My first stage race done and dusted last weekend, and a successful one.
I was looking forward to doing a 2 day race, as I know how well I do on these, and my form is on the up. I went into Saturday with no expectations, just to race. It was a pretty hectic start to the race, with 2 big crashes, fortunately I avoided them both. I then bridge across to a move that just went up the road, and had a lot of riders with a decent gap. Once I joined them, along with a few others, we had a group of 12 in total, working well enough to stay out. It’s unusual having such a large breakaway, as there are people who skip turns and don’t like to work in such a big group, which can make it hard to work properly. I was putting in some big turns on the front, making sure we kept a big enough gap from the peloton, and I was getting annoyed when people weren’t cooperating like they should.
On one of the climbs, I went for the MG points (climbers jersey), and over the top of the climb, I had a gap so I just decided to press on and see what happened. I was out for a solid 10-15km, but with strong crosswinds I didn’t get enough of a gap to make it worthwhile, and I eventually eased up and returned back in the breakaway. I wasn’t finding it difficult in the breakaway, but I just stayed in and was preparing to go for the win at the end.
The final few km’s were just following attacks- everyone was being cagey and we all wanted to attack and win solo, but we also chased everyone who tried to attack, so it was very cat and mousey. I was happy taking a back seat and waiting for the sprint as everyone else was just burning each other out. in the final km I saw one guy about to launch an attack. I thought it was a good idea, so I followed him. It was a powerful move, and we powered ahead, but fell short by about 100m and I settled for 6th. This was a shame, but I just needed to have faith in myself, and hang in for the sprint, since I know I have good power for it. Good lesson learnt, and looking forward to the next day. There were many positives to take, including leading in the sprints classification, and having the same time as the leader on GC.
On Sunday we had a TT scheduled in the morning, and the road stage in the afternoon. I was hopeful for the TT- no idea what to expect really since it would be my first race on a TT bike, and while my form is getting there, I’ve always had a thing of not giving enough effort in a TT. Unfortunately the TT was cancelled midway due to a rider having a bad crash on the course. This meant all relied on the afternoon stage.
I was in a good position for the afternoon race, being on the same time as the leader, and also in the lead for the sprinters jersey, I knew if I wanted the overall win, I’d have to win solo. The beginning of the race was hectic again, everyone was trying to get up the road ahead of everyone else, but nothing lasted. After about 50km, myself, along with a selection of others, begin to drill it on the front, and we got a gap. Again, I was doing more than enough in efforts to get my group a substantial gap, but it was very cagey, and no one wanted to put the effort in. I then attacked out of anger because I just wanted to work well with a smaller group, but I got back into the group. Anyway, we eventually started to work, and the gap got better, from 30 seconds, to 1 minute and 30 seconds. We were finally doing some good work.
Our breakaway was quite big again: 12 riders. I wanted to reduce that because there were always people sitting easy on the back of the group, and being lazy. When we got in some crosswinds, I pressed on a bit and managed to detach 3 riders from the group, which was better than nothing. Now we had 9.
I knew I would have to attack this group and go solo before the end, but the course was not making it easy. The final bit was on this 7km circuit, which we did 3 times, but the circuit was not making it easy to attack. In the final lap, we’re all riding tentatively, waiting for the attacks to come. Typically they did, just like the previous day, we were all chasing each other. I knew I was going to have to go too at some point, but I waited it out. Then I went, and I managed to get a good gap quickly, but with my inexperience of this, I looked behind me, and it was game over. Looking back is more of a mental fault, as soon as you look back, you’re thinking about being caught, and you’re not thinking about working harder and keeping the gap. As soon as I looked back, I got cold feet and decided to basically ride easier so they could catch me. It annoyed me, because I know that I could’ve won that, if I just kept looking forward. I tried attacking again after that but it was hopeless, and I rolled in for 5th, 1 second behind the first 4.
On reflection, it was a successful weekend. I’ve got many positives to take away from this, along with some valuable lessons and a very nice confidence boost, even without the win. I know my form is getting better, and it was great to be at the pointy end of the race again. Very grateful for the opportunity thanks to my great team CC Plancoët, who have done such a great job putting up with my broken French, and it was a great bonding weekend with them too.
Good feeling heading into this week, a big improvement from last weekend where I competed in Vitré GP, but unfortunately pulled out due to stomach issues. Yet another race where I had good legs but didn’t quite work out.
This coming weekend I have a good weekend of racing, Saturday I will be at St Donan in a cat 2/3, and Sunday I will be at Sevignac for another circuit race. Looking forward to seeing how I do! My family are also coming over that weekend, so a very nice treat to have them here for a good week.