I am slumped on the couch after my first Elite road race of the season. Better said, I am a broken man! At 15oKm and 2400m of climbing it was a good one to get things rolling. I think the best way to describe the course is a baby Strada Bianche – lots of ups and downs, gravel roads, speed bumps to bunny hop over. As well as being a lot of fun it was tough. I averaged 38Km/h for the 4’ish hour race.
It amazes me how it is possible to run such a fantastic race like that on my 5 Euro entry fee. Hundreds of motorbikes, police and volunteers supervised the course with apparent ease, directing the frantic peloton around street furniture, to the side of the occasional badly placed car (once right bang in the center of the road!) and even a dog or two. Add to that a healthy supply of very encouraging spectators, sunshine, riders who know how to handle their bikes and I was definitely able to enjoy the race even through the suffering.
After a slightly chilly start (the sun was blocked from the start-line by a tree and building – oh the torture – sorry for the dig English readers), the 140 riders pulled away rapidly and attacked each other repeatedly making the first hour tough. Even I had a go off the front with a break but when I realised one of my fellow riders was in there I held back. This was actually the break to stay away for the duration so I of course now have that “why didn’t I go with that bloody break” feeling. Anyhow when a decent break went with the main teams represented the pace slowed a little. The usual pattern emerged – overly hard up the climbs and fast down the curvy descents. About half way into the race another group tried to get up the road and I was involved in bridging a gap. By then the peloton was shrinking (around 60 riders finished) and on the last lap I heard at least one scream in pain and annoyance from cramps and burnt out legs.
On the last climb I attacked the bunch and 4 or 5 riders came with me, then towing me up the rest of the climb (“why the hell did I do that” I thought), I looked around and the elastic had snapped, one last effort to the finish line 15Km away. When we hit the flat it was clear that the small group did not want to work, only one putting in a turn with me. The peloton got closer and eventually caught us about 2Km out. So a bunch sprint it was for the minor places. I got a bit boxed in but finished 21st which I’ll take for a big race this early on.
The racing here is so different from England where I would be annoyed by big power houses making it over the punchy climbs and hammering me on the flats and sprints. Here, at 63Kg, I am fat compared to these whipper snappers. They are good climbers and I like it. That feeling of hanging on a wheel up a climb totally on the edge is a love hate relationship with the bike that I have always respected. Just like this course, the Spanish circuits regularly have at least one climb of 5Km or more which sheds off those that can’t climb. So even though it’s tough I am very happy to be racing here this season. Here’s for plenty of pain, suffering and hopefully a tiny incy bit of glory this season…