Photos from OPQS Pro Cycling Team.
From the midpoint of La Vuelta, Carlos Verona brings us up to speed on his first ever Grand Tour. So far, he has experienced a crash, managed some testing conditions, held his own in a breakaway and discovered the importance of nutrition, rest and recovery.
Carlos Verona Rider Journal: I write to you from Zaragoza, the city where we are having our first rest day of La Vuelta, and the first race rest day of my life. As I write we have done nine stages of twenty-one, so there is still more than half a race to come and the toughest mountains lie ahead. But the team spirit in Omega Pharma – Quick-Step is great, the morale is high. It is true that the pain in the legs is there, but not just for us. It’s also there for the other 180 riders who are in the race.
We are ready to fight in the next two weeks to accomplish our goal here, to put Rigoberto Uran in the highest place possible in the general classification. At the moment he is 9th in the GC, at about one minute behind the race leader. So the situation after nine days of hard racing is good for us, we know we have not done a really hard stage yet, but we have tackled really high temperatures, crosswinds, and difficult race situations, despite this our race leader is in a good situation.
My Strava profile says that I’ve ridden about 33 hours during the past week. I think that this is a record for me, and without doubt, the hardest segment yet was Cumbres Verdes. It’s a short climb but really steep and without corners, making the climb even harder. For sure, in the next weeks we will climb a few harder climbs, but we are ready for them. We are focused and united as a team.
About myself, it has not been an easy week. The level in La Vuelta is super high and for a young rider like me, who has still a lot to learn, this race is a continuous lesson. I am trying to help as much as possible with the team objective of getting Rigoberto ahead. I try to protect him from the wind and to carry bottles to the others. Also my role is about paying attention from the start, because if a big breakaway is gone, one of us should be there. Sunday was an example of this, when Boonen and I were part of a 31-rider breakaway. Unfortunately I could not follow the best riders in the final climb into Valdelinares, however I was not far from the leading riders and I was able to learn a bit more about this kind of race situation.
So at the moment, stage nine has been the best moment of La Vuelta for me.
The worst moment of La Vuelta was during stage seven, when I crashed on a downhill due to oil on the road. It was in the 50th kilometer of the stage, and from then on until the end I was suffering on the bike so much. Luckily I wasn’t badly hurt, just some abrasions on the right side of my body and nothing else. But the problem with small crashes like this one is not the abrasions, but the stiffness that you suffer in all the muscles throughout your body. After that day I had two really bad days, but I am now getting better and better.
My body weight after nine days of racing is almost the same, this means that my nutrition is correct. At Omega Pharma – Quick-Step we are lucky enough to work with the nutritionist of the Bakala Academy who give us instructions to follow for a healthy diet during the tour. The team chef cooks tasty yet very healthy food for us. Our diet consists of two important main meals, which are breakfast and dinner. There is also a snack after the race and a continuous intake of carbohydrates through rice-cakes and Etixx energy bars during the race. We eat about 60 grams of carbohydrates for every race hour. (This is approximately one and a half energy bars per hour).
Breakfast: Every rider is different and eats whatever he wants, but we always try to eat as much carbohydrate as possible (mainly bread and muesli) and some proteins like boiled eggs or an omelette.
Post race recovery: The most important thing is our recovery shake from Etixx, I like ‘pro line’ with water. Other riders drink it with soy milk or low fat milk. Furthermore, we eat rice and some boiled eggs, other riders just prefer a sandwich.
Dinner: Normally for dinner we have pasta or rice with a nice sauce (always low fat) created by our chef and as a second dish we have fish, chicken or meat with vegetables.
With this accurate nutritional intake, plus a good massage from our masseurs after each stage, we do all we can to prepare and maintain our bodies for twenty one consecutive days of racing, and with all the work from the people here to help us (sport directors, masseurs, mechanics, doctors and the rest of the staff) we are able to enjoy this beautiful race. I am from Spain, but thanks to this race I am discovering new and amazing places. This has been without a doubt one of the nicest experiences of my life.
That is all from the midpoint of La Vuelta.
@Carlos_Verona, Omega Pharma – Quick-Step rider