Stage 2: Santona-Ramales de la Victoria175.5km, ascent firstname.lastname@example.org - Cat 2, 6.3km email@example.com - Cat 2, 6.4km firstname.lastname@example.org - 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