Another Cunningham Classic happily raced.
Did I say "happily", even though I didn't win, even though I cramped to a point that my legs felt like two lumps of wood? Well, I didn't get dropped this time (or did I?) and finished with the front bunch. AND, team mates got a second and a fourth.
Always a tough race
We started this race with a good plan and a commitment to stick to it no matter what. There were two of us to do the work at the front for the first 90 km, covering moves and keeping an eye on any breaks, and three riders sitting back and saving for the last five or so kilometers and the sprint. And no attempt to get the KOM was to be made. That was the hard part but that's pretty much what we did.
There was a lot of activity from the start but everything got shut down by us or someone else. One more team and perhaps another six or seven riders shared most of the work and we averaged 36 km/h for the first 30 km.
A couple of riders got away at some stage and were left there to do their own thing, and get tired. One of them managed to keep going and got the KOM. Having raced for the KOM three times, in previous years, and getting second twice, I knew it would be too taxing so I just paced myself to save energy.
Still, it all went a bit crazy with a hundred meters to the KOM as everyone was trying to avoid getting dropped on the next descent. We were doing 45 to 50 km/h for the next 4.5 km.
Next was the feed zone and a nasty 2 km climb. It only averages 4.5% but if you are not at the front on this one, you might earn a long solo ride to the finish... 46 km away.
Guess what happened to me? Half way up the climb, while putting my food and drink bottles away I hit someone's rear wheel and stopped. Yes, feet on the ground, 0 km/h for a whole eternity watching the bunch go. I couldn't clip in (stupid grey KEO cleats with the rubber bits on them!!) and get going quick enough so I decided to get off, turn the cranks to shift to an easier gear and try again. I heard someone and felt a push, which got me going.
Food and bottles away, I tried not to panic too much. I recognised I rider at the top of the climb, he was the tall guy on the Moots. I screamed and he got on my wheel. Ahead, another rider. I looked back and the Moots was gone. All going so quick.
Again, I recognised the guy ahead and I tried to leave him behind but he was fast getting on my wheel. We worked together for 5 km when he said we were going to make it if we could get to the cars. We averaged 44 km/h but only made it because the cars slowed down, because the bunch slowed down. In my mouth, that taste from the week before.
A couple of breaths and I was moving closer to the front, I had a bit more work to do. Unfortunately, that idea proved very costly and at the 70 km mark cramps started to appear high and around the quads. S..., they hurt! All I could do was try to breath through the pain and try to keep going. I think I have become fairly good on pain management and recovering over the years...
I did carry on covering a few moves and even tried to get away at one point after that but I could only do 10 or 15 second efforts. It was too painful. And it was just to get the other riders to chase, and hopefully tire, giving our guys a bit more room in the final kilometers.
It did turned out well, perhaps a little early but with about 8 or 10 kms left, our two sprinters started moving forward to play their role. It was great to watch from where I was but all I could do was hang on in about ten or twelfth position for the rest of the race.
The final kilometers were tough. There was the usual "win at any cost" situation coming from behind and I ended up pushed off my line by a rider before the last corner. I did get back but there was no way of getting through and I saw no need to sprint for 12th or 15th... I just took a back sit and watched it, at 50 km/h.
Then... there was the ride back. Tough too, but with a good bunch this time.
Riding with Brian "Eddie Merckx" Ferris
I had organised a recovery ride to Elimbah for the next day, also to check the State Championship course. At around 6:00 AM, and in the coldest morning this year (6C at places), I was off to meet Brian and friends.
That wasn't easy but I couldn't let anyone down, especially Brian, who said he would wait for me. And riding buddies who wait for you are becoming too rare these days...
Week Thirty One: Race
Time: 15 h 45 min
Dist.: 455 km
It is time for recovery and for some healing this week. The cramps from Saturday left my quads in bad shape and the tough riding stressed the N&B a bit.
Next Sunday, we will all race the State Championship Road Race, looking forward to that.