The setting for today’s battle royale was beautiful. Ripoll is a town at the foot of the Pyrenees which sits at 600m – a molehill compared to the climbs we would facing. Today’s course was hard with 3 climbs and the last would be the hardest, looming at the 74km mark and climbing to 1300m.
My manager’s orders were to attack the race from the off as we were riding for a couple of guys on our team with a good chance at winning the title of Catalan Champion. Seeing as I am not Catalan I was more than happy to give a national a chance on his home patch.
Attacking before the climbs meant I may get dropped on them, it was a tough ask as riders who knew they couldn’t keep up on the climbs would be having a go too. But I was willing to take one for the team and followed through. After the first 45 mins I was tiring and as we hit the first climb there was danger of being dropped (already!) so I sat in and tried to recover.
Just before hitting the first major climb I had a mechanical and had to get off and put my chain back on. My team car appeared and a sticky bottle brought me back to the bunch quickly. There was a fight for position on the narrow entrance to the climb. I forced my way through and followed wheels into the lead group. It was steep with gradients of 12% in parts. Over the top I knew I was in for plenty of suffering.
On the second climb I just lost the wheel but didn’t give up. I came across a team mate and we worked together to get back to the lead group. I did more work than him so really suffered to get back. If I thought I could then sit in I was mistaken when I saw the caliber of the lead bunch which included a Caja Rural guy and several other quality riders. We hit the last climb which went up, up and up. I gave it everything to stay with that lead group but, like had happened to many others, eventually my legs said no. I did the final part with a grupetto of 4 but I left them on the final push when I saw they weren’t giving it their all. I descended solo wanting to catch riders in front.
I rode alone for 20km and definitely had a moment enjoying the scenery – spectacular. One rider eventually came up to me full gas and continued to drag me down the descent, I couldn’t quite believe my luck. We passed a Caja Rural rider and he latched on but when I started to pull I looked back and they were gone, so I went for it. I caught 2 riders in front, beating one of them in the final sprint. 17th place. I’ll take that especially given my early work for the team. Bloomin’ heck what a tough race! Here goes for tomorrow morning’s 130km grand classic!
Some stats: 124km, 2200m climbing, 34kmph avg speed.