Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Circuito Montanes

Stage 6: Torrelavega-Santo Toribio143.6km, ascent = 32.2km**@27.5k - Cat 2, 6.8km climb@57.9k - Cat 3, 4km climb@82.6k - Cat 1, 5.0km climb@99.5km - Cat 2, 5.9km climb@114.1k - Cat 1, 8.4km climb@14.6k - Cat 2, 2.1km climb

Stage 6 of the tour was always on paper the hardest looking stage of the tour. The paper proved correct as we ascended the most on the stage compared to the others.
I had big problems with my engine in the first 20km and the pace of the bunch was really urgent as certain riders were still in contention to win the tour.
After fighting my way back in the convoy, we began the “assaults” of the climbs, and slowly my legs came back.
I managed stay with the main bunch through the first three categorized climbs, and on the fourth one, the relentless pace was too much and I could only ride my own tempo. By the top was with the “grupetto” for the day as we climbed steady and conservatively. The race was over for the guys in this group and Jaco and I finished together in this group, loosing about 17minutes to Niels Alberts (BK-CP) 2009 cyclocross world champion.
Stof proved sheer determination and will to get through yesterdays queen stage loosing only 28minutes to Alberts. With todays stage being the last and also “flattest’, we are hoping that the Stof has some sprinting legs left to try go for the stage win. The only obstacle will be to keep the initial start speed of the bunch together as guys rip the race to pieces to force breaks away early on. With shattered legs, making one of these breaks is really difficult, but let us see what happens!
Last stage starts at 13:30.
Hasta la venga.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Circuito Montanes

Stage 5: Polanco-Torrelavega173.3km, ascent 28.4km**@54.7k - Cat 1, 21.3km**climb@103.7k - Cat 2, 4.9km climb@124.4km - Cat 3, 2.2km climb

Stage 5 began without too much rain, only a ligh drizzle, and never got worse for the rest of the day. This wasn absolute blessing in disguise for me and my remaining two teammates after the rpevious weeks hectic conditions. Compared to the day before, I felt like a bike rider again.
I was much more consevative in the first 30km, knowing that a 21km Cat1 climb awaited.
The attacks started before we hit the climb, and on the slopes of the climb, the peleton was already split. Jaco and I climbed in the third group, there was two groups infront of us at about a minute ahead consisting of around ten riders each. Although I made it over the top, the legs were paying the price from the week.
The next 60km was really quick with fast tecnical descends, and with around 100km remaining, we had caught the front group, all for except around five guys who had slipped away.
Café Colombia controlled the rest of the day andJaco and I finished safely in the main pack, about 2min behind the winner from team Bretagne Shuller, again!
Stoff showed that he was here to finish this race by riding into the finish with about 5minutes to spare!
Today is a real brutal day with 33km of climbing. I’m going to have to see how the legs are feeling before I try anything though!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Circuito Montanes

Circuito Montanes
Stage 4: Agua de Solares - Fuente del Chivo145.7km, ascent 32.3km**@36.4km - Cat 3, 2.2km climb@54.6km - Cat 1, 7.2km climb@88.3 - Cat 1, 7.1km climb@145.7k - CAT HC** 32.3km climb

As we began our fifth day in the pouring rain, I was sure that the conditions couldn’t get worse than the previous days. But I was proven correct as, things can always be worse! The conditions as we began to climb higher became so extreme, my body literally began to “shut” down and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it other than to suffer on and finish in the “autobus”, loosing half a day to the amazing solo performance of the Café Colombian ex-under23 World Champion.
I started really hard, trying to force an early break or at least put myself into one so that I could stay out the trouble of the conditions in the bunch, but as luck would have it, no matter how many move I followed in the first hour, nothing went.
I paid the price as we hit the first climbs, being so cold and battling to keep my fuel intake up, I had got shelled and had to spend the day in the “comfort of the autobus”. The only humor in this was that Stoff managed to ride back up to us and help keep the motivation required to complete the day. Jaco in the meantime had done extremely well to hang onto the front group until the first HC climb, from where he would be on his own to the finish.
Despite the following, armwarmers, kneewarmers, booties, Long finger gloves, under vest, cycle shirt, sleeveless windbreaker, full rain jacket, hat and helmet, climbing up to 2250m in the snow, I had no feeling whatsoever. I could not shift gears, let alone feel my handlebar in my hand despite all the clothing.
Luthandho who had done well until the last HC climb would later be dsq’d for hanging onto a car for too long, even though many Spanish riders did the same trick.
That was day to remember which goes down in my own history books as one of the hardest stages I’ve finished, all due to conditions.
On the brighter side, perhaps they may let one of the three remaining SA riders get away in a break now. If the legs come back, and especially if, just for one day, we could race in anything else other than pouring rain.
I have to say, as I sit here, it’s still raining though!
Hasta lanother wet one!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Circuito Montanes

