Thursday, 17 August 2017

A quick-ish recap

3rd race in Spain - Ataun - 11th June, 2017

After surviving the first hour in the previous race, I regained a bit of confidence and starting moving up the bunch in this race. The profile included 2 laps of 2 loops in rolling terrain before we hit the first of 2 climbs of the day.

Photo credits: Inaki Sagardui Gomez

Compared to the previous race,both my form & my Spanish had improved and I was keen to display both. 40kms in, I moved near the front of the bunch and started asking around "DONDE ES LA PUERTO? DONDE ES LA PEURTO? DONDE ES LA PEURTO?"

We averaged a whoopping 44kmph for the first hour!

At the 60kms mark, we returned to the town of Ataun for the final time before the climb. I was in the first half of the bunch, with about 50 guys ahead of me.I turn around to look how big the field was, only to realize that everyone behind me had dropped off. That is over 60 guys!

Realizing that I was better than several Europeans in the race was a new experience! And the feeling was of extreme content! This would be a recurring theme in all the upcoming races.

But I let this get to my head and got distracted. Pretty soon, there was a big surge in speed which I missed and got dropped in the race. Nonetheless, it was a win in my head and I looked forward to the next race.

4th race in Spain - Tolosa - 24th June, 2017

Going into this race, I had done my homework and I knew where the Puerto was - at the 59kms mark.

Photo credits: Inaki Sagardui Gomez

After riding fairly well in the last  2 races, I had recognized the "flow" of the races and knew how to position myself before the climbs. There were several breakaway attempts in the first hour, but none survived.

At the 35kms mark,one of the moves was shut down and I decided to try my hand legs at getting into a breakaway. I attacked and was joined by 2 guys - from Caja Rural and Lizarte. 45secs in, I realized this was a mistake as my legs screamed in agony to hold the pace. My legs were thankful when we were caught a minute in, my ego was not.

At the 60kms mark, we hit the climb. I moved to the first 20 riders in the 2nd minute of the climb, but the pace was relentless and 5mins in, I eased on the pedals and got dropped.

Despite taking risks like never before on the descent, I could not rejoin and got pulled out 70kms in. My ego was later satiated when I realized I had hit a new 5mins Power number!

5th race in Spain - Irun - 29th June, 2017

Photo credits: Inaki Sagardui Gomez

2 climbs in this race - one at the 45kms mark and one at the 90kms mark. In the previous editions, the bunch took the first climb easily, so I was confident that I would survive it this day.

In the argy-bargy first hour, I avoided all action in the front and saved myself for the climb. With 2kms from the base,I got on the wheels of a French team who were moving up on the inside of the road. Pretty soon, I was on 5th wheel!

Perfecto! I was awaiting patiently for the climb, but the cyclist in front of me couldn't handle the argy-bargy and landed on the ground. I had to veer off into the grass to avoid him and all of a sudden was back in 40th wheel.
Earlier in the race, a group of 20 had escaped and Team Lizarte,one of the strongest in therace, missed that crucial move. In a desparate attempt, they surged to the front and hammered it in the front.

My Spanish had improved further and I muttered "Hoder!" "Ostia!" and "Que comen?" as I looked in awe at the onslaught happening ahead - the lead bunch was tackling a 4% climb at 32kmph!

I gritted my teeth and rode my pace up the climb and joined a bunch of 20+ cyclists. We took good turns up the front, but the lead bunch was way ahead and we had to pull out after 82kms! I lived in the grupetto to die another day.

6th race in Spain - Salinas - 2nd July, 2017

Photo credits: Inaki Sagardui Gomez

This has been the most technical start to a race, I've been in - descending down a 2kms 10% climb which would tackle twice in the race.
I gulped with nervousness as I squeezed onto my handlebars while descending alongside 100 other cyclists. One wrong move and it would turn into a nasty scene.

Fortunately, everyone escaped the descent unhurt, and now lay ahead 45kms of rolling terrain before 2 ascents up Salinas (2.8kms at 10%). My chutney-pudi fuelled skinny physique managed to hide well in the bunch during this time, but 5kms before the climb, I found myself in last wheel. I decided to stay there and conserve myself for the climb.

A few days earlier..
Race crew: "Sir, all preparations have been made. The cyclists will be challenged on the tough climb."
Race director: "Hmm, I'm not satisfied. Can we make it more tougher?"
Race crew: "If we deviate slightly we can make them go through a 500-metre 14% gradient cobbled section 1km into the climb."
Race director: *tears in eyes* "Beautiful!!"

That's what I imagined would have happened as we hit the tough climb and then went through the cobbled section! I was deep into the pain-cave and tiny black dots began to appear in the periphery of my eye-sight as I struggled to stay in contact with the bunch. We passed through the medieval church of the village..

Me: "Hey God, what is your view on compression wear?"
G: "They are pretty effective and worth the buck. But wouldn't recommend wearing them to the beach."
Me: "Thanks for the heads-up!"

Exiting that section, we still had 1.5 more kilometres to go. I was grinding through the 36X28T a 70rpm and was pretty sure my insides would explode any minute!
 The next 6 minutes were a bit of a blur and when the gradient eased off to 6% with 600-metres from the summit, I eased off the pedal and hoped to catch the bunch in the descent.
 But, I had hoped wrong and the bunch was too fast in the descent and I had to pull out soon.

Silver lining: This was the first race when the race caravan did NOT pass me on the climb!

7th race in Spain - Antzuola - 9th July, 2017

Photo credits: Inaki Sagardui Gomez

Lucky number Seven, it wasn't to be. 3 days before the race, I lay in bed homesick and fighting off a fever. I made the recovery in time, but was still unsure if I would have the legs when it mattered. I debated if I should start the race or hit the beach (without the compression socks)...

The course involved 65kms of rolling terrain. but with longer and steeper uphill sections this time around. Followed by two cat-2 climbs to the finish.

As we started, my legs felt better with each pedal stroke but my aerobic system lacked the Oomph factor needed on racedays.

I decided to take a  gamble - try and make it into the breakaway. If this worked, then I could stay in the breakaway, ride the cat 3 climbs at my own pace and have a buffer of energy when the peloton caught up to me. The flipside being, that I don't get in the breakaway and burn all my matches before the climb doing so.

After 15kms spent warming up and creeping towards the front of the bunch,I began to follow the moves and counter-moves flying off the lead. In the next 20kms, I was active in 6 of the breaks that escaped, but all were shut down soon.

I returned to the bunch feeling slightly dejected, when a training partner of mine gave me the thumbs-up, appreciating my effort. Encouraged by this, I surged towards the front again and initiated 2 futher breaks. The final one offered some bright light as I failed to see the peloton for a while, but as we approached Antzuola, before the climb, we were caught up and swallowed by the peloton.

I was in the bunch for a kilometre-and-half, before my lungs succumbed and I got popped. I returned to the start line, quite content with how I had ridden. I met with my training partner who too had popped and was chatting for a while, after which I asked him - "Donde es la playa?"

To be continued..

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