Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Final Spanish Racing

Hi Everyone

After my last blog, I had two races left before I headed home from a couple great months of tough racing in Spain.

The first one was in Lakuntza, Navarra,  part of the Euskaldun Elite road series. It went really well for me as I finished 6th after a long hard race in the break. I was really happy with the result as it was a big improvement on the elite races I did when I first arrived in July. It proved I could compete with the top up and coming riders in Spain in top teams like Caja Rural.

The second race was the four day Vuelta Valencia which I was really looking forward to. It was super tough, over 50 pros and top ex pros competing. My best performance was when I was in the break all day on the hilly Stage 2.

Lakuntza Elite Race

The Lakuntza race was my last one day race of my trip and I was carrying really good form so I was really gun ho on getting a good result.

It was warm but nothing like 40 degree heat a few weeks back and it was high up, inland on the Spanish plateau so it was much more exposed and windy than down in the Basque Country.

The first 4 laps were fairly flat on poor road surfaces so it was very hard going. The race then moved on to 3 hilly laps. Some of the climbs were a few kms long and draggy, others just short and steep.

On the first lap, a break of 6 got up the road really quickly while I was still working my way up to the front of the bunch from starting farther back than normal.

During the following lap, I attacked into the head wind & I broke away with another 3 riders when the bunch eased up and after a short lung busting effort we caught the group ahead of us.

 A few more joined to make the winning break and we worked well,  gaining minutes on the bunch each lap.
After the last flat lap went by, we hit the hills and immediately our group split in half as the weaker riders struggled with Team Lizarte’s pace who had the numbers to push on.

I felt good and kept up with them over climbs, and stayed with them during the constant attacks on the flatter sections of the course.

Couldn't find any pics of the race so here's one from a prevoius race.

Eventually on a steep climb through a village, the top Lizarte rider Ramirez rode away from us all.  I lost the gap on the next few riders but I recovered and pushed myself back on.

In the last 15 km I attacked and formed a new group of 6. However, our group split to pieces as everyone was worn out from the race conditions and being in the break all day. Caja Rural and Team Azysa missed the move.

In the last 8 kms I found myself chasing group of 4 riders 15 secs down the road. I was holding them but not able to bridge back on.

A Lizarte rider was on my wheel but didn’t need to work with me as his team mate was up the road who was winning the race.

I managed to beat him in the sprint for 6th. Dribs and drabs of riders came in behind and main peloton was around 6 minutes back.

I was really happy with my performance as I proved my ability to compete with the top up and coming riders in Spain in Elite teams like Caja Rural.

Vuelta Valencia

The following weekend, I had the four day Vuelta Valencia in south east Spain before heading home back to Scotland.

I haven’t often had the chance to do many stage races in the past. The only one really at senior level has been the Tour Doonhame so I was excited about racing this.

All the teams stayed in the same hotel in Valencia, put up by the organiser. My team, Ibaigane Opel were among the youngest teams in the event, most others were older having many pros and ex pros in them.

The first stage started and finished in Valencia and was mostly flat with a few rises. However it was very windy and hot, in the high 30’s. The level was very high and I suffered in the heat a lot. I tried a few moves mid stage but no success. I finished in the bunch, a minute back on the winner.

The next day, it was really warm again but much more of a hilly stage. I wanted to make the most of it so after 10 miles, I got myself into a large breakaway of around 20 and then gained a couple of minutes up on the peloton.

Because of the size, the group never really worked well together. Our pace was erratic. It was really hard going as everyone was attacking, trying to form a more manageable smaller group. So it then became a wearing down process on the legs.

I knew that there was a big climb at the end so I wanted to get there before the bunch did, so we eventually formed a smaller new break of around 5 of us. However, behind us, the big teams like Gomur and Ayezes and Froize were working to pull us back, and caught us just before the road turned on to the climb.

The info of the stage didn’t reveal the severity as it ended up being the toughest climb I have ever raced up!
It was nearly 6km long on a narrow bad surfaced road with many 16% and 17 % sections.

My legs were pretty smashed from being in the break and I didn’t have much in me left for it.

The peloton broke up immediately with the top leaders like Belda and Duran fighting it out up front. I finished mid pack but happy that I was up there in the tough end of the race.

Teams prepare at the hotel before heading out to the start of stage 2

After that brutal stage, my legs never recovered and the last two days for me was about survival in the pack.  The 3rd stage had relentless, short, big ring climbing laps that whittled the bunch down by the GC teams pushing the pace at the front. After half the bunch got dropped, my own legs eventually gave way with 20km to go after finished in a small chasing group.

The fourth stage was like an 80 mile Kermesse style race. I unfortunately came off in the first lap when two riders in front of me lost grip on the greasy surface after the finish line.  It took me a whole lap to get back on to the peloton I kept in the pack and finished in the 30’s. Chuffed to finish.

It was a great experience to do this stage race; the level was really high and pushed me all the way. I hope to do more of this next year. I would like to thank Team Ibigaine Opel for letting me have the opportunity to race in Spain and to support me while I was there.

Short video of early on in stage 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54aSZ1f_4Gw&feature=share

End of Season

After I came back to Scotland, I was tired and decided to end my season and have a months break from training and have a bit of fun before getting back into to training  for next year. Looking forward to using the new velodrome in Glasgow. I have been mountain biking a lot recently which has been fun.

I want thank everyone at Team Herbalife LLB for their support this year. They have been really sound and I wish them all the best next year.

I would like to thank the Braveheart fund for their continued support this year. It has been great help this season. I will be at the Braveheart Dinner and watch the Thunderdrome so see you if your there.

Thanks for reading

Hotel Arantza in Igorre, my home for 2 months!