Race Profile

Race 6 – XLV Memorial Valenciaga

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Today’s race, the XLV Memorial Valenciaga is one of the most prestigious and hardest Elite U23 races in Spain, and is based in Eibar, in the Basque Country. It is part of the Copa de Espana (Spanish Cup), also a very prestigious competition, and it was my second time to participate in the series, this time a 102 mile (163Km) race with 189 riders, with 6 mountain climbs. Yes, I ate a ton of carbs!


On Saturday afternoon we loaded the team car and took the long drive up from Madrid to Eibar. The weather was good on the way up, and the team provided some lovely accommodation, so on Sunday morning I woke up in a very nice hotel, rather like a lodge in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by woods and mountains, the beauty of the Basque country. The team breakfast was absolutely delicious, a very nice help-yourself buffet, and my magic moment was a breakfast bun filled with melted chocolate… I was instantly in love! Apparently, the weather in the Basque Country is usually rain, pretty much like English weather, especially Cornish weather, but luckily today was dry, so it was our day.


My plan for the race was to survive, as I didn’t know how I would cope going over 6 mountains, so I just decided to stay in the bunch, looking after my legs by drinking and eating well. The pace was fast until after the first climb when the race suddenly turned into a Sunday club ride, with all of the teams sitting up and taking it really easy, which really confused me, as I was thinking that the race had been neutralised, or perhaps something had happened, maybe a crash up ahead? But soon I realised that the climbers were just saving their legs for the climbs, so it was basically like a fast Sunday club ride until we reached the next climb, when all hell would break loose!


After we had passed two mountains, I was preparing for the third mountain. This mountain was serious business, a 5 mile (8.5Km) climb at high power. I was sitting halfway in the peloton, which is not really a good position to be in as the Spanish climbers were out of the saddle and going hell for leather! It hit me very hard. Soon I was gradually getting dropped, but I stayed calm and tried to keep my pace up high, as I knew that I could catch them on the descent. I kept my sight on the peloton, while other riders were also popping out of the back. Once I passed the mountain summit, I had already made it to a small group and we were totally bombing it down the descent.


The terrain in Spain is completely different to the races in the UK, and without any prior experience of long descending in a high speed race situation on these Spanish mountain descents, I kept making mistakes with my racing line, and going wide entering the high speed corners, while other riders were passing me every time we hit another corner. I had to learn quickly otherwise I would be losing many places. I pushed myself to stay on it, and I managed to stay with the group to the bottom of the 5 mile (8.5Km) descent, and we were working together, catching the peloton. Surprisingly it didn’t take us long to re-join the peloton, as their pace was now easy again, as they had slowed down to save their legs ready for the next climb. I didn’t like it, I’d rather go hard all the way, but that’s how they do it in these mountains races I suppose… easy on the flat… go mad on the climbs!


Over another mountain and on the following descent I was positioning myself in the peloton, ready for the next climb, when, just as we rounded the corner to hit the climb, a rider had a puncture in front of me. Some of us were forced to stop, and I had to un-clip my foot from the pedal. When I managed to roll past another rider and get moving again, the pace was already high and I was now at the back of the bunch, and my chance of getting back on up the climb was practically nil.


By the time we hit the final 1st category climb, my legs were really suffering, getting heavier and heavier towards the top. Finally we were on the last descent towards the finish ramp in Eibar, where crowds of spectators lined the streets to watch the finish of the race, and I crossed the line in 113th place.


Unfortunately I didn’t score any classification points for my team, whereas three of my team mates finished ahead of me and scored classification points, enabling the team to position at 19th which is good for the team. Although I would have liked to have finished higher, on a personal level I’m not too disappointed as I did give it absolutely everything that I had got, and I learned a lot while still gaining my experience in these type of races.


It was my second experience of the Copa de Espana, and although I didn’t get a result, it was a great improvement on my first Copa de Espana race when I first arrived in Spain. It was also my first experience of a big mountain race against high-caliber Spanish climbers, and It showed me that I need to work on my climbing – but I do feel that I’ve improved a lot since the first mountain race. I am gaining experience in these hard mountain races and I am learning fast as I race, giving it everything, and developing gradually.


It’s pretty amazing the amount of support that these races get in Spain, with crowds of spectators all out to watch the race in their town, and even Ivan Basso was at the race today, scouting for talent, can you believe that!


The next race is another Copa de Espana race – the Classica Xavier Tondo, which is also a mountain race, and I’m already up for another challenge.


Results Sheet >>

Photos of the race by Captura Sport >>

Fotos Esti Aginako >>

TV Coverage – Video >>


On the road to Eibar



Team car on the way to Eibar



Race Profile



Race Profile



Memorial Valenciaga



Memorial Valenciaga



Memorial Valenciaga



Memorial Valenciaga



Memorial Valenciaga



Video Copyright: Txirrindulariak Web




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