Length: 4 days
Overseas again which I have loved this year. Getting good at the routine…………the standard pack up, fly out, transfer, check in, un-pack and have 2 days to get ready to race. Not sure I’m falling in love with bike boxes, weight limits and Luton and Gatwick airports at 4am in the morning – travelling on a budget is the only way to make this work.
We rocked up with a team of 7 - Daniel, Dave, Adam, Cam, Rob, Lewis and myself. Mostly familiar faces, some last with in Albania!
It was set up very well with the organiser supplying cars, hotels on the cheap and fully closed roads for the 4 days as well as organising countless numbers of volunteers to close roads, run medical vehicles and I’m sure many other countless tasks.
Day One/Stage 1 began with a team presentation ceremony before a hard 28 mile around the flat local streets of one of the towns. We lined up well but the race was split to shreds within just 3 miles after a fast start and a combination of tight corners and hard bottle necks. Gulp!. The pack reduced from 86 to just 29 and it stayed like that until the end of the race boiling down to a hectic bunch sprint. I was there or thereabouts but more thereabouts………..I got boxed out and end up with 24th. Not the best but no time lost on the overall. Daniel had been just ahead of me, while the others had all been in the group behind and had lost a bit of time.
Stage 2 on Day 2 got spicier. No chance of a routine. It required an early start as we had to travel to the next island ! We were up at 4:50am. Even before the race things were eventful. In the warm up at slow speeds around the car park I hit scrapped on something and cut the back of my finger open causing blood to go all over my hand, just before a in chase a massive day of racing – why? Who knows – maybe I was still asleep?. I ripped of the flapping skin and got the medical team to wrap it, insisting the whole time that I needed to warm up and was much less bothered about the marginal gains they felt they could achieve for me by meticulously applying the plaster - #marginal-gains #Spanish. The stage involved 2 climbs, one was 6 miles with the second beginning just over 14 miles. The whole day was 40 miles. I was still in the group at the top of the first climb but lost touch on the way back down because unlike some others I valued my life a little bit more, simply not able to descent like the fearless Spanish locals. I climbed well on the second climb but knew I was losing time to the main group. I got to the top of the second climb with then the remainder of the race being 14 miles of descent. I was just bleeding time - I lost my nerve on the violently windy descent and rode slower. I was getting blown from one side of the road to the other with my front wheel feeling disconnected to the bike, choosing its own lines. Daniel, who started the descent about 3 mins behind me flew past me, commenting at the end that ‘if your rode down the middle the wind would probably stop being so gusty before you went off the road! He finished a minute in front of me. I had lost 14 mins to the winners over just 2 hours and 17 mins of racing. Dan had managed to clock in the fifth fastest, his descent on the climb averaging about 39 mph for 10 miles and topping out at almost 60 mph in windy conditions. Fair play. The race had been brutal for all of us and unfortunately due to the time-cut rules Lewis, Dave and Adam had been cut from the race along with about 17 others and were not allow to race the following days. A very tough outcome and I felt for them, and then admired they way they handled it and carried on their interest and support for the race.
Stage 3, Day 3 wasn’t very inventive but definitely brutal. It was 31 miles long, 30.5miles of which were up Mont Tiede, a volcano (summit at 3700m above sea level). Just painful. From the bottom the pace was high and a little choppy. I tried to maintain a steady power as the group reduced one by one, with teammates and competitors struggling alike. Rob and myself stayed in the group way over the halfway mark but once we started to get up above the tree line the oxygen started to drop slightly we started to struggle over my Spanish counterparts. First experience of effects of thin air – bugger! Rob and myself yo-yoed off the back for quite a while both taking it in turns to struggle and pull the other one back in. Eventually I came off better, able to push just a little bit harder over a flatter section of the climb. I was able to maintain a steady power, rarely below 320 watts and finished 9 mins behind the winner. Let’s just say we had definitely bitten off more than we could chew with this Tenerife Tour! Getting a top 10 in any form was definitely out of the window.
Stage 4 had 2 climbs. The first was about 14 mile, the second was only 4 miles. This time I decided to have some fun after being told that the first sprint mark of the day was only 1.5 km (1 mile?) in. We had been told it was flat for 2.5 mile so I went for it hoping to take the sprint points and at least come away with something. However it had been mistranslated to us and the mark was actually 5 miles into the stage, 3 of which were up the climb. My sprint line at 1 mile wasn’t there! F*&k!. There ended up being a few good videos of the attack though. I didn’t make it all the way to the real sprint line. I paid for my efforts on the way up the climb suffering more than I normally would and being gapped about half way up. As a heavily reduced field went up the road I was in a group with Rob again and we worked together to try to maintain a high pace. I lost contact with this group just over the top of the climb and on the descent, but was able to get back to into a small group at the bottom of the second climb and caught up to Rob after he had dropped his chain. Between the group we pushed on to the finish which was all slightly downhill. With Rob and myself having a drag race to the line for bragging rights and 29th place! I nipped him or it, and believe me I won’t let him forget it! Dan rolled in a few minutes later, with Cam a little way behind him.
There was an awards ceremony, but we weren’t up for anything after our experiences across the team. We headed back to the hotel and spent the next two days at cafes and in casinos when not on our bikes. I took home more money from the casino than I did from the bike race…...maybe the world it trying to tell me something after all. I have to admit though that these are great experiences. Trinidad soon – less volcanos I think but I could be wrong – geography not my strong point.