Although I have done a few Mountain Bike Stage Races, only one other one has had a Prologue, and this is the first time I have done a time trial at about the halfway point. As a devout anti-chrono rider, I was more than a little apprehensive as to how it would pan out.
Thankfully, my team mate Will Hayter can be labeled as a road break away and time trial specialist. For a slight lad, he’s strong in the wind as well. I was hoping to feel better today as well. I seem to be in a mid-stage race lull. Usually, I feel stronger beforehand. But I always seem to eat too much early on in a stage race, and feel heavy and bloated through the middle. Most people would learn from such events, but not me I guess.
With our start time just before 1pm, I was grateful to have a sleep in and a slower start to the day. There was quite a bit of rain last night, so lying in bed until the sun was up was a nice change, as it let things dry out a little.
More than that though, the impending doom of a 32km, 800m vertical time trial was playing on my mind. Would my legs be better? Would I have to yell out the cringe worthy ‘Ease up!” to Will?
Waiting to get called into the start chute we were surrounded by the teams we had been racing against so far. Going off in reverse order, we had 30 second gaps. As such it was inevitable that we would be caught by teams from behind, but hopefully we would catch one or two as well. But so much effort for minimal gain? With a 145km stage tomorrow, I have to keep some matches unburnt. I only have one safety match left I’d say. Will seems to have a whole box of strike anywhere matches.
We started ok, but were quickly caught by one of the US Masters teams, and spat out promptly. There was a reasonably stiff wind over the climbs, and I was using the 28×36 pretty heavily. There was constant questioning of whether it was too much or too little. Some climbs were still loose enough to have us off and walking, although I hear others were riding them. If there hadn’t been rain last night, I expect more of the course would have been covered on foot. As it was, it was pretty fast for the whole lot.
In the end, we came in with one of the super strong mixed teams. We wondered about passing them, but the gains would have been minimal. When you’re back where we are, is it worth punching out infront of a team who is on the podium? Probably not.
Back over the line, and it feels like my body is working again. not as I’d like, but that’s down to not enough training. I’m noticing not having a Monstor Block like in years past: The Asturias, Maritime Alps, Tuscany, Provence, Languedoc, Andalucia, the Snowy Mountains – they have all created good bases to race on. I guess the Absa Cape Epic will be my base for this year though!
Check out full results from today’s stage here
Read Will’s account of today’s happennings on the MarathonMTB.com Race Team site