Last week, the race was at another level, and It showed me that I needed to train more on the climbs, but today’s race was pretty interesting, here’s what happened…
Well, we had a bad start, as a bike wheel came off the team car roof-rack while we were on the motorway heading to the hotel, but luckily the wheel was just a spare. However it did put us on caution to keep eyeing the bikes on the roof every 5 minutes on the 5 hour journey!
Anyway, this week’s race was the first Classica Xavi Tondo, a 103 mile (167Km) Copa De Espana (Cup of Spain) race that is a special one, as it is a race in the memory of Movistar rider Xavier Tondo who sadly died in 2011. The race is located in the town of Valls which is near Barcelona.
After a 5 hour drive from Madrid, and without any further problems with the roof rack, we arrived in Valls to collect our numbers for the race, before heading off to the hotel, in which I had the best sleep ever in preparation for the race.
The race had two climbs, with the final 500 metres of the first climb ramping up to a 20% gradient. I witnessed a ton of crashes throughout the race, it was terrible, and I was very lucky avoiding them. One of the crashes was just before the first climb, where it became a huge pile-up after everyone was fighting to get to the front. Before the very steep ramp, I was moving myself towards the front while on the gradual climb. I was situated halfway down the peloton when we hit the steep climb, and I knew I had to give it all to stay with the group. I ended up passing some Spanish climbers on the very steep climb, they were standing up grinding the gears and struggling, but the steep ramp was ok for me as my legs are used to it after training on the hilly Cornish terrain with a lot of short sharp steep climbs. Anyway, despite the climbs, there was no race selection, and the race kept coming back together.
After the second climb, we hit the very long decent. My descending has improved a lot over the last few races, and I was comfortably cruising. At one point on the high-speed descent, there was another huge crash on a tight sharp bend, where I saw a rider who had flipped over at high speed after hitting another rider who was already on the ground. I could feel his pain, it did look bad, and it was more than likely that his race was over. The crash caused a bit of a gap ahead of us, and the riders began to get nervous, while I managed to bridge the gap. We were going freaking flat out!
After battling through the mountains with 20km to go, and having run out of water, I was starting to get cramp on my right hamstring, so I went to the back of the peloton to signal for more water, but unfortunately the team car was having problems and didn’t respond, which left me frustrated as I really needed that water!
The last 10km was totally flat and everyone was fighting to get to the front. Things were getting a bit sketchy while I was massaging my right leg to get rid of the cramp due to dehydrating. There were only 2 riders from the Pizzeria Espanola that were still in the peloton, myself and Antonio Gomez, while the other riders were caught behind the crash.
With almost 1km to go, I was following my teammate Antonio’s wheel on the left side of the bunch, but things got messy, so I moved to the right side just before another huge crash, it was insane, I saw a rider literally flying across a sea of helmets! I knew that Antonio was in the crash and luckily he was fine. Now I was the only hope for the team to get some strong points and I was at the back of the group. I knew that there were two final technical corners as we entered Valls, and I needed to get to the front as soon as possible. So I gave it everything and went for it. I was faster than a lot of the riders on the flat, and I was putting out a big effort, passing riders on the right side of the peloton, with a very painful cramp in my leg, which felt like a dog was biting it.
On the last corner, a rider had a puncture, then suddenly his teammate stopped to give him his bike, while standing on the middle of the road, which was absolutely idiotic, as a rider in front of me crashed into the rider who was standing in the road, holding the bike. I thought that I was going to manage to avoid it, but the bike’s wheel was in our path… I hit the wheel, my ankle hit the chain-ring, and unfortunately I fell.
I was shouting in agony, but it wasn’t because I was in pain from falling, it was my cramp that was now extremely painful. I never normally use bad language, but luckily the spectators and riders didn’t understand it! An elderly spectator put his arms under my armpits and he picked me up, and I was groaning. It was funny really when I think back on it, as he thought I was in serious pain from the crash, but man it was my cramp!
I managed to get back on and I cycled to the finish line for the last 300 metres on my own, and I finished in 84th place, 1.19 behind the leader. I waved to the excellent crowd whilst feeling a huge disappointment. I was really close, I was fighting for it all along.
The team directors didn’t have much luck either, as they crashed the team car into the back of another team car during the race, due to sudden braking in the convoy. They need to replace the whole bonnet which was mashed. No wonder that they couldn’t bring me water, they were pretty busy themselves!
Being disappointed is normal but I forgot about it after an hour, and now thinking about the next race, which is another Copa Espana (Cup of Spain) race, the XXXII Clásica Ciudad de Torredonjimeno, but this time with a proper big mountain stage.
I know now that I can compete against some of the best Spanish riders, and I’m improving very quickly since I first arrived. I am feeling very good about this. Cycle racing is like being in a battle, fighting and suffering without fear, I want more. Like Alfredo always says… “I am a Warrior”.
— AS Más Deporte (@AS_masdeporte) April 9, 2016
— Clásica XTV (@ClasicaXTV) March 25, 2016
— Clásica XTV (@ClasicaXTV) March 25, 2016
— Pizzería Española (@EquipoPizzeria) April 10, 2016
Km 82 meta volante dorsal 31 rías baixas pic.twitter.com/mVe0MMAa28
— Clásica XTV (@ClasicaXTV) April 10, 2016
— El Pelotón (@ElPeloton) April 11, 2016