I left for Burgos early Friday morning feeling like crap.
My nose was blocked, my throat was sore and it seeemed too much of a gamble to make the eight-hour trek north for a three-day stage race.
But I’d been looking forward to it, so I looked on it as a learning experience, packed my kit and went.
I caught up on sleep in the van and enjoyed the company of my teammates.
We arrived in pretty freezing conditions. Not good.
I reluctantly joined by teamies for a quick spin but it was gorgeous – the beautiful valley and sunset turned my frown upside down.
That night I ate an utterly spectacular steak – things were looking up.
Morning came and with it a nice lie-in. Breathing trouble meant I didn’t sleep that well but it was good to get some hours in bed under my belt (my training leading up to the race totalled ZERO hours, so I had to compensate somehow!)
We packed up and hit the road to the race start. I felt rough, grumpy and like I should have stayed at home. I eventually cracked and went to find a pharmacy as I needed flu medicine if I wanted to make the start-line.
I lined up for Stage One empty. My body felt rubbish but at least my legs were fresh. I didn’t have any fight in me to battle to the front so I hung on the back, making up places when the road went up, losing them when the road went down.
I eventually paid for my terrible tactics and hit the grupetto after the first time up the big climb. I almost made the group ahead, but just couldn’t bridge in the wind on the descent.
I was one of the strongest in the group I was riding in. I worked with a couple of others and we had a nice little group by the top of the climb the second time. We chased. We could see the group in front and at two kilomeres to go I put in a monumental effort and made the bridge.
I rolled in last of that group, legs full of lactic acid and completely unable to muster a sprint.
But I’d seen the level of a Copa España race and knew if I was fit I should make the front on hilly courses.
The next day was wet, windy and time for the 15 km ITT.
I felt a bit better and after ridding my nose of most of the snot build-up I was more or less ready.
It was brief and horrible. My time was very average and I got overtaken at two kilometres to go by a Lointek girl in full aero gear.
I wilted just a little bit and dreamt of a tiny TT bike for next year.
Stage 3. By today the flu medicine was really working and I was feeling a whole lot better. Not my best, but better – pretty bizarre in the circumstances – a three-day stage race is apparently how I get my rest these days.
Today was 96 km with a whole lot of up. Magic. I rode at the back again like an idiot, wary of every corner and the wheel in front.
The field was whittling down fast in the 15 km exposed opening lap on narrow lanes. I felt a bit like I was in Belgium, yelling ‘derecha’ (right) like a nutter and bombing down the outside over gravel and potholes. It worked. I was still in the race.
We hit the climb (we were to race up it twice). I could pass people comfortably when there was space and I latched onto the front group. I was in no shape to attack but I could just about hold the pace. I was gapped over the top and had to chase back down, but some strong girls were behind and I waited for them for a tow back to the front. Sensible.
I hung onto my little group (of about 25-30) and made it back to the base of the climb. The race leader attacked 1 km from the top. Ow!!
A little group of skinny riders drifted off the front. I started making funny noises and battled with my bike to keep hold of the wheel in front for the descent. The front of the race was still in sight. My group of six or seven chasing the leaders. It was Lointek vs Bizkarra.
We worked well and pulled them back and we were 15 (ish) with five kilometres to go. I nearly got dropped and drafted the car before chasing back on.
I made funny noises then too. I refused to get dropped when a top 20 was guaranteed.
Bizkarra set up their lead out. I nipped in. Cheeky. Lointek were forming behind. Two 90 degree bends. Shit. At the back. Spriiiint. This time I made slighty more power come out my quads, but I was way too far back. I beat the two Bizkarra lead-out girls at least but was otherwise a very happy last in my group! 12th place. Promising.
From shit to 12th in three days. Bodies (and flu medicine) are amazing things!
Huge shout out to the race organisers for putting on a great race, to my team for the fantastic support, my teamies for putting up with my crap Spanish and the ESC dream team for letting me go on what was a ridiculously busy weekend.
Looking forward to the next one, more steak and to getting my mojo back proper.