I'm shattered, both physically and mentally. The first three weeks that I spent in the States were great. We did some good races and got some good results. We did some good training in a beautiful lakes district and enjoyed our time. During this time I was hoping to ride my legs into some better form and they were coming along nicely, well... I thought they were.
Two days ago, we started the Tour de Beauce, a 6-day tour in the South-East of Canada near Quebec. I was told that it was a hilly race with constant climbing and descending all day. I didn't think much of it. How bad could it be? After arriving, nothing could have convinced me of just how hilly this race is. There is absolutley no break from the hilly terrain. The roads stretch out in dead straight lines into the distance with not a flat section in sight. In fact,, I am convinced there is not a single flat road anywhere in Canada. I don't like hills. Anything over 5% and I cringe. But here, 12-15% small 'rises' is pretty standard. What is typically a KOM in a race in Australia is just a bump in the road here in Canada!
Just as brutal as the uphill sections are the downhills. They are equally as steep and long and thanks to brutal Canadian winters, you have to dodge potholes and cracks at over 90kph!!!
Stage 1 was 165km long with 3 KOMs however, I think there was really about 5 more climbs that you could classify as KOMs! Fortunately for me, a break of 22 riders went clear at the first climb and it contained almost all of the GC riders. With all of the big teams represented, no one was interested in chasing and so for the peleton it was a 140km bunch ride, with the break gaining over 20 minutes. During that 140km, I couldn't help but think to myself, 'Gee, this would be tough if we were going at speed.'
Stage 2 was a 162km long with only 2 KOMs but contained more climbing than the first stage. What I was thinking during the first stage came true with the race going full speed for most of the distance. The final climb had a section of 16% and this is where my legs failed. I drifted back into the cars and was left to make my way back with two others that had suffered the same fate. At the end of the stage, we had lost over 14min on the winner.
Stage 3 was the queen stage of the tour but I prefer to say that it was the 'mother' stage of the tour. It was only 155km long but had more climbing again and finished with an 8km hike up Mt Megantic (first picture) with a gradient of around 18% for the final 5km. I hung onto the peleton until the 120km KOM climb. From here, I was with a group of 10 riders and we slowly but surely made our way to the final climb. In the last 5km, we zig-zagged our way up the rediculously steep hill with the 5km taking almost 25mins to complete! We crossed the line 22min down on the eventual winner, former Tour de France podium finisher, Fransico Mancebo. I was spent. I was more than spent. It is the most spent I have ever been.
With all of the riders that have abandoned the tour, I am now lantern rouge. The red light. The last man in the field. This also means that tomorrow, I am the first person to start the 20km time trial. I am not looking forward to it.