Stage 3: Miengo--El Astillero178.1km, ascent 11.5km@18.6k - Cat3, 2.4km climb@105k - Cat 1, 6.4km climb@151k - Cat 3, 2.7km climb

Stage three of the tour, also the longest, had the worst conditions we had encountered thus far. And we have had some fairly bad weather along the way.
For the entire 180km, it never let up raining, in fact at one stage in the first hour, it was raining so hard that I was convinced it was hailing. At this time there were a few crashes, luckily the worst of them just involved me getting hit from behind as the brakes simply don’t work in the wet. Not knowing it, I had a pretty badly buckled rear wheel, which meant the brakes were on and taxed a fair amount of my energy. I’d only find this out at the dinner table once the mechanic, Magnus, joined us after servicing our bikes. A small break slipped away in the chaos, despite our best efforts to put a man in there, we only have four riders and is really hard to try follow all the moves.
Jaco and I decided to save our energy for the cat1 climb, but the cold and wet took its toll on my body, as I battled to keep warm the whole day. No matter how much I ate, it was simply not enough. In the last 30km, it was not possible to feed and luckily Jaco had enough extra food to see me through to the finish.
The bunch to the finish was really big and I was mid pack heading into the final 2km’s, unfortunately with three slippery roundabouts to get to get through, there were another two crashes. These crashes caused a split in the bunch and I lost about 30seconds.
Jaco was good on the day, and looks like he is getting stronger, as is Luthando who rode really well today. Stoff dug deep to finish another monster stage and hang in still with his sense of humor intact.
Today’s stage is the first mountain top finish, ending with about 20km of climbing up to 2200m, where I fear, the rain which has not stopped yet, will turn into snow.
The legs are sore and I hope the other riders are in the same boat. It’s incredible to see that on the climbs, despite how hard the pace is, the group never drops! I think today it will change though.
The weather however will not!
Results on www.cyclingnews.com

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cicuito Montanes

Stage 2: Santona-Ramales de la Victoria175.5km, ascent 30.3km@31.2km - Cat 2, 6.3km climb@50.2k - Cat 2, 6.4km climb@88.4k - Cat 2, 6.3km climb@ 98km - Cat 3, 3km climb@114k - Cat 1, 8.3km climb

Stage 2 of the tour was always going to be a hard day. But just when you think the profile of the stage is tough enough, the weather gods throw you a curve ball with howling winds and pouring rain, not fairly different to a bad day in the Cape. We rolled up to the start line already cold and wet, trying to keep our spirits up. Barry had a plan for us on the day, and we would try put into action. The racing began after a 6km neutral zone and right from the go it was fast and hectic, with riders trying to do the same as us and put riders up the road, so we could have team mates later on when we needed them.
However on such a tough stage, elimination due to the elements was the biggest factor. The stage saw 10 riders abandon, three unfortunately from South Africa. Arran was battling over the first Cat2 climbs and was behind the “Autobus”, and decided to call it quits. Peter-Lee suffering from his crash the day before withdrew and Paul van Swiel simply lacked the technical skill to descend in the hectic conditions with the bunch.
The descends were some of the most hectic sections, on smooth roads, with hairpin bends in the pouring rain, with brakes that don’t work, it was nerve wrecking! The climbs were hard, partly due to the heavy and wet legs, but also because the guys were racing them fast. From the convoy, it was the first time that Barry has ever seen the peleton racing up a 6km climb in the “gutter”, in an echelon!
I went through a really bad patch between the two Cat2 climbs, because it was really hard to eat in the condtions. To get your hand off the bars in the conditions, when you numb from cold and get under your rain jacket, the simple things become very difficult. And the technical downhills allow for no time to try this either. However I managed to get a few gels down before hitting the big climb, and rode myself back to the front group after being dropped at the bottom!
It was 60km from there to the finish, and the group was still big, with gutters forming all the time, I slipped away in a break and it was looking good until two Rabbobank riders joined us. With the wrong selection we were chased down with 25km to go. Jaco was looking great and followed the next few moves as I went back to feed from the car. Three guys slipped away here, and that was the three that stayed away, gaining nearly two minutes on the bunch.
It was incredible to think that on such a hard stage, 63 riders finished in the front group! Just goes to show you the depth of the field here.
Christoff and Luthando finished a tough stage well within the cut off time, and showed “vasbyt” to get through the long day.
Jaco and I both moved up a few places on GC, and according to the race organizers, the real mountains are still coming! All this despite my legs feeling slightly tenderized! Today we get to do it all again, as I write this the rain is coming down and another 180km await us.
Time to go eat five portions of hasta la pasta.
Results on www.cylingnews.com and www.circuitomonatnes.com

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cirtuito Montanes

Stage 1: Santander - Maliano172km, ascent: 9.4km@27k - Cat 3, 2.2km climb@74.4k - Cat 3, 3km climb@117k - Cat 3, 4.2km climb

Well this was to be “flat”and easiest stage of the tour. After climbing 1500m and averaging 41km/hr for our 172km, excluding the 8km neutral zone, it was anything but a walk in the park.
Our biggest concern for the day was to watch out for combination moves, a break that goes away with the right teams represented and the tour is then potentially over for GC. I followed many moves early on, as did the rest of the team but for most of the day it stayed together except for one or two solo efforts.
I felt good on the climbs, but one can sense that the climbing specialists were taking it relatively easy. Arran Brown managed to take the second hotspot although with a lone rider away, it gave him second place points. The last categorized climb was really hard as the Café/Colombian team and the CK/CP Cyclocross team went hard from the bottom but I managed to stay with and just take the 2nd place points behind a solo rider that was away.
It was 58km from there to the finish, and then the rain came down, making the conditions extreme. To add to this there were a few “uncategorized” climbs and the pace was high enough to split the bunch. As the bunch came back, a move had gone with 10riders, and the right combination, and in the very wet and slippery conditions, the break got a minute on us very quickly. At this stage I was marking one or two other riders and also not knowing who was left in our squad, I was hanging back to try get bottles for Jaco and I and was a bit disappointed that we missed the break.
However we are both just inside the top30 on GC, 1min20 down on the leader, and I’m fairly sure after today’s stage, there will be a different picture.
I just hope the climbing legs are firing today as we hit the mountains, facing 3 cat2 climbs, one cat3 and finish with a cat1 climb, totaling 30km!
www.circuitomontanes.com for foull results.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Circuito Montanes, Santander Prologue, 5.8km

The Circuito Montanes UCI 2.2 kicked off yesterday evening in Santander Spain with a hard 5.8km prologue time trial. This race is also known as the “Amateur Veulta a Spana” and is incredibly well organized with lots of prestige.
As Barry Austin, our manager, won the draw to decide on our start order, he was smart enough to do the same as most teams including Rabobank, and split who he thought the two fastest riders would be for GC, because of the possibility of weather conditions changing over the two hour start intervals, so Jaco Venter starting first in the first wave, I’d be off last of the South Africans in around 118th place.
Unlucky for me and about three quarters of the field though was that the rain began to come down and conditions got progressively worse as the evening drew on. On really smooth roads, with 8 roundabouts to negotiate at speed, you had to choose between speed and or control and I decided best to loose a handful of seconds to stay in control rather than a minute or two in a crash.
Jaco was best of the Selection South Africa Team, in 24th place, 24sec behind, myself in 26th place 25sec down on the Rabobank winner. Full results on the website under Classiciones, Etape1.
Most of the “Saffas” are first timers to such a big event and were fairly nervous looking at the infrastructure that the teams have compared to what we are used to. Even the team presentation the evening before makes you aware as to how big the race is and what level we are up against here. Also amazing to see how many spectators came to watch, both the opening evenings of events.
Results and info, although in Spanish can be found at www.circuitomontanes.com

Tomorrows stage is “relatively” flat, Santander to Maliano, 172km featuring only 3 small cat 3 climbs, but looks to be fast and hard.
Till then, Hasta la venga!