Well the wait was worth it. I have been looking forward to testing myself in this race for a few months and even the obligatory mechanicals I seem to suffer couldn’t reduce my enjoyment of this event. It was defiantly a chance to experience a few firsts. My first stage race, flat time trial and criterium all in one event. Inevitably it was as a baptism of fire as the young guns, and a few older ones, took me to pain school
The weather had been brutal all week with heavy rain interspersed between sunny skies. Superb conditions to encourage a mammoth swell off the coast and give birth to a legion of pot holes and ruts dotting the roads along which the race would run. Unfortunately it caused the displacement of the original time trial course (that we had managed to recon) and start location for the stage 2 road race. The time trial went without hitch and was probably the most comfortable I felt all weekend. The second stage raced over 3 laps of a ‘hilly’ hinterland course was a different story.
I had imagined this stage had a few gentle hills to roll over then a nice flat section to prepare for a sprint. That was my understanding after previewing the course profile online. Wrong! After cresting the 1st hill on the 1st lap, I had managed to send my heart rate to 191bpm. Unhealthy stuff and destined to get worse. After a wet desent, the road flattened out and dissolved into a minefiend of pot holes and rediculous timber plank bridge crossings. Think water bottles strewn all over the road and swearing cyclists calling for the spares vehicle. I managed to avoid that scenario but in the furious racing over the bumps, I somehow jammed my right shifter forward which inadvertantly locked my front brake on (internal cable routing through the handlebars). Pedalling became a little futile with that and the group soon disappeared into the distance. After managing to wrench the lever out and leaving myself with only 5 gears, the easiest cogs thankfully, I returned to the fold. Sporadic cyclists wizzed passed encouraging me to jump on and try and get back onto the bunch but with the 2nd climb (on the 1st lap!) approaching, I was feeling unenthusiastic about dropping the hammer so early and inevitably blowing up.
The second lap was going better and a small gruppetto had formed consisting of puncture victims and dropped flat land specialists. It was dissapointing then to feel that horrible sensation all cyclists know, the slow deflate. Iniatially I spent the first few km’s in denial, then there was nowhere to hide. A few k’s on the rim then it was off the bike to wait for a spares vehicle to trundle past. Eventually a Elite C wheel cart came into view and salvation was at hand. Thank you Mr Waller, your mavic krysium elite was much appreciated. The rest of this stage was spent licking the wounds and looking forward to redemption on day 2. The guys up front kept the pace hot until the finish. In the end, I was grateful to be spared the ignominy of being dropped like a stone from this group far from the finish.
The 3rd stage promised less climbing and more of the same rutted roads. The weather was better and the racing was quick. I felt stronger and more confident on the climbs and stayed well away from the pointy end to avoid wasting energy that I didn’t have to spare. Unfortunately 2nd time over the solitary climb of the day my legs just gave up. It came from nowhere and suprised me as much as my spoke snapping a few km’s later. I had favoured my chances of chasing back on but the rear wheel explosion ended those delusions of grandeur. It was a lonely roll to the finish but I still enjoyed this stage immensly. Certainly one I would like to target in future.
The event finished with a criterium on Monday and this was an education in itself. I was blowing hard in the warm up so the race was always going to be tough. I have alaways fancied my chances in this style of race as I am of the sturdier pursuation but can put down some power if required. What I hadn’t bargained on was how technical this discipline is. Cornering, braking, overtaking and ‘sheer beligerance’ for want of a better term are crucial in minimising energy expenditure and keeping position. Needless to say, I entailed none of these traits on the day and consequently experienced a heart rate of 180+bpm for then entire half hour. Every gap I left for myself to corner smoothly and efficiently ended up with some punter filling it from behind. Soon that presented no issue as I was at the tail of the field and lagging. With a few laps left I could give no more and fell of the bunch. Despite this, I can’t wait to have another crack at a crit!
A superb race overall and hellishly enjoyable. I can understand why so many non-cyclists would shake their head wondering how the above story could be construed as being fun. Despite the bad luck and pain consumption, for a few days I was in nirvana. Hopefully we can manage a few more starters from Cobra9 next year although the small contingent did the team proud. Bring on 2012