Letters From Abroad – Triptyque Ardennais

Editor’s Note: Peter Horn is an American racing with the Geox-Fuji Test Team, the amateur development team of Geox-TMC. As Geox-Fuji Test Team’s captain, he’s looking to lead the team to victories in Belgium and around Europe, and help break the team’s riders into the Professional ranks.

Going into the last stage of Triptyque, Paavo, Gertjan and I were all in contention for the overall lead. Paavo and I were 8 seconds back, and Gertjan 24 seconds. After two good days with all three of us in the final splits, we were second in the teams classification.

Each stage featured seven climbs, but the last day was the hardest. The weather also played a role, since it was raining on and off throughout the stage. After the first three climbs and 110 kilometers, the peloton was still basically together. We had gone with several attacks and splits on the climbs, but most teams wanted to keep the group together and fight it out over the last hills.

Our team regrouped in the peloton. I was 12th overall coming into the stage and had high hopes, but I told Paavo and the others that I was having a bad day. My form is great, but it was one of those days when you can’t get the legs going. Paavo was feeling all right and the rest of the team was riding really well in our support.

Gertjan and I reconned the course two weeks ago. We talked about the course before the stage, and again during the race: Paavo and I talked in the peloton as we rolled through the valley near Trois-Ponts. We were approaching the fourth climb of the day and the group was noticeably nervous. I told him about the hilly and technical terrain between the fourth and fifth climbs – a great place for him to attack
– and about the sixth climb: with pitches around 18 percent, it was the hardest climb of the race. I told him that the race would be decided in one of these places. If he felt strong, these would be the places to attack.

On that fourth climb, Paavo and Gertjan made the lead split of about 40 riders. Mathieu Selwa (France), Nat Thompson and I were just behind and working to get me back into the race. A small lead group went away just before the fifth climb, but Paavo waited until the sixth climb to attack and try to bridge. He and four other riders, including the leader, established a chase group and came within 20 seconds of the leaders. However Paavo’s group was caught, and he and Gertjan finished in a group of 35, about a minute down on the breakaway. I did everything I could on the last climbs to try to get back to the first peloton. I caught a small group, thanks to the work of Mathieu and Nat, but I still lost a couple minutes on the day. Paavo ended up 10th overall, Gertjan 17th, and I was 23rd.

I was hoping for better but I can be happy about a couple things: excellent teamwork and a good knowledge of the race. Every other day, the three of us were in the crucial breaks of the day. And if I can brag a little bit, it seems like I knew exactly how the race would unfold in the final stage. If only I had had the legs! The winner, a Dutch rider from the Davo-Omega Pharma team, was also on 8 seconds going into the last stage. On a normal day, I would have been with him and would
have had a real chance at taking the lead.

But that’s all very easy to say in hindsight. The important things are that the team is strong and raced very well – and not just at Triptyque, Our Belgian teammate Thomas Vanhaecke won a kermis on Saturday, and Lucas Persson (Sweden) was second in a Swedish UCI 1.1 on Sunday. Next weekend we have to one-day races in France (Deux Jours de Haut Poitou) where we hope to be on the podium again.

In an entry tomorrow, the Pavé editors will included a few photos from Triptyque. A French-speaking Belgian took all of these photos. Starting before the first stage, he stayed near our team to take photos, get our perspective on the race and get to know us. For some reason, he was incredibly enthusiastic about we Americans: we saw him several times on each course waving the American flag and cheering for us! So thank you, Emmanuel Ernst, for your photos and your support. We hope to see you again this season.

Lastly, the Song of the Week: “Heavy Music” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – from the live album. It’s just one nice track from a great album.


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