The Torre stage "broke the engine", but I could see this was a general thing for the entire peloton and my maximum heart rate of 170 wasn't something exceptional.
The stage started in the worse possible fashion: I had a mechanical problem durring the neutralized section of the stage and barely got back to the bunch before the flag dropped.
We were told to let a small group of six go, with no one from the top 15 in said group. Because of the nature of this type of stage and the fact that a group could arrive just about everyone attacked. To add to our problem João Cabreira was making it very hard for us as he kept jumping (he was in the top 15). I suffered so much on the first climb of the day that I wasn't sure I would make it over in the lead group. I did make it over and Cabreira did get in a group of about 12-13.
Me doing my job.
Now came the part at which I excel at: Controlling a break. I can do this pretty much by myself and after the "warm up" on that first terrific climb of the day I found my legs. Me and two team mates were able to control the race for about 140km. Cabreira duly broke the "engine", I had to congratulate him on "beating on the little guy" because the only people he was causing problems for were I and the other Tavira domestiques. I believe this was the fastest stage in the race due to Cabreira.
My team mates controlled the rest the final 12km into the finish and we defended the lead perfectly. The race was won in impressive style by Jabob Rathe.
I don't like complacency: A race is only won when you cross the finish line. And indeed the last stage of the race proved complicated as Caja Rural were desperate to get someone in the breakaway.
Ricardo risking everything :-P
I had recovered my legs by this stage, feeling better and with the finish in sight we brought order to the bunch and had a few kilometers to celebrate and drink some champagne. Still the thought that a fall or a puncture could ruin everything lingered in my mind. These feelings were only amplified by all the treacherous roads we passed. On entering the final circuit in Lisbon we had to cross a series tram lines between very uneven cobbles. This broke my nerve and with my job doen I dropped to the back of the bunch and just chased back on every time someone fell, or dropped of. I was lucky I was strong enough to do this! I finished in the bunch in 32nd that stage, safe and sound, Volta completed, a Volta I helped in a big way to win.
The team on the podium in Lisbon
Needless to say, after winning the Volta I just wanted to eat and drink and be merry. Unfortunately other people had other ideas. We were carted round from ceremony to ceremony and that big greasy meal I had dreamed of, those pints of beer cool never really materialized. This was the 11th stage of the Volta a Portugal which no one acknowledges!
We were however treated like heroes. There were so many people in Tavira that the whole centre of the town was full. We toured round in an open top bus, got interviewed, put on stage, filmed on live television; the works, I had never seen anything like it, not even when David Blanco had won the race.
So although it's tough, one must be patient and give people your ear and be paraded round the place. It's just another job for the cyclist.
These celebrations went on for about 10 days. We went on national TV, and a whole series of events in the Algarve. This time as I had rested and eaten I didn't resent them. I actually rather enjoyed them.
Video of Stage 11
I have done nothing much cycling wise. I still ride nearly every day, but only an hour or two. It's weird I have no racing baring a track festival on the 5th of October but I still have a tremendous desire to ride my bike.
Although next year is still a quagmire, baring some unforeseen I will be a cyclist.
I can't wait for next February, to be on a start line on cold morning fit and ready to race. I already miss it enormously.