s surprising how memories of previous crashes come flooding back in moments like that, you experience such visceral emotions that sometimes for a few minutes you can’t think about getting back on your bike straight away, you just need some time to breathe.

I was happy that I was in a group with Richie and Puccio and the other guys. That group of guys helped me get to the finish line that day. The group was not only my teammates but guys like Max Schachmann, Omar Fraile, Quinn Simmons, Kiel Reijnen and a couple others. They just dragged me along to the finish, it was really nice of them. I tried to do some turns but they told me not to, to just stay at the back and let them do the work. Those moments stay with you, we’re all rivals but in times like that if you see that someone is hurting and you’re all dropped you’re all in the same boat, there’s nothing more to do than help get each other to the finish. That was really nice to see. You know there will always be plenty more days to do battle against one another.

After the stage I went to hospital to get my left leg checked out. When I got back from the hospital and had the all clear, I still didn’t really want to think about getting back on the bike again the next day, of course you make yourself ready, you have dinner, then massage, try to rest. I went to massage and said to Jonny, my carer, “Please can you fix me?” He’s doing a great job.

Luckily the next day it was a flat stage so I could take it a bit easier. I can’t even explain how needed that was. Also, the previous three days had been hard racing, so luckily everyone in the bunch took it a bit easier. At least I think it was because they were feeling tired, I don’t think they took it easy because of my crash. I’m pretty sure the Vuelta organisation hadn’t put that out in the evening communique the night before. Ha! 

It was annoying to have that crash. I'd come out of the first rest day not feeling super good at the start, which is pretty normal for me, but then literally I jumped one time for the breakaway and found myself in the right move. It wasn’t that I was jumping the whole time, and really trying to get into the break, I just seemed to pull off a breakaway ace, which was a bonus. Then I started to feel good, I was there with Jhonny [Narváez]. I managed to pace myself well on the climb and come back on the descent, then I messed up my sprint a bit. But, I’ll happily take a fourth place on a day after a rest day.  

It feels like the team has been dragged through it this week, what with Adam, Salva and me caught up in the crash, then losing Richie and Jhonny this week has been a blow for us. For Richie I guess it’s to be expected that he was tired after everything he’s raced over the last month. The first week we didn’t really see that he was so tired, because he gave it everything. Then it was just that one moment that he cracked, that obviously had an effect mentally as well. We know that Richie isn’t the kind of person who gives up easily, if he abandons it’s because he really needs to. Now he can recover, switch off from cycling for a bit and really celebrate what he’s achieved. It’s been super cool that he was here racing on his golden bike. 

We’ve been working together well, like I said last week, the first week you have to find your way a bit as a team, and now we understand each other a lot better, we understand more where the GC guys want to be, and what they need, that bond gets stronger and stronger.

Coming into the second rest day, it’s obviously a bit different when you’re trying to recover from a crash, but the legs are still feeling good. I still feel fresh and like I’ll be good for the last week. I wasn’t expecting to be feeling so good. I thought I would be during the first week, but then I expected that it might get harder, mentally as well as physically. But, I looked after myself really well after Tokyo and that seems to have put me in a good place. It’s also going to be cooler this coming week, and at last we’ll have some nice views, some green at least. Although, keeping the fingers tightly crossed that the rain will stay away.  

It’ll be an interesting last week seeing the race for the GC, with Roglič and the Movistar guys and then with Adam and Egan still in the mix, another tough week of racing lies ahead, but Santiago is starting to become visible on the horizon.