This week’s race was the penultimate round of the Copa de Espana, the LXXII Santikutz Klasika (Clasica Santacruz) – a 141km race based in Legazpi in the Basque country, and featuring 7 mountains and 27 teams. This is a very special prestigious race that is steeped in history – a race that originates from 1929, when the classic Spanish climbers of the day would attack these mountains with spare tyres over their shoulders!
I woke up at the hotel on Sunday morning, looking out of the window, and all that I could see was mountains, a spectacular view – but preparing for the race, it was more like watching a horror movie, with only the dramatic music needed to emphasise the suspense! Nevertheless, putting my apprehensive climbing legs aside, I was looking forward to it.
I had a rest week, so with no training since my last race, I knew that my legs wouldn’t be working for a while in the race. While standing on the start line, the weather reminded me of being in Cornwall, England, as it was very cold, at around 5 degrees, with some riders donning their leg warmers and winter gloves.
The race started, and not far behind the first 3rd cat climb some of us got caught behind a crash, which left us having to chase back to the peloton – but to complicate matters, my chain came off, so a lot of chasing had to be done to get back to the bunch. My legs still didn’t work when I caught the peloton. When we arrived at the climb, the attacks began, and I lost touch with the main group.
Eventually I was in a large group behind the peloton, and later I followed an attack with 3 riders including my team mate, on a short steep climb, to try and bridge back to the peloton. I was already thinking about team classification, where we could aim to get a team point, as we already had a Pizerria Espanola rider up ahead, so we needed to escape from the large chase group. After a long descent, we reached a 9km climb, but it became too tough to maintain the attacking pace, and one of my team mates was dropped, but I carried on to see if I could stay in the escape.
I was starting to get frustrated as the climb was long, and when I finally reached the summit, I was relived – but then I had to take the descent on my own, without following the rider’s line. I stayed relaxed and it flowed together easier than I thought it would, especially as the road’s in Spain are closed off to traffic, so I can use a full racing line on the whole road. I think I managed to gain a little bit of time over the group behind me, so my descending at race speed is certainly improving.
I spent an hour out on my own, putting in a really big effort, but with more big climbs I was caught again. As the race neared it’s end, and with all the climbing attacks, it was just carnage at the back – and by the time I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t feel my legs. But I made it in to classification in 123rd place, over 14 minutes behind the leader at 3:56:26, and 60 riders behind me didn’t finish in classification. My team mate Jose Nehme finished 49 seconds in front of me in 94th place, but unfortunately the team didn’t score a point, as Jose and I were the only two riders in my team to finish in the classification.
I’m just glad I finished the race. These mountain races in the Copa de Espana are a huge experience for me, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to learn, progress and develop in this way.
Next week I will be stronger after getting my legs back in action, and we have two races on the same weekend, neither of them are Copa Espana. The races won’t be easier, but less crashes… hopefully!
Stay tuned… Hasta la vista baby!