The first five minutes of today's stage was brutal. Just 500 meters from the start line, the course took a sharp left into a cobble stone area. Followed shortly after by an even sharper right turn which set you at the foot of a gnarly 11% gradient climb. Tom said his heart rate immediately jumped to 175 bpm, which is not what you're looking for in the first five minutes of a race. People were popping of the back left and right. After finally getting over the first climb, the peloton hit a wicked decent hitting over 51 mph according to Tom's Garmin computer. They are spinning out their 53-11 gears.
"I couldn't believe my legs were burning so bad, and my heart rate was at 175 bpm going downhill! I admit I was scared like never before!" said Tom shortly after the race.
The scene was crazy! Cars on the roads interfering with the group, people on the side of the road screaming, riders screaming, cops screaming at cars, all at blistering downhill speeds. The group Grant and Tom were in had the Russian National Champion, German Critirium Champion, two Austrian ex pros and on and on and on...
The first crash of the day involved the Austrian National Champion going headfirst over his handle bars after losing control of his bike. He ended up off the side of the highway six feet down in a drainage ditch! Tom and Grant said it was scary as hell! The second lap proved to be just as dangerous.
Two guys hit on-coming traffic head-on with their bikes, two others ran off the side of the road and smashed into trees. You would think this would make the racers back off...think again. Almost immediately, two eastern European racers screamed to attack and get a bigger gap. Insane is an understatement.
Two of Grants top competitors crashed out of the race, one with a broken color bone, and another who was rushed to the hospital.
Grant held on for his life and managed to get an impressive second place finish in the sprint! This now puts him in position to get into the rainbow jersey tomorrow night, depending on his finish in the time trial event.