At the start of stage one I had singled out two riders who would figure in the king of the mountains title, Belgium Matthias Meul and Israeli Lenny Engelhardt but it was the American Tim Smith who proved to be the real handful and no more so than on day 8. I had built up a good lead but that could all disappear with one bad afternoon in the mountains. At the feed stop before the Col de Pailheres I sensed he was gearing up for a big push, and so the attacks began as soon as the clock started on the 19km climb, (which topped out at 2001 metres). As my job was to defend, I decided to sit on his wheel. A tactic I was unused to, as I usually struggle trying to match another riders fast pace. For me this was the toughest segment of the whole event, he was throwing all tactics possible into this one...short bursts, long bursts, attack upon attack, mixing recoveries sometimes a minute, sometimes just a few seconds. I use mathematics a lot when I'm climbing hard, not intricate integration just simple trigonometry to focus the mind. The middle section was incredibly intense, I knew that as soon as I let a gap grow he would be gone, I must not crack. By the higher slopes my mind had shifted somewhat and had us as Robert Millar and Andy Hampsten from the 1989 Tour De France, whatever it takes to maintain the power output I guess! Into the last kilometre and I knew my job was done and it was another unforgettable cent cols moment for me as I summited just a few inches behind the super strong American. As we scrambled to put on our jackets in the high winds at the top, few words were spoken, we just patted each other on the back, "wow" was about all we said, we knew we had climbed so well and were both on such great form.
Phil Deeker devises the greatest of courses along the best mountain roads imaginable but how you climb them is up to you. Have a go at www.centcolschallenge.com