Monday, January 20, 2014

First race for 2014

I have not turned a pedal in anger since November last year. So when I found out that the Tour de San Luis was going to be my first race for the 2014 season, I was a little concerned. With 12 World Tour teams making their way over with some big names on the start list, it was going to be tough.  

On paper, Stage 1 was supposed to be relatively easy, with the sprinters expected to battle it out at the end. 

The first 80km was slightly up hill at around 1-2% with a small crosswind while the last 80km was all down hill with a tail wind. As per the usual script, a small group of 6 riders were 'allowed' off the front as the bunch waited for the sprinter's teams to take control. 

Omega Pharma-Quick Step sent a rider to the front for the next 40km and held the break at 4mins for their sprinters while the rest of the bunch just cruised along behind, barely averaging over 30kph. 

Then they realised something. Up the road, in the break, were some overall GC contenders including last year's winner. The sprinters teams did not want to do the work for the others so they sat up. On top of that, the temperature was upwards of 45 degrees Celsius and no one was too keen on putting in a hard effort in what felt like an oven. 

For the next 10-15km, there was a lot of confusion over who would do the work and the race pretty much came to a stand still. The breakaway blew their lead out to almost 12mins before the GC teams reluctantly took up the chase. 

When calculating how much time a breakaway is 'allowed' to have, there is a bit of a general rule. The chasing bunch can generally bring back a minute every 10km. With 80km to go, the time gap was at 11min40sec and was looking out of reach. 

The race turned down hill with a tail wind and pace went up. Right up. We sat at around 50kph for the next 40km but it was already too late. With 40km to go, the gap was still at 9mins and when we finally reached 10km to go, there was still over 6mins to the leader. 

The race sat up again as everyone saw the writing on the wall. I was relieved as the heat made it feel like my head was going to explode and my feet were on fire. 

We crossed the line a long way down from the winner. I'm happy to have the first race for the season done and dusted. Despite this, it means that the overall contenders are going to have their work cut out for them over the next stages, and so do I. 

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