I developed a sore throat in the last 2 days and I felt absolutely rubbish during my training rides, and so I was praying last night to be well and strong for the race in the morning. Luckily I woke up on race day feeling mentally good, although my throat was still a bit ropey, but I knew that it wouldn’t affect my race.
It was only a 40 minute drive to the race in Olias Del Rey, and arriving in good time, I was feeling much better prepared than last week. The race was 77 miles (124km) with 4 laps of a very windy circuit on straight wide open roads, with a steep long drag.
This race was very important for me, and I had a big task ahead as I needed to prove my ability to my team, as well as correct my mistakes from the previous race. I wasn’t chosen for the main squad for the Copa Espana today in Basque, as the team race director Ivan wanted to see what my performance is like, to see how I perform on the flat course, and I didn’t get a chance to show him my performance through the mountains last week. My legs are gradually waking up to the racing, but it was important for me to set an early season benchmark that I can build on for myself and the team.
Today there was a field of 155 riders, and I knew that I had to be at the front. After the start, I went much more aggressive than last week, and I quickly worked my way to the front of the group. Already I followed some attacks, but it didn’t work.
After 20 miles (32km), on the 2nd lap, I thought that the pace was fairly easy, so I eased off so that I could eat my energy bar, but that was bad timing as I didn’t realise that one of the main teams had been saving themselves ready to up their pace when we hit the crosswind, and I was near the back, eating my energy bar! I had to put in some work along a 5 mile stretch of straight open road with strong crosswinds. It wasn’t a big struggle, but I was wasting my legs through a bit of bad timing.
At around the 40 mile (64km) halfway point, on the 3rd lap, I was in a really good position, getting ready for the crosswinds. But by this time, most of the riders had got wise to the team at the front smashing it in the crosswind, so they got nervous and everyone started to panic as they were trying to get to the front ready for when the main team put the hammer down. The panic had a negative knock-on effect as everyone rushed for the front, and suddenly 2 riders closed in together and sandwiched my front wheel, which hit the cassette (rear cogs) of the rider in front and almost took me out. I managed to keep the bike upright, but some riders crashed into me from behind and they hit the deck. I survived the pile-up, but my brand new Pro-Lite front wheel had 3 broken spokes and was flapping like a pancake on Shrove Tuesday! A bunch of around 7 riders were lying in a heap on the ground behind me.
Luckily my team car arrived on the scene and changed my front wheel. I set off to chase the bunch, but I had to stop again as the wheel rim was too wide for my brake callipers, even with the brake fully backed off. Again my team car came to my assistance, and Ivan the team director managed to adjust the brake calliper and again I set off in chase of the peloton. At this point I really thought it was ‘game-over’ as I was very far behind the peloton. I got behind the team car and thought I could give it a go to try and catch the bunch, and the team car started pacing me back at high speed. But there was more drama, when after a few minutes the car took the wrong turning and we were heading the wrong way! The cars stopped and gestured me to turn around, and that’s when I thought it was time to call it a day, but thankfully Ivan insisted me not to give up, and to keep fighting, so we turned around and I gave it another try, pacing behind the team car.
By this time, after 3 stops, I was way-way far behind like you wouldn’t believe, and when I got going pacing the car again I was going on total constant full power for 7 miles (11km). Looking at my data later, I was doing 50mph (81kph) on the flat whilst draughting behind the team car. I was suffering like hell, but as I suffered, I started to believe that I could catch them. Ivan and my team staff gave great support in the car, and after almost 15 minutes of riding flat-out hell-for-leather, I finally reached the back of the group. But I was completely spent, and I needed to recover. Luckily we hit a tailwind, which was in my favour, and I immediately took a gel pack and energy bar and gave my legs time to recover.
After 60 miles (97km), I don’t know if the race-pace was getting faster, or maybe I was getting tired, but I had to go through another battle again in the crosswind, as the main group was cut apart into 2 groups ahead of me, and I had to start bridging the gaps. A rider passed me and I jumped on his wheel for the final mile (1.7km). We were catching the group ahead of us against a strong headwind, and when we got to the top, on the flat section, I time-trialed solo to catch the group ahead. I managed to reach the front group, and then I tried to hang on until we reached the final steep 500 metre climb to the finish line through the narrow village streets. I had totally run out of steam and was slightly dropped, but I kept pushing hard so that the group behind wouldn’t catch me. I was gritting my teeth so hard that I managed to make my lip bleed! and finally I saw the huge crowd of spectators ahead and I crossed over the finish line 1.03 behind the leader, in 26th place.
Today I was very happy with my performance and with working together with the team car to rescue my race after the crash. My feelings are good. I know that I was strong enough to achieve a top 10 finish if I hadn’t been involved in the incident, but hey, I’m happy, and I know that my training has been paying off. My race legs are starting to wake up, and my fitness is good, so I’m looking forward to future races.
I have been selected to be in the main squad for the two races next weekend… the XXXV Trofeo Ayto De Zamora on Saturday, and the LXIX Trofeo Iberdrolai on Sunday, where I am looking forward to working with my team to achieve some good strong results.
Cheers and gone!
(Photos: Alvaro Garcia/Pizzeria Espanola)
(Video Copyright: SOLISS – Soliss Seguros)
(Video Copyright: En carrera desde dentro